Article VI Blog

"Religion, Politics, the Presidency: Commentary by a Mormon, an Evangelical, and an Orthodox Christian"

United States Constitution — Article VI:

"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

  • Today’s Reading List – October 31, 2006

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:00 am, October 31st 2006     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    This is an interesting piece.  It is from a creedal Christian and makes the case against Romney on issues.  This I like.  However, the author is a bit behind on some of the issues reporting (e.g. Romney did not "lie" about being pro-choice – he has said he was wrong before) and has written the piece so that there is no good Christian conservative choice.  We gotta vote, or we give up power altogether, so what is it?

    Speaking of pieces that try to have it both ways — In essence this one tries to make the case the Evangelical are too dumb to do politics well.  That there are politically naive Evenglicals in politics is a given, but do they dominate the movement?  I don't think so.  Most of us old enough to be in leadership positions learned the lessons the piece gives from that great evangelical president – Carter.  Kuo may have been such a naif; in fact, I find it likely, but that does not paint all of us with the same brush.

    Evangelical voters have a pragmatic streak.  Which takes the air out of the naivete charged in the link above, doesn't it?

    For the record, the membership of the CJCLDS is not lockstep Republican.  Takes a bit of the apparent "sinister" out of the "Mormon network" doesn't it?

    Much murmuring about a Romney-Jeb ticket yesterday.

    “For religious conservatives who have concerns about Romney’s (Mormon) faith, it’s the best of both worlds,” Mark said. “He’s a strong executive who’s also conservative.”

    What?  Is the Veep candidate going to convert the top of the ticket?  Romney is Romney, we will either vote for him or not.

    We are not alone.

    Left field is heard from.

    Check the last paragraph for insight into the "smart money."  LowellAs I told John, reports like this make it easy to understand why McCain seems worried about Romney.

    Update from Lowell:  Evangelicals for Mitt explores the Ankle-Biting Pundits anti-Romney "buzz machine" controversy a little further.  Except that Nancy refers to that blog as "Ankle-Biting Paid Political Consultant."

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    Today’s Reading List – October 30, 2006

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 09:48 pm, October 28th 2006     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    McCain continues to pile on the "Mormon network" issue.  This time in the form of the Utah governor who long ago declared his support for McCain.  You know, for a guy whose claim to the White House lies in his amazing and courageous military service, you'd think the guy would fight a stand-up campaign instead of all these cut-outs and sneak attacks, on issues where he really has no quarrel. 

    Lowell:  Yes, and all this from a guy who calls his PAC "Straight Talk America."  From a political science perspective, the slyness of McCain's effort here is actually kind of impressive, if one finds Clintonian tactics to be impressive. McCain uses the Mormon Republican governor of Utah to keep alive the Globe "story" about Romney's Mormon network.  Brilliant. Disappointing. Execrable.

    Speaking of which – Ponnuru says ABP more or less on the level (all we have said is he is  mis-reporting) and K-Lo says McCain denies culpability.  Of course he does, because religious attacks ain't playing fair.  Maybe that is why all the cut-outs!?

    Lowell:  All Ramesh Ponnuru says is:

    I have no dog in this fight, but from the posts to which you've linked, Kathryn, I don't think Patrick Hynes (the McCainite) has anything for which to apologize to Romneyites.

    That comment misses the point, I think.  No one is asking for an apology, at least not here on this humble blog.  We're just shining a spotlight on what a paid McCain consultant (Patrick Hynes of Ankle-Biting Pundits) is doing on his blog.  Our concern is clear and reasonable:  A political consultant who works for McCain, and whose business model is to create "buzz" for his clients, is repeatedly posting negative information about Romney's religion, all the while denying that he has any agenda at all.  We think that smells pretty bad, frankly, and McCain should either (a)  tell Hynes to stop it, or (b) own up to it.  That's all.

    Rather tellingly, Patrick Hynes has posted a response (sort of) to our analysis of his blogging.  He refers to John in personally derogatory terms, and attacks arguments we did not make.  (Maybe Patrick should rename his blog "Straw Man-Biting Pundit.")  Meanwhile, as Patrick does all those things, he fails even to link to the Article VI post he was attacking.  Why is that?  So readers can't check to see the arguments raised against his tactics?  The question remains unanswered:  Is he planting anti-Romney religious buzz or not?

    I am happy to report that we are not reluctant to link to Patrick Hynes' post.  Take a look.  He certainly creates the perception of someone running away from a real debate.  Does he confront that question as we raise it here or here?

    John interrupts: I was going to leave it be, but since Lowell brought it up, I never suggested Hynes was the source of the Globe stories – I said that I thought it likely someone in the McCain camp fed material to the Globe.  I based this not on my own insight but on Halperin and Harris' assertion, in The Way to Win, that the MSM usually never digs up such stories on thier own, but are very willing, if stories are fed to them, to chase those stories down.  My point was that Hynes' willingness, as a McCain operative, to pass on the Globe story in an exaggerated and unquestioned form, lent credence to my conjecture.  As to Hynes choice of adjectives regarding yours truly? Goethe comes to mind:

    He who wishes to exert a useful influence must be careful to insult nothing. Let him not be troubled by what seems absurd, but concentrate his energies to the creation of what is good. He must not demolish, but build. He must raise temples where mankind may come and partake of the purest pleasure.

    Finally, we are not interested in a battle with Patrick Hynes. Although he made a personal dig, I hope he doesn't take this disagreement personally.  I simply disagree profoundly with his blog's approach so far to the religious issues related to Romney's campaign.  I also think Patrick's approach is potentially embarrassing to John McCain and to the GOP generally.  He is free to continue in the same way, of course, and we'll keep on responding if he does. 

    By the way, K-Lo links to this rather interesting post about "Mormonism 101," for those interested.  No proselytizing here, just a brief "traveler's guide" to part of the faith and culture.

    And it echoes.  This blurb, now three generations from the Boston Globe's flawed and exaggerated original reporting, reduces the story to the precise formulation Romney's opponents want it to circulate in.  And the role for the new media is reaffirmed.

    Lowell:  Indeed. It will be interesting to watch whether these kinds of stories will proliferate.  My guess is that there will be many such kerfluffles in 2007, and after a while most of it will become boring and the MSM will start to focus on things like real issues. At least that's what I hope happens.  In any event, blogs and other new media will be in the arena.  Heck, they may be the arena.

    This is the least surprising political announcement of the last several decades.  To say otherwise would be self-incrimination.

    Lowell:  Kennedy's comments are actually pretty fair.  I happen to know that Kennedy knows a lot about Mormons and Mormonism, has had at least one very close Mormon aide, and is close to Orrin Hatch, a very orthodox Mormon.  Which is why Kennedy's own campaign's religious low blows against Romney back in 1994 were all the more, well, interesting.

    Meanwhile, and interestingly, the Globe returns to absolutely straight political reporting regarding Romney.  Could it be because the Salt Lake Tribune has picked up the story with a gusto?  This SLTrib piece does point out how all churches and candidates can suffer from the kind of attack we have witnessed on Romney and the CJCLDS this past week plus.

    Lowell:  The Tribune may be so interested because the Globe controversy raises such a high- interest local story in Utah.  In my younger days, when I still lived in Utah, I worked on several statewide political campaigns. It was always understood that everyone had to stay away from using LDS Church mailing lists, facilities, and so forth.  I understand that's still the prevailing approach.  If so, the notion that there would be any official church involvement in Romney's campaign would be quite startling (and disturbing) to most people in Utah.  Hence the high "news value" of the story there.  What's interesting about the Globe story is that there's still not a shred of evidence that there was any official church involvement, apart from the BYU business school mailing that was detected and corrected by BYU itself, before the story ran.  Some "scandal!"

    This blog post is typical of so many anti-Romney blog posts.  I link to it purely because it illustrates so well how any attack on Romney for his religion, is really an attack on all of us of faith using that faith to inform our politics.

    It is becoming increasingly clear to this observer that the forces alligned against religious conservatism in general, whether they be from the left or the right, are going to use the position of relative cultural weakness and acceptance of the Mormon faith to attempt to rob power from the movement in general.  We creedal Christians may not agree with Mormons on theological things, but when it comes to politics, we are definitely on the same ship and need to do all we can to keep it afloat.

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    Today’s Reading List – October 27, 2006

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:34 am, October 27th 2006     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    The latest issue of Imprimus contains an address by Daniel Dreisbach on "The Wall of Separation" and the use of metaphor in jurisprudence.

    The conventional wisdom is that Jefferson’s wall represents a universal principle concerning the prudential and constitutional relationship between religion and the civil state. In fact, this wall had less to do with the separation between religion and all civil government than with the separation between the national and state governments on matters pertaining to religion…

    One of the reasons I work so hard on this blog is because if for some reason Romney is not elected because of his faith, then the next step is for all faith.  The diverse nature of religious expression in this nation has allowed my religion to flourish like no other time in history, as with many others.  To restrict one is to restrict all.

    This from Suzanne Fields in a similar vein

    The Founding Fathers, tutored intellectually and sometimes theologically in the Judeo-Christian tradition, counted on the wall separating church and state to insulate religion. [Emphasis added.]

    She then goes on to point out the problems with Andrew Sullivan's latest book, and its inherent attack on Evangelicals.  See also Hugh Hewitt's recent interview with Sullivan and related commentary.  It seems obvious that for the left they felt they had religion "tamed."  But, the evangelical movement has broken those bonds.  Mormons, since they share evangelical values, if not theology, are considered by the left equally "on the loose."  When the left attacks one religion, whether it be Sullivan and his cries of "christianist" or McCain and "the great Mormon conspiracy,"  they attack us all. 

    Here's an interesting, if somewhat contrary, take on the whole "Mormon network" thing.  I agree with her take on "neutrality" – values affect voting patterns and religion shapes values.  Its purely a semantic distinction, but worth noting.  As to her contention that Romney having a "Mormon network" harms him with Evangelicals – I don't think so.  We do too much networking ourselves, and sharing of network resources along issue lines, for that to be a genuine concern.

    Which brings me to an interesting thought.  As Lowell points out, loss of tax-exempt status would be devastating for any church.  It seems to me that we have come to the point where the IRS defines what is and what is not a "legitimate" church.  When it comes to the "wall of separation" as Jefferson conceived of it – does that not go a long way towards tearing it down?

    Update (two items worth considering before the weekend):

    Smart move or not?  One the one hand, there has been and will be considerable amounts of bad reporting on what the CJCLDS does and does not believe and do.  They need to have some control of their own image and narrative.  But this news, on the heels of the Globe – "Mormon network" controversy, seems to serve to underscore problems as opposed to alleviate them.  There is a bit of condemned if you do, condemned if you don't in this.

    Lowell:  I have heard that the church was going to do this anyway, in anticipation of a Romney candidacy provoking an unprecedented volume of news media inquiries about church beliefs, political neutrality, and so forth.  This looks like a "gearing up" operation to me.  If so, that seems like the sort of activity to be expected from any large organization that is expecting increased news media attention.

    Hugh Hewitt and Andrew Sullivan – showdown for the decades.  I have defended Sullivan's right to call himself a "Christian" in the past, but after that, such may be stretching the tent a bit large.  Mark Roberts begins to explain why.  Bottom line: Religion is its own authority and cannot be warped to provide political power, that, far more than tax law, is what robs it of its legitimacy.

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    “Ankle-Biting Pundits, McCain, and Romney: Ethical, Maybe; But Truly Transparent?”

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 09:02 am, October 26th 2006     &mdash      2 Comments »

    At the suggestion of several readers whom we respect greatly, we are posting here in full the following, which also appears on The Hedgehog Blog:

    __________

    When a political consultant acts like a political consultant, that's pretty much to be expected and there's not much interesting to say about it.
     
    When a political consultant acts like what he is, but then pretends not to be acting that way, then something more interesting is going on.
     
    And when what the political consultant really seems to be doing is playing religious politics on behalf of a client, but pretending not to be, then we have something really worth examining.
     
    In response to my post below, noting that Patrick Hynes of Ankle-Biting Pundits is also a paid political consultant for John McCain, Mr. Hynes posted this comment here:
    You don't know what you're talking about. I have defended Romney, the LDS church, the Prophet and the 12 Apostles. You are, simply, wrong:

    http://www.anklebitingpundits.com/content/index.php?p=935

    http://www.anklebitingpundits.com/content/index.php?p=945

    http://www.anklebitingpundits.com/content/index.php?p=949

    In other words, "Who? Me? Playing the religion card? Never!"

    The facts seem to be:

    • Mr. Hynes is regularly is putting out negative "buzz" about Mitt Romney.
    • Hynes is a consultant.
    • His business is to use the internet to shape public opinion for his clients.
    • John McCain is one of his clients.

    You can draw your own conclusions.

    With that in mind, a quick look at each of these URLs compels one of two conclusions: Either Hynes is trying to have a little joke on everyone, or he is, well, one disingenuous fellow.

    In the first post referenced above, Hynes concludes:

    So that we are clear, I don’t like Mitt Romney. I think he is a shifty, too-smooth-by-half political opportunist and I have felt this way since 1994 when I watched him tack leftward in a vein attempt to maintain his short-lived and possibly apocryphal lead over Sen. Ted Kennedy. Moreover, I generally distrust politicians whose positions on abortion are entirely dependent and what office they are presently seeking and which audience they are presently addressing. Nevertheless, I am a strong proponent of active faith in public life and Mitt Romney’s faith commitment qualifies him for high public office, it does not disqualify him; even if, as is the case, I believe his faith is misguided.

    Oh yeah … and everyone knows by now that I work for McCain but that has no bearing on this post.

    If that is a "defense" of Romney, I'd love to see what Hynes considers an attack. Of course, the disclosure removes any concern at all that a McCain paid consultant is getting this message out. (Doesn't it?)

    The second post URL reveals these concluding paragraphs:

    Finally, there is an interesting discussion over at GetReligion.org about how journalists should even talk about this issue without coming off as ignorant and insulting to the Mormon faith, which contains some difficult doctrines that are inconsistent with Christianity, such as, as GetReligion.org points out, a doctrine that holds that men can become gods and have their own universes of subjects in the afterlife.

    And of course, the disclaimer.

    Just so you know, GetReligion.org loves to worry about Mormon doctrines that the blog's author thinks will disturb creedal Christians. How thoughtful of Hynes to "defend" Romney by referring his readers there! Of course, he drops into his post perhaps the most explosive and misunderstood such Mormon doctrine. All in a day's work of defending Mitt Romney, I guess. And after all, he did insert his disclaimer. (Did I mention that Hynes had to be "outed" as a consultant before he began adding a disclaimer to his posts? If you're like me, that fact doesn't increase your confidence in the credibility of his blogging.)

    The third URL leads us to a more subtle post. This one's about the recent Boston Globe article that I fisked on the Article VI Blog:

    If—and that if is an iffy one—the Romney camp and the LDS church collaborated on a pro-Romney fundraising scheme, as a chief Romney friend and consultant contends, the FEC should rebuke and fine the Romney campaign and the IRS should consider whether the Mormon Church deserves its tax exemption. But let us please end this talk of restricting the rights of high ranking Mormon individuals, be they Apostles or Prophets.

    So, the open question of the day for our readers is: Do you believe the Prophet and the 12 Apostles of the Mormon Church should be allowed to engage in politics?

    Disclosure: Yeah, I work for McCain. But I’m writing this post as someone who believes faith in public life is no threat to America and the Boston Globe has gone too far.

    So: Hynes "defends" the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its leaders by noting that if they did as the Globe reported (in a very thinly-supported article), the Church's tax exemption should come under scrutiny. Of course, losing that exemption would be the end of the Church as we know it, but don't forget, Hynes is defending the Church. As individuals, Church leaders can do what they want. Just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn't it?

    Hynes is a hired professional. His job is to help McCain. His future livelihood depends in part on his success in doing that. So he's using his popular blog to get as much information out as he can that will undercut Romney and raise questions about him. This is offensive on two levels:

    1. It's dishonest. If you're being paid to convince readers not to vote for Romney, say so.

    2. It's playing on religious prejudice. My guess is that Hynes knows very well what he's doing: Feeding the fires of anti-Mormon prejudice, or related fears or uncertainties. It's un-American and really quite disgusting. But Hynes does it with a certain elan and Clintonian brazenness, doesn't he?

    I hesitate to add to the exposure that Hynes receives and thereby reward his questionable tactics, but the great thing about the blogosphere is its self-policing possibilities. A Google search reveals that Hynes has been criticized in the very recent past for manipulating the blogosphere on behalf of clients. The web page for New Media Strategics, Hynes' company, describes part of the company's business:

    New Media Strategics offers its clients a higher level of service. Beyond “commenting on other people’s blogs,” president Patrick Hynes and his team design unique New Media communications plans for each NMS client.

    Patrick Hynes is a blogger. He understands how bloggers receive and process information. What energizes them and, just as import, what turns them off. At the same time, Patrick Hynes and the NMS team bring a deep commitment to core message discipline and time-tested communications and marketing techniques.
    . . .

    Buzz Targeting™ – Often to persuade public opinion, you need to create a lot of noise to influence only a few people, sometimes only one person. Buzz Targeting™ uses blogging technology to reach decision makers and journalists with precision. Buzz Targeting™ is fast, effective, and measurable.

    NMS Incubation™ – Building alliances with existing bloggers is important. But incubating new blogs that are friendly to your organization and supportive of your agenda generates a powerful echo chamber. Incubation™ develops some of the most talked about stories on the web.

    . . .

    Blog Releases – New Media Strategics conceptualizes, drafts, and delivers blog-friendly content (including podcasts and vodcasts) for placement on friendly or relevant blog venues.

    So it seems that Hynes is simply providing for McCain the services his company advertises.

    But back to the blogosphere. We shine the spotlight on deception and misdirection, we don't try to regulate it. On balance, it's more important for Hynes to be exposed than to try to deny him a megaphone. The voters who count will smell garbage when it's put before them. The others who like what Hynes is doing would never vote for Romney anyway.

    Enough. A cat is always going to act like a cat, and a scorpion will always act like a scorpion. Hynes is simply doing what he does. But I do have some questions:

    • Does John McCain know what Hynes is doing?

    • If so, does he approve of this sort of religious politics?

    • If he does, how much more of this charming behavior will we see as the campaign unfolds?
    We're waiting to see.

    Oh, yes, I have a disclaimer too: I'm a Romney supporter and have donated to his PAC. But I'm sure not being paid by him.

     
    [tags] Patrick Hynes, Ankle-Biring Pundits, political consultants, John McCain, Boston Globe, Mitt Romney, Mormon, Mormon problem, religious prejudice [/tags]
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    Today’s Reading List – October 26, 2006

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:47 am, October 26th 2006     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    This guy has a point, somebody inside had to get the info out.  However, odds are that it was not to the Globe, it was to McCain people who in turn gave it to the Globe.  As this story rolls, I think it important to remember that building a network of any sort is not a problem.  All churches risk their non-profit status if they engage in political speech or activity, but even that is not a crime, it just means they have to pay taxes.

    Lowell:  Here's a fairly lengthy analysis on the controversy surrounding the Ankle-Biting Pundits yesterday (about the Boston Globe story on Romney's Mormon network). I posted it elsewhere because it didn't seem quite right for this blog. It turns out that the Ankle-Biting Pundits blogger who who is putting out negative "buzz" about Romney is a consultant.  His business is to use the internet to shape public opinion for his clients.  John McCain's one of his clients.  You can draw your own conclusions.

    One of the more interesting aspects of primary politics is that primary opponents have to be careful not to damage the party as well as the opponent, else they destroy general election chances, regardless of who prevails.  However John McCain has shown little in the way of party loyalty throughout his career.  This leftist rant, which vaguely pins its argument on this Mormon attack from McCain, is a great example of how to violate this principle.  The Republican party is now forced into a corner regarding a memorial to the Armenian genocide?!

    UPDATE to my evangelical brethren: The legs on the "Mormon network" story are beginning to amaze me.  If the story is allowed to be truly effective, it will hurt not only Romney, but the idea of religious networks for poitical action in general.  You know, all those PAC's and 527's we value so highly – Chuck Colson, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Tony Perkins, David Barton – all could be reduced to irrelevancy by the same arguement.  We need to be defending against this kind of argument, regardless of your concerns about a specific candidate.

    Romney said this at Liberty Sunday.  I think it political genius to take an issue that started in his home state and nationalize it.   It makes a presidential run a continuation of his mission.

    Speaking of Romney being pithy watch this (HT: Powerline)

    Everytime I hear more about Obama, I cannot help but reflect that a primary battle between a woman and an African-American is some sort of Democrat dilemma beyond resolve.  Can't you just see the brains stuck in a loop?  Which is the more oppressed? – most minority?

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    Today’s Reading List – October 25, 2006

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:57 am, October 25th 2006     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Is this a good thing?  In one sense political prognostication is the great American game, but to actually set it up as a web site for a fantasy politics like fantasy football?  It seems to trivialize things a bit.  Personally, I think fantasy football has not helped the game any, nobody roots for the home team anymore, just "their" team.

    Speaking of which, John McIntyre looks at the 2008 landscape.  We have an interview with him

    Taking the press's bait: 

    There is growing concern among high-level evangelical leaders that the Romney campaign may have duped them after it was revealed by the Globe that Romney’s team has constructed a Mormon political machine in secret after repeatedly stating in private to them that Romney would not run with the Mormon Church’s backing.

    Again with the unnamed "high-level evangelical leaders" – why won't these people stick their heads above ground?  This piece from the normally reliable Ankle-Biting Pundits errs first by buying the Globe's hype – What machine?  What secret?  Charges implied by the Globe coverage, but never directly made, let alone proved.  Then there is the by now old Ted Haggard out-of-context quotation.  I'm disappointed; good blogs like ABP are supposed to find the press's problems, not join them.  Lowell:  I'm really struck by ABP's credulity here.  Hook, line, sinker.  Maybe even the pole.

    UPDATE!: Incredulous no more- McCain Operative! I wondered last week if McCain was not behind the Globe's chasing of this "story."  Further indication to this observer that the religion question will be floated far more by opponents than be a genuine religious concern among Evangelicals.  Lowell:  Ouch!  How many times now have we seen a McCain operative play the religion card against Romney?  Twice, by my count.  This time, through Ankle-Biting Pundits, and also this time.  And there will be other times!  I have some more commentary on this here.

    By the way, John and I have no professional affiliation or employment relationship with anyone we write about.  If we were, we'd disclose the relationship.  Just thought we'd make that clear.

    UPDATE 2:  Still more about this here. Note the comment thread in particular.  Patrick Hynes, the Ankle-Biting Pundit blogger (who is a political consultant hired by McCain) even makes an appearance.

    On the other hand, Evangelicals for Mitt gets it entirely.

    There is gonna be a South Carolina Primary debate in May '07.  Yeesh, that's early.  This will; however be interesting.  South Carolina is where, among the early primaries, any appreciable "Mormon effect" would be most apparent. Lowell: This event may require liveblogging by one or both of us.  How do you feel about red clay, John?

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