Saw this at the grocery store over the weekend and laughed so hard, I found it difficult to remain standing.
Astonishingly, the left-of-Lenin L.A. Times published over the weekend what can only be called a "classically liberal" (meaning good) view of Romney and the Mormon question in response to the recent Weisberg and Linker pieces.
What both journals are doing is playing with social fire for the sake of narrow partisan advantage, hoping to knock a potentially attractive conservative candidate out of the running in much the same way that some Republican commentators desperately attempted to prod some Catholic bishop somewhere into denying Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry communion because he's pro-choice.
I'm willing to bet Rutten, the author of the piece, would vote with Linker or Weisberg about 99% of the time, so this is quite the condemnation, and it illustrates a primary tenet against the argument – once used, it cuts in all ways and damages everybody.
Lowell: Rutten and the Times are not quite that far left (and I know John's just using a figure of speech), but the paper's news reports consistently reflect the standard left-of-center line. Just read the front page, any day. I rarely even bother with the unsigned editorials, which are utterly predictable. Rutten himself is a liberal MSM writer who practically exemplifies the breed, and seems never to have seen a conservative idea he didn't consider idiotic or venal. Even the Times piece we link to contains a few gratuitous shots at American religious conservatives. But– and this is an important "but"– I respect Rutten for the intellectual honesty and adherence to classical liberalism of his piece. I'm tempted to add some choice quotes, but instead I urge you to read the whole thing.
Huckabee hits below the belt here. It was rumored a bit back that Mike Huckabee might go to work for Mitt Romney, but if the NYTimes blog post linked here is any indication, it's not happening right now. In the brief press discussion Huckabee had, he takes a backhand at The Question:
One of the questions, he said, was “whether we’re coming to the evangelical community or whether we’re coming from the evangelical community. I am a person who is literally from it. It’s who I am. I don’t have to prove that to anybody.’’
If that is not a shot across Romney's bow on religion, I don't know what is. But even if you are not pro-Romney, that's not smart politics – he is betting that Evangelicals are the party, which is a miscalculation. They may self-identify as a majority, but they will run the Republican spectrum on the issues and such comments will send every moderate one of them heading for the hills. One of the Republicans' greatest distinctions over the Dems is that they are NOT about identity politics, and yet that is identity politics to the max. The smart Republican will fight against identity politics, not promote it. Besides, anybody playing religion that hard this early does not stand a chance in the general election. If he is running for Veep or influence of some other sort, he is guaranteeing himself marginalization playing identity politics that way. Bad move.
Another columnist is compelled to write about The Question, but has nothing to add to the conversation at all. Now, I have a question, how come all the conservative Evangelicals that say they won't vote for a Mormon always remain anonymous? In this case, "This was not some ignorant hick I was talking to, but an academic and administrator at a leading Southern Baptist university." Is it possible that such people are a distinct minority and subject to social persecution if their views became widely known? Are journalists digging up token misanthropes for the purpose of keeping The Question alive and having something to write about?
New first debates set. Proof of the blurring of the line between campaign and television programming content. And now a wager, if the religion issue comes up in these debates at all, it will be in the Democratic one, not the Republican one. Any takers?
Hugh Hewitt is not overwhelmed with this. I have to say I find it surprising given that the same source reports elsewhere that Romney won a straw poll in South Carolina. SC should be his most difficult early challenge.
Dream on! First of all, no Republicans mentioned. Secondly, PuffHo is just a shuffle ahead of Kos.
However, on the subject of new media politics, last week's YouTube attack/response cycle continues to reverberate.
An attack from the right, the fringe right, but the right nonetheless. Eyewitness truth about the attacker. What's fascinating in the absence of a religious component to the attack. This says a couple of things. First of all, only the completely out-of-reality right would attack on religious grounds. That's good news, I think it demonstrates that Evangelical religious objections are largely neutralized. Bigotry usually huddles with bigotry, unless one form of bigotry would delegitimize the other. Secondly, it demonstrates a neutralizing effect of Romney's faith on some attacks from the left. They have largely been silent on this, when normally they would be decrying the attackers as religious zealots, but if they did so in this case, they would legitimize Romney's faith which they can ill afford to do.
Evangelicals and illegal immigration. At this point I think the MSM just wants religion/politics conflict because it makes a great story line. Yes, we want to minister to those that are here because we care about people, but we hardly want to encourage illegal immigration – we can go where they are to provide that care.
Update by Lowell: Jeff Jacoby has thoughts on the "flip-flop" issue. This is more political than religion-related, but we think it's close enough. Jacoby's conclusion:
Romney's very public migration rightward over the last few years is a different kind of act, one intended not to hide his real views but to liberate them. In 1994, Romney struck me as an extraordinarily bright, talented, and decent man — and a political neophyte who fell for the canard that the only way a conservative could win in Massachusetts was by passing for liberal.
Thirteen years later, Romney is where he should have been all along. Yes, it took some tap-dancing and artful dodging to get from there to here, and some voters will wonder which Mitt Romney, the 1994 edition or the one on offer today, is the real deal. Can he put those doubts to rest? If he's going to win his party's nomination, he'll have to.
James Dobson now says, "Speaking as a private individual, I would not vote for John McCain under any circumstances." WorldNetDaily reports that Dobson's comments "came during an interview on the Jerry Johnson Live program on KCBI 90.0 FM." I'm not sure what to make of this; we've commented on Dobson's statements about Romney before. From the article it's hard to tell what bothers Dobson about McCain more: McCain's position on same-sex marriage or McCain-Feingold. But it seems clear Dobson, the "private individual," will be sharing his views about all the candidates.
John comments: Dobson's "consituency" are precisely the kind of hard-right people that would absolutely loathe McCain, He has to say this. That would make him and them naturals for Romney, save for "the Mormon thing." As we have noted, he is between a rock and a hard-place on that one. Look for him to settle behind Huckabee (Brownback's a Catholic, albeit an evangelical one and formerly Protestant, something that would be nearly as large a barrier to his people as Mormon would) and forfiet all the political capital he has gained these last years.
Finally, A four-hour PBS documentary is coming out this spring, called "The Mormons," which is described as a "presentation of both 'American Experience' and 'Frontline' — their first co-production." The timing is interesting, with Romney's presidential candidacy looming. The documentary will probably air at around the time of the first presidential primary debate in
South Carolina New Hampshire. (John "ahems": The first debates are now in New Hampshire – see above in this post.) [Oops.-Ed.]
According to a Deseret News interview with Helen Whitney, the documentary's producer:
The Mormons" will no doubt displease anyone who doesn't want to hear a negative word about the LDS Church. At the same time, it's going to anger those who don't want to hear anything good about it.
Whitney's goal is not to recruit people to become Mormons, nor is it to discourage current or prospective members. She is hoping, however, that "The Mormons" will prompt viewers to examine their own beliefs.
"I would also like them to take a deep and searching look into their own religion and see the ways in which there are commonalities as well as uniqueness and difference," she said. "I think that by looking into the Mormon heart, you look into your own."
Sounds healthy. Especially in period when The Question may well be on many minds.