[tags] Hugh Hewitt, Mitt Romney, China, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Iraq Study Group [/tags]
"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
[tags] Hugh Hewitt, Mitt Romney, China, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Iraq Study Group [/tags]
Well, I don't know if it's 17, but it sure seems like it. Dean Barnett summarizes today's development, in which Massachusetts' Supreme Judicial Court ruled on the lawsuit brought by Mitt Romney and others. In the action Romney et al. asked the Court to decide whether or not the state's legislators actually had to vote on an initiative petition for a constitutional amendment. Here's how the lawsuit started:
The initial steps in amending the Massachusetts State Constitution are simple enough: If an adequate number of citizens signs an initiative petition suggesting a change in the Constitution, the state’s legislators must hold a joint session and vote “yea” or “nay” on the proposed amendment. A yea vote sends the measure to the people in the form of a referendum question. A nay vote kills it.
The Definition of Marriage Amendment didn’t get a “yea or nay” vote, even though the petition had more than enough signatures. When Governor Mitt Romney called the legislators to session to vote on the Amendment, they promptly voted to disband by a 109-87 margin. They did not consider the proposed amendment as they were constitutionally required to.
Read Dean's post to learn what the Court did and what will happen next. What does this mean in the context of this blog's focus? Dean thinks "Mitt Romney wins this round."
[tags] Dean Barnett, Mitt Romney, same-sex marriage, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Definition of Marriage Amendment, Massachusetts State Constitution [/tags]
But we'll still post– a little, anyway. Here's a mini-reading list for December 27, 2006:
Barack Obama, John Edwards and Tom Vilsack beat every Republican. Hillary Clinton loses to every Republican but Mitt Romney. Romney loses to every Democrat. John McCain runs slightly better than Rudy Giuliani, matching up against most of the Democratic field.
Thankfully, we note that religion is not overtly discussed. Before anyone gets too carried away with these results, ask yourself: Who was leading the 2000 presidential race at Christmastime 1998? Don't remember? Neither does anyone else. And who was the leading Democrat at the end of 1990? I don't remember that one either, but it sure wasn't Bill Clinton. Update: Jed Babbin has more on why early polls are meaningless.
Jim Geraghty thinks (hopes?) that former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore is considering a presidential run as a true conservative. Maybe. No mention of Gilmore's religion, presumably because it's not an issue.
Off-topic, but I can't resist linking to this story about three "cultist" brothers serving in Iraq.
We hope you are having a wonderful Christmas and New Year season.
I find it almost horrific that a holiday weekend, this far from the actual election, would produce this much material for this feature. I apologize if this is not up-to-snuff, but I had better things to do, which is kind of the point I think . . . .
Annually, the Wall Street Journal reprints an editorial from 1949. Excerpting it robs it of some of its power, but a subscription is required to read the link, so I'll do my best.
When Saul of Tarsus set out on his journey to Damascus the whole of the known world lay in bondage. There was one state, and it was Rome. There was one master for it all, and he was Tiberius Caesar.
Everywhere there was civil order, for the arm of the Roman law was long. Everywhere there was stability, in government and in society, for the centurions saw that it was so.
But everywhere there was something else, too. There was oppression — for those who were not the friends of Tiberius Caesar.
Then, of a sudden, there was a light in the world, and a man from Galilee saying, Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's.
And the voice from Galilee, which would defy Caesar, offered a new Kingdom in which each man could walk upright and bow to none but his God. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. And he sent this gospel of the Kingdom of Man into the uttermost ends of the earth.
And so Paul, the apostle of the Son of Man, spoke to his brethren, the Galatians, the words he would have us remember afterward in each of the years of his Lord:
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
Some commentary on the tone of the discussion. I tend to agree, but interestingly, most of the really ugly tone cited is from the left, NOT the right. To those Evangelicals concerned about Romney's faith – there is a lesson in that. If it works against Romney, which it could if we help the left, they will use it against us.
Speaking of which, Slate summarizes some response to Jacob Weisberg – it's all over the map.
Glen Johnson's AP story on "The Question" has been making the rounds of the major outlets, but CNN is just way over the top. Here's the headline:
Romney's likeliest backers think his religion is a cult
We have been over and over that word "cult." Without detailed discussion it is nothing but a slam – nothing, and it's use by CNN in this fashion completely destroys the veil of "impartiality" in which the MSM cloaks itself.
K-Lo, writing at Townhall thinks Romney should say more, not less, about his faith. An interesting point, but K-Lo is Catholic and comes from a religious tradition which, contra to modern Evangelicalism, has a well developed philosophy for political engagement. What she suggests will play extraordinarily well with Catholics, and most Protestant denominationalists, but for the independent Evangelicals, I'm not so sure. I think an interesting undercurrent is developing in the wake of Romney's run – a power struggle between the creedal Christian factions inside the Republican party - a move towards the center as the traditional expressions of creedal Christianity are more to the left than the Evangelicals?
Lowell adds: In general I tend to share the "worry" to which K-Lo refers, which is that "too much 'common values' talk can water down one's religion, and thus weaken the overall role religion plays in public life." On a more Romney-specific level, I think he will be less successful if he tries to say, "Don't worry about my religion, I have the same basic values you do, in spades." He probably should take the more affirmative middle way urged by Richard Land:
I just encouraged (Romney) to do it forthrightly and honestly and say, "Look, this is my faith, and we don't have a religious test for office, and here's how my faith informs my values system."
In other words, say, in essence, "Here are the teachings of my faith, which I fully accept, about the values that matter to you, the voter." There's a risk there, but it's better dealt with forthrightly. There's no need to get into specific doctrines, but it would be fine to say, "I believe in human dignity and the need for all of us to care for each other in a way that does not forsake the fatherless, but that also supports individual responsibility."
Mark Steyn argues for the rationality of faith. Interestingly, his argument distinguishes not between Mormon and creedal Christian.
This BBC piece just glows about Mormons and Romney. Some of it is just the way Brits write, and forgive me Lowell, you know I love you, but its over-the-top. Correct, right . . . but over-the-top. Puffery, not journalism.
Lowell: Well . . . as I note below, journalists need something to write about. What seems to have happened is that the writer was surprised to find that that there seem to be a lot of Mormons who are not weird. Yes, the piece's tone is a little chirpy, but I do recognize the people he is writing about as mine, in all their idiosyncratic, diverse wonderfulness. (Not that I have a strong opinion about them. ) Many MSM pieces about Mormons read like caricatures; this one does not.
This may be THE REALLY most interesting aspect of Campaign '08 – and we're smack dab in the middle of it.
If a politician can’t project sincerity even when he is insincere—or worse, can’t do it when he really is sincere—then he is probably in the wrong business. The suspicious timing of Romney’s change of mind may end up dooming his candidacy.
That is pure insider cynicism talking. We try pretty hard to stick to our religion issue portfolio around here, but I just have to say this – I've met the man and quite a bit of his family. Something I have had the honor to do with many leaders, including U.S. presidents. More than any of them, "sincerity" is precisely the right word for Romney. If he is not "projecting" it, it is because he is not trying yet, all anyone has to do is see him.
Lowell adds: (Warning! Mini-rant follows!) As I get older (a phenomenon of which my kids constantly remind me) I pay less attention to pundits, especially early on in any campaign. These folks earn their daily bread by expressing their opinions, and although many of them are very bright and have seen a lot of politics over the years, for the most part they're no wiser or more prescient than anyone else who watches politics. I'll bet if you kept track of all the predictions of the Ramesh Ponnurus, Fred Barneses, Morton Kondrackes, Jacob Weisbergs, and Eleanor Clifts of the world (to name only a few) they'd be right less than half the time. (Mini-rant over.)
I suspect that what is really going on is that to Ponnuru, Romney comes across as insincere. That does not mean the Governor will play that way to American voters. We'll only know that with the passage of time, but I'm with John: Both close-up and in speeches, Romney comes across as very genuine. Sometimes Princeton graduates who daily breathe the rarified air at National Review mistake their views for those of the hoi polloi.
As Hugh Hewitt points out, Romney has seen the most biased press coverage in history. Yes, as a candidate he has to take control of his image projection, but bear in mind, he is not yet a candidate! Lowell: He is no dummy, either. I think a lot of people will be either surprised or impressed with the way he handles these matters.
The Corner points to a Boston Herald piece on Romney's Christmas card. Incredibly, Evangelicals are worried that Romney will work to hard to spread his religion, while the MSM is complaining his card is not religious enough!!! Sometimes the intersection of faith and politics is in the Twilight Zone.
It's old news now that the argument that the Mormon faith is "too irrational" will be a favorite stone for Evangelicals to throw at Romney. But here it is from a leftie at Slate! The most amazing part of the piece is that the writer comments that "not enough attention" was paid to the irrationality of Bush's faith, but that Mormonism is somehow different, worse even than Bush. There is no evidence or reasoning involved in the piece, just the writer's apparent impressions. It's hard to tell, but I guess it is simply a matter of age that makes the irrational claims of creedal Christian faith, from the virgin birth to the resurrection, to Daniel in the lions' den and Shadrach et al. in the fiery furnace somehow more acceptable to an admittedly secular mind than the irrational claims of Mormonism? Given the lack of reason and argument exhibited by the piece, I cannot help but think this is the pot calling the kettle black.
Lowell adds: The Slate article is surprisingly superficial for a writer like Jacob Weisberg, who is an intelligent guy. His argument — "no one who believes that crazy stuff should be president"– is actually pretty tired already, at least among those who've been thinking about the issue for awhile. We've cited to John Mark Reynolds' still-definitive analysis of that point several times. It's the best discussion I have seen (and from an Evangelical perspective) of the tests one should apply for deciding when a candidate's religion is relevant to a voting decision.
Still, the point is specious enough, and easy enough to articulate, that we'll probably see it raised often over the next 10 months or so. Perhaps as real political issues come to the fore, sneering bigotry like Weisberg's will recede.
A final comment on the notion of Mormonism as a "fringe" religion. As one e-mail correspondent notes:
It’s amazing to hear people call the LDS Church "fringe," given that it has more US members (depending on whose numbers you use) than several prominent mainstream churches, including the Presbyterian Church, the Episcopal Church, the Greek Orthodox Church and the Pentecostals. The Southern Baptist Convention is much larger, but the other Baptist groups are smaller.
Back to John: I participated in a conference call yesterday with Mark Earley of The Interchange Freedom Initiative (IFI) and Anthony Pickering of the Becket Fund. IFI has recently been victimized by a pretty extreme federal court ruling. This is of interest on this blog because the ruling, quite wrongly, attempts to define what "evangelical" is in theological, not institutional, terms. Something out of the jurisdiction of the courts. But the result of the effort is fascinating for it ends up grouping the Mormon faith with the denominational creedal Christian faiths like Roman Catholicism, Prebyterianism, Methodism, and sets Evangelicalism quite apart from them. I think this points out, firstly, the inanity of trying to figure out religion in a legal context. But most fascinating is that it makes Evangelicalism look "cultic" and Mormonism look mainstream.
Now bear in mind, the ruling is utter nonsense as Evangelicalism is a school of thought and not a church in any recognizable sense. There are evangelical Presbyterians, evangelical Catholics, etc. Regardless, it is fascinating to see how perception and bias can affect how people view questions like this. We are back in the Twilight Zone.
Lowell updates: It seems that many are looking for evidence that Romney is not a true conservative. This is actually a positive development, I think; at least the focus is on issues, not religion. Unfortunately, even in the political arena accuracy suffers. This blog post, for example, claims that "Romney, who was an independent in the early 1990s, voted for [liberal Democratic Senator Paul] Tsongas in the 1992 Dem primary." The only link in the post, however, is to this Washington Post article, which says nothing at all about Romney ever voting for Tsongas. (Even if it's true, I wonder about the ideological significance of voting for a friend in a primary of the opposing party.)
Lowell update II: Looks like they love Romney in New Hampshire. More to the point of this blog, the article does not mention religion once. How's that for refreshing? Of course, the Globe sees the same event differently. Compare the two stories for an interesting example of reporter bias. Even so, still no mention of religion, even in the Globe story. Progress!
John Updates: K-Lo makes a Romney funny at The Corner. There, I feel much better entering the holiday on a laugh. I loathe being serious at Christmas.