Monday, December 3, 2007

That Speech

[Politics/Religion] He's calling his Thursday speech "Faith in America," which already has me turned off on any notion that Mitt Romney will seriously and finally address his Mormonism as it relates to his potentially running the country.

First of all, there is simply no need to address faith in general. It's his faith and ability to govern as a Mormon that huge blocs of Christian voters in the U.S. are questioning. So if Romney has a mind to blithely coast along, sing-songing about what faith and belief in God tend to do for people in general, the speech will be a no-sale. No one will buy it.

The basics of the Mitt-as-Mormon debate will not be provided Thursday night, and so the questions about his religion will continue. The vast majority of voters don't have a clue about what Mormons believe. Even so, they see the religion as a cult, and no amount of 'splaining and diagramming and professing one's testimony at College Station, Texas is going to change that perception.

I lived in Dallas for six years back in the '90s. I traveled all over the state with my job at the time, frequently landing right in the buckle of the Bible Belt. I couldn't count the number of times I was met by a complete stranger asking me "Did I know Jesus?" and "Have you been saved?" and "Is Jesus your personal savior?"

If I ever told any one of them I was Mormon (though of the infamous "Jack" variety, I still had all the fundamental background and trappings of the faith to be able to describe--and pretty respectfully and accurately--what Mormons believe), the first thing out of their mouths would be the "Mormons aren't Christian" statement. And what do you say to that? Oh, yes they are. And then what? I don't beat my wife, either? It's a no-win.

What people want to know about Romney, and by extension, Mormons, are the tidbits he would never in a million years discuss publicly. People who suspect Mormons as cultists and crazy-secretive want to know about all of the basics of the faith that set it apart as weird and other-worldly: temple rituals, baptism for the dead, personal revelation and prophecy, polygamy in the afterlife, and just what the heck is your view of Jesus, anyway?

And those are all matters Romney and other devout Mormons view as sacred and will only address superficially at best. So voters who want more will not get it. And after Thursday, Romney will say he's given all he's willing to give on the topic.

One final thought: If Romney is slipping to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in the weeks leading up to the Iowa Caucuses, it's more about his flip-flopping on social issues and his hard-line approach to illegal immigration than anything else. Midwestern voters are some of the most socially and politically engaged in the country (I also lived in Minneapolis for five years, and got to know neighboring Iowa pretty well, too). They are known to be open-minded and to give most people a fair shake.

If Romney is having trouble in Iowa, he really ought to look at his compassion factor and his political mettle first. The issue is about his truth-telling ability and his humanity. Go there first, Mitt.

These stories on the "Faith in America" speech might be of interest. First, from a blogger-reporter who has no dog in the hunt (which is to say, he's a non-Mormon from outside Utah) and here and here.

And final, final thought: Mitt Romney is no JFK.

Anyone out there feel like weighing in? (Holly Mullen)


  1. I lived in Omaha for five years, right across the river from Iowa, and I didn't see my Iowa friends as being any more politically perceptive than anyone else.

    The fact is that Romney has come out of nowhere on the national political radar to be a contender for the lead in Iowa and New Hampshire.

    Reverend Huckabee is officially campaigning as the hand-picked candidate of God, as conceived by Southern Baptists. He has asked Iowans to vote for him as a "Christian leader". If Muslims are worried about Romney, what is Huckabee going to do? How is "Christian leader" Huckabee going to resist demands from his Evangelical supporters that he ensure that creationism is taught in public schools that receive Federal funds, that the Ten Commandments and various New Testament passages are taught in public schools, that homosexuals in the military be not tolerated if discreet but actively sought out and discharged? Holly Mullen should take note that if Romney loses Iowa, Reverend Huckabee will be perceived as the winner. And Huckabee will have encouraged a lot of people to make sure that Mormons and other religious minorities are second class citizens in America. Of course, Democrats probably would love to be able to portray Huckabee as ready to institute the Arkansas Inquisition. So it is important to them that someone who cannot be elected nationally be the leader in Iowa, instead of Romney.

    Romney's position on abortion law when he ran for the Senate and for governor simply recognized two facts: (1) the US Supreme Court had taken away most of the power of anyone else to change the law, and (2) an almost totally Democrat legislature was never going to even try. Since he was powerless to change the status quo, he decided he could live with it.

    But the proposals to create a market for human embryos gave him an opportunity to make the status quo one that supports human life rather than abortion. Anyone who knows Romney's biography knows that the one continuous passion of his life, since high school, has been his wife Ann. She has MS. Knowing that the advocates of unrestricted experimentation on human embryos were holding out the hope of cures for that disease, but Romney resisted, is strong evidence that his stand is principled.

    Since Holly Mullen knows what Mormons think, they know that Mormons like Mitt Romney would never contemplate an abortion for themselves and would strongly counsel their family and fellow church members against it. She knows that Romney's public policy stance is now able to align itself with what has alwways been his personal religious view, which is why we have reason to believe it is not going to change.

    Senator John Kerry was a "flip-flopper" on everything, with different views in the same week, on issues like the war in Iraq. Romney has "flipped" on abortion but he hasn't flopped, or changed back again.

    Since Holly Mullens doesn't mind abortion on demand, her trying to magnify his change of mind into "flip-flopping" has nothing to do with a sincere concern about protecting unborn children.

    The fact is, there is nothing pejorative with which opponents can legitimately label Romney, so they have seized on the inapplicable term "flip-flop" as an excuse to avoid saying that they hate and fear Mormons.

    How are liberals concerned about "flip-flop" on abortion? Shouldn't they be happy that, once elected, Romney might flip back and give them a pro-abortion Supreme Court justice? In fact, they don't really think that would ever happen, which is precisely why they fear Romney being the Republican candidate and actually being elected.

  2. I'm afraid that Mr./Ms. anonymous (though I'm betting on a male) mistook my criticism of Romney as an endorsement of Huckabee. Whoa, hold on now. Huckabee is anti-choice and I agree, too inclined to meld religion with education and other arenas where the Supreme Court has decided it ought not to go.

    The best part about Huckabee right now is that he's catching on and looking a lot more real than the rest of the pack. And right or wrong, the press appears to love the guy. He's the only reason Romney is capitulating to finally give his "Faith in America" speech and I love it.

    My candidate is Hillary Clinton, anonymous. Now reach out and put your heart back in your chest.
    --Holly Mullen


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