Nightline's Terry Moran interviewed Romney last evening; the video is here. Moran blogs about the interview, with transcribed excerpts that include material not in the broadcast version here.
As usual, the MSM is far behind the blogosphere (and this blog, I might add) on the issues. The interview is very basic and doesn't shed any new light on The Question. For people who watch mainly television for their news, however, the Nightline interview may be important.
Moran's framing of the interview was interesting. He describes Romney as far behind McCain and Giuliani among voters (which really means name recognition at this early stage), but said he believes Romney will be a "formidable" candidate. Moran referred to Romney's Mormonism as the biggest question facing the candidate. That's debatable, but the MSM is bound to see and report it that way for the near future at least. He cited the obligatory ABC News poll numbers and Evangelical doubts about voting for a Mormon.
Here are Romney's answers to Moran's questions about The Question:
Moran: “You’re a Mormon. Would you describe yourself as a devout Mormon, a true believer?”
Romney: “Absolutely. I’m proud of my faith, part of my heritage. I think the American people respect individuals of faith. That’s the kind of people want to lead the country. I don’t think they get into doctrines and if you will the periphery of a faith. My faith has made me a better person than I would have been otherwise…
Moran: “You may be the most serious Mormon candidate for president the country has ever had, and a lot of Americans don’t know much about the faith–at some point polygamy was involved, et cetera. Is that a hurdle for you?”
Romney: “I think people are going to not spend a lot of time looking at a religion of a candidate. Everytime I consider our history of the nation, I look back at someone like John F. Kennedy, people thought his faith was going to be an issue that just got overwhelmed by the differences and the perspective and character and viewpoints and issues. When I ran for governor of Mass. At the beginning people said gosh what do you think about his religion? And that was quickly brushed aside and the real issues because the central focus. I think the same thing will happen at the national level. After all I subscribe to what Abraham Lincoln called American's political religion. That is you abide by the constitution and the rule of law. And when you take the oath of office, that’s your highest responsibility.”
Moran: “I don't want to press you on this. As people get to know you and get to know your faith they may have questions…for example, like do you believe that the garden of Eden was in Missouri and that Jesus Christ’s Second Coming will be there. Or that God has a physical body? Do you expect those questions? How would you handle them?”
Romney: “I don’t expect those questions. What I expect people to do is to say there are differences between faith, theology is different, but we don’t judge a candidate based on the theology of the religion they grew up in. my family’s heritage is in our faith and I’m proud of that. But I’m not going to go through and cafeteria style talk about each doctrine, and which I accept. That’s not the nature of a campaign. As Dr. Richard Lance [Land - Ed.] said, I’m not running for pastor in chief. And the differences between faith really aren’t what’s critical. Instead I look at the commonality of faith. And in our faith, like the other faiths in this land, we try and serve others with compassion. We believe in a divine creator. We believe in the family nature of humankind, we believe in marriage, and devotion to our spouse, and to our kids.”
In the on-air version Moran asked Romney about the Mormon belief that Church leaders are prophets and whether Romney, as president, would feel bound to follow prophetic guidance. Romney responded that he has never been told what to do, as a political office-holder or seeker, by Church leaders. He noted that Harry Reid is the highest-ranking Mormon ever and clearly is not getting or taking orders from his church, and concluded by saying that as president his duty would be to follow the Constitution and uphold the rule of law.
Again, not much new, but the issue seems to be getting the light and attention it needs and deserves. Moran observes on his blog:
The other thing that struck me is Mitt Romney himself: He is personable and smart. He's done his homework. He takes tough questions without blinking and dodges them like a member of the great Average Joe's 's squad–just as all top politicians do these days. And he's already got what seems to be a crackerjack team on the ground. Watch for him; he's a real contender.
John adds: The work done by Moran here reveals the press' religious bias in general. Moran pegs Evangelicals as the source of Romney's biggest opposition on religion, and yet, as we have chronicled on this blog, while there are evangelical inquiries and concerns, it is the irreligious left that has sounded off most loudly, most vociferously, and with the greatest venom when it comes to Romney's faith. As with most MSM pieces on The Question to date this one manages to support bias against Romney because of his faith – by discussing it so much – while at the same time painting a picture of Evangelicals as small-minded and closed off. As we have contended on this blog from its inception, as Evangelicals we can ill-afford to exclude Romney based on his faith, for to do so, would be self-exclusive.
I must also comment that to do a "profile" piece, and yet devote nearly half the piece to a single issue without interviewing evangelical leaders, leftie voices like Linker or Weisberg, or even the likes of Lowell or I or the EFM people is just flat out bad reporting. With so much devoted to a single issue, the piece was no profile.
[tags]Romney, ABCNews, Nightline, Terry Moran[/tags]