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What ‘Pierre Delecto’ tells us about the current Republican Party

These three things are amazing beyond words:

1) Mitt Romney has a lurker Twitter handle.

2) The handle name is “Pierre Delecto.”

3) “C’est Moi” is how Romney confirmed to a reporter that he was Delecto and Delecto was him.

Truly epic stuff. But before we just laugh off the whole thing, let’s dive a little deeper into Romney’s decision to start (and maintain) this account. Because there’s a kernel of something important here.

Start here, with how Romney himself described his decision to create the account in an interview with The Atlantic’s McKay Coppins:

“He explained that he uses a secret Twitter account — ‘What do they call me, a lurker?’ — to keep tabs on the political conversation. ‘I won’t give you the name of it,’ he said, but ‘I’m following 668 people.'”

Thanks to excellent sleuthing by Slate’s Ashley Feinberg, we learned of “Pierre Delecto” — and the fact that Romney wasn’t strictly a lurker since, by definition, a lurker doesn’t comment on things, only watches.

By Feinberg’s count, Pierre only ever tweeted 10 times (Romney — or someone — made the account private once its existence was revealed.) Which isn’t a lot. (Good analysis!) But the nature of these tweets — or, mostly, replies — are interesting.

For the most part, they represent an attempt by Romney through Pierre Delecto to make the case that he remains one of the few principled Republicans left in Washington.

In one response to criticism of Romney from liberal commentator Soledad O’Brien, Pierre noted that Romney (AKA him) was the “only Republican to hit” Trump on the Mueller Report and defended his “moral compass.” In another, Delecto defended Romney from a Twitter onslaught by Washington Post blogger and Trump critic Jennifer Rubin.

The most important of Delecto’s 10 tweets was a response to Fox News commentator Brit Hume that questioned Romney’s loyalty to party. “Loyal to principle trumps loyalty to party or person, right Brit?” asked Delecto/Romney.

On one level, “Pierre Delecto” is totally explainable by human nature. Romney knows that he looks defensive and thin-skinned if he uses his official Senate account to push back on his critics. To avoid that, he creates an alter ego that allows him to do just that. (NBA superstar Kevin Durant did the same thing, and of course don’t forget President Donald Trump’s pre-White House, telephone alter ego John Barron.)

But there’s bit more here, too. Think about this: The 2012 Republican presidential nominee — and a sitting US senator! — felt the need to defend his commitment to his party from behind the veneer of a fake person’s account on Twitter.

While Pierre is right that Romney has been more willing than most Republican elected officials to publicly criticize Trump, it’s also true that Romney hasn’t a) been all that critical of Trump or b) done anything to put his discomfort with Trump into action.

Instead, he’s used a fake Twitter person to defend himself and his image. Which works nicely as a metaphor for how elected Republican officials, more broadly, are dealing with Trump: light criticism (at most) in public and open anger, frustration and near-rebellion behind the scenes or covered by the anonymity of quotes without their names attached.

Which, last time I checked, doesn’t have any actual impact on either President Donald Trump or the fate of the party he continues to lead with reckless abandon.

CNN