#NeverTrump to #OKTrump: Romney's evolution mirrors party

I think President Trump will be re-nominated by my party easily, Romney said. (AP)
Updated 22 June 2018
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#NeverTrump to #OKTrump: Romney's evolution mirrors party

  • Romney was once a leading figure in the “Never Trump” movement
  • Many Trump skeptics in the Republican establishment hope Romney will emerge as a Trump cudgel when he gets to Washington

PARK CITY, Utah: Mitt Romney did not ride a donkey.
But the one-time presidential nominee and now candidate for Senate did cheer enthusiastically at a donkey basketball game, where 4-H members shot hoops while mounted on the beasts. Romney’s campaigning on the ground in Utah like a homegrown hero — even though he grew up somewhere else.
What he isn’t doing much is talking about President Trump.
Romney was once a leading figure in the “Never Trump” movement, but now he says he wants to work with the president. What does his evolution mean for Republicans still opposed to Trump?

What’s happening
Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, has dropped his harsh critique of Trump as he mounts a political comeback as a Senate candidate in Utah ahead of a June 26 primary. Romney recently surprised his most loyal supporters, who include many Trump critics, by predicting the Republican president would win a second term in 2020. He also downplayed concerns about Trump’s policies on trade, spending and national security — the same policies he warned, in a high-profile 2016 speech, would trigger an economic recession and jeopardize national security.
“I think President Trump will be re-nominated by my party easily and I think he’ll be re-elected solidly,” Romney told dozens of supporters at a luxury Utah resort.

Why it matters
Romney’s team is downplaying the significance of his new position, but by embracing Trump’s re-election he’s sending a strong message to the president’s Republican critics just as they’re beginning to contemplate strategies to stop — or at least slow — his 2020 re-election. The message, according to some Republicans who shared their reaction on and off the record: “No matter how you feel, stop fighting Trump; it’s not worth it.”
While many Republicans in Congress got that message after the 2016 election, for a smaller group of others, quiet conversations had continued about the possibility of mounting a 2020 challenge against him — either in a Republican primary or as an independent. High-profile Republicans such as Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are openly contemplating such a move.
Romney’s position doesn’t kill their prospective plans, but it certainly makes them harder to pull off with any kind of legitimacy.

What to watch
Will Romney continue his deferential tone with Trump after his Republican Senate primary on Tuesday? In a heavily Republican state, his election to the US Senate is all but assured if he wins the June 26 primary as expected.
Many Trump skeptics in the Republican establishment hope Romney will emerge as a Trump cudgel when he gets to Washington.
It could be that Romney has simply been downplaying his opposition to the Republican president in recent months to avoid enflaming Trump’s loyal supporters before next week’s Republican-on-Republican contest. Or, as some of his closest advisers suggest, it could be that Romney was never going to be the Trump antagonist that some hoped for.
Either way, the 71-year-old Republican leader should have an extraordinary megaphone on Capitol Hill that will help elevate his standing as a freshman. As a former presidential nominee, he’s sure to command attention wherever he goes. It remains unclear, however, whether he’ll use that status to challenge the president he once called “a con man.”

One last thing
Despite all the interest in his relationship with the president, Romney isn’t running as a big shot.
The one-time political celebrity is turning down national media requests in favor of local outlets. On the ground in Utah, he’s kept a packed schedule, campaigning at local parks, private homes and sporting events.
The aim is to convince Utah voters that he knows state issues and priorities. And that he’ll use his clout on their behalf in Washington.


Child bride auction in South Sudan goes viral, sparks Facebook anger

Updated 21 November 2018
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Child bride auction in South Sudan goes viral, sparks Facebook anger

JUBA: Five hundred cows, two luxury cars, $10,000, two bikes, a boat and a few cell phones made up the final price in a heated bidding war for a child bride in South Sudan that went viral after the auction was pointed out on Facebook. It is the largest dowry ever paid in the civil war-torn country, the government said.
The highest bidder was a man three times the 17-year-old’s age. At least four other men in Eastern Lakes state competed, said Philips Anyang Ngong, a human rights lawyer who tried to stop the bidding last month. Among the bidders was the state’s deputy governor.
“She has been reduced to a mere commodity,” Ngong told The Associated Press, calling it “the biggest test of child abuse, trafficking and auctioning of a human being.” Everyone involved should be held accountable, he said.
Earlier this month, Nyalong became the man’s ninth wife. Photos posted on Facebook show her sitting beside the groom, wearing a lavish dress and staring despondently at the floor. The AP is using only her first name to protect her identity.
South Sudan has a deeply rooted cultural practice of paying dowries for brides, usually in the form of cows. It also has a long history of child marriage. Even though that practice is now illegal, 40 percent of girls still marry before age 18, according to the United Nations Population Fund. The practice “threatens girls’ lives” and limits prospects for their future, said Dr. Mary Otieno, the agency’s country representative.
The bidding war has caused local and international outrage. It took several days for Facebook to remove the post that first pointed out the auction, and after it was taken down other posts “glorifying” the situation remained, George Otim, country director for Plan International South Sudan, told the AP.
“This barbaric use of technology is reminiscent of latter-day slave markets. That a girl could be sold for marriage on the world’s biggest social networking site in this day and age is beyond belief,” he said. The auction was discussed, not carried out, on the site.
Facebook did not reply to a request for comment.
While South Sudan’s government condemns the practice of child marriage it says it can’t regulate communities’ cultural norms, especially in remote areas.
“You can’t call it bidding as if it was an auction. It’s not bidding. If you see it with European eyes you’ll call it an auction,” government spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny told the AP. “You have to see it with an African eye, as it’s a tradition that goes back thousands of years. There’s no word for it in English.”
Some local lawmakers and activists disagree. In a statement released this week, the National Alliance for Women Lawyers in South Sudan called upon officials to comply with the government’s plan to end child marriage by 2030. Ending the practice includes putting a stop to the auctioning of girls.
South Sudan’s anti-human trafficking chief called the case reminiscent of others he has seen across the country, in which girls are forced or tricked into marriage after being told they are going to live with relatives and go to school instead.
“It is clear that some human trafficking practices are hidden in our culture,” John Mading said.
In other cases, some girls who grow up in the South Sudanese diaspora are brought back to the country and forced to marry. The AP spoke with several people who know girls who arrived for what they thought was a vacation, only to have their passports taken away and forced into marriage by their families.
“Some families want children to marry in their countries and in their ethnic communities, but most do it if the kids are misbehaving,” said Esther Ikere Eluzai, undersecretary for South Sudan’s ministry of gender.