BEYOND THE PALE
We have argued on this blog all along that Gov. Romney should not get into the tall grass when it comes to theology. Given that, I nearly panicked when I saw an ABC News piece with a subhead that read: "Romney Blasts Immigration Bill, Defends Mormonism Against 'Cult' Charge" – fortunately, when I got to the story, here is what was actually there:
On the Web site of Robertson's Christian Broadcasting News, Mormonism is repeatedly described as "a cult."
Asked why he didn't attempt to refute that rhetorical assault on his faith, Romney pushed back.
"I'm not running for pastor in chief and I'm not running as someone who defends my religion or explains my religion," he said. "I'm running for a secular office, the presidency of the United States."
In terms of actually addressing the Christian Broadcasting Network and Regent University, Romney said, "You know if my church wants to respond, they're certainly welcome to. But that's not what I'm doing."
It is now officially ridiculous. Romney refused to give them what they wanted and yet they headline the piece as if he did. The press is without shame. This is so blatantly pandering to a story line when there is no actual news as to border on a flat-out lie.
Lowell: By Sunday night at 8:50 p.m. Pacific, ABC had changed the headline to "Romney Blasts Immigration Bill, Discusses Change in Abortion Stance." Maybe they read this blog!
That Romney is so consistently failing to give the theo-nerds what they want on this issue does not prevent Terry Mattingly from once again calling for it. Although in this case he is using Richard Ostling as a stand-in, Mattingly has discussed this before on GetReligion. Once again, for the record, no candidate for the presidency, even the oft-mis-cited JFK, has answered these kinds of questions about their faith.
Here's the thing: Theo-nerds not only love the intricacies of their own faith, they love proving why their theology is superior to yours. Being seminary-trained, I have engaged in this game and enjoy it from time to time; I understand the impulse. But it is simply immaterial. I am sorry these guys are not going to get to show off their theology chops, but that's politics in a religiously diverse nation. This is a presidential election, not a seminary. Give it up, guys!
IN OTHER NEWS
Lowell: In this aside, Peggy Noonan, who seems to have drunk at least a little Fred Thompson Kool-Aid, show us how far into the MSM Romney's Mormonism has penetrated:
While the other candidates bang away earnestly in a frozen format, Thompson continues to sneak up from the creek and steal their underwear–boxers, briefs and temple garments.
As a Mormon, I am now hardened to such light-minded treatment of one of our faith's more sacred symbols, so I don't find this jarring at all. But it intrigues me that 12 months ago I would have been shocked to see that in print.
John: I don't know what Kool-Aid Peggy drank, but as one of the brightest, most articulate pundits out there, I find this disappointing. Says Hugh Hewitt of Peggy's apparent humor:
If an orthodox Jew was in the running, would Peggy have added "yarmulke?" Or if a devout Catholic, a mention of a rosary or a scapula? I doubt it. There are acceptable bigotries and unacceptable bigotries. Anti-Mormon drive-bys that are good for a laugh play well in some circles — the same circles that used to indulge Catholic and Irish jokes.
Just to give you a little insight into how this blog works, these kinds of drive-by jokes occur to Lowell and I all the time, and we share them with each other and we chuckle a bit, and then figure out it is better to keep them to ourselves. Maybe Noonan needs a partner? Also, given that there were reports a while back that Noonan was going to write some speeches for Romney, but to date I have not heard of Romney giving a Noonan speech, I wonder if there is not a little personal pique buried in that "punchline"?
Lowell: The word on the street is that Romney decided not to work with Peggy. An example of the ethical pitfalls created when MSM columnists moonlight, or want to moonlight, for the candidates they write about.
Even Tim Rutten, the LATimes media critic, finds Noonan's quip out of bounds. But then, being reliably lefty, he uses The Question as a cudgel to beat religious conservatives over the head, and does so by picking on the recently deceased:
That's the story the political press corps missed this week: Jerry Falwell's legacy is Mitt Romney's real problem.
Frankly, I have been expecting this and am somewhat surprised it has taken this long to be seen. This is the old "Evangelicals won't vote for a Mormon" line in a new guise. As we see a little further down, the few Evangelical forces that were expressing concern about Romney's faith are starting to melt, so that line is getting hollower and hollower. But once again we see the left using The Question to beat up the religious right in general. Tasteless as Rutten's shot at a dead man may be (which by the way seems to have become journalistic sport this past week, even in the UK), I will give him style points for at least finding a slightly new way to approach what has become a very old and tired song.
Lowell: Rutten did turn out this good paragraph:
You'd swear [Romney] was auditioning for a part on "Big Love" rather than running for president. It's as if Roman Catholic candidates were being asked to declare where they stand on the slaughter of the Albigensians or the trial of Galileo. Why not demand that Presbyterian candidates declare their views regarding the excesses of John Calvin's theocratic Sparta in Geneva? Let's ask Episcopalians to account for the execution of the London Carthusians or Lutherans for Martin Luther's anti-Semitism.
Update: Ramesh Ponnuru at NRO says he thought Noonan's line
was funny. I wouldn't be shocked if Mitt Romney did, too. And I doubt she would get all worked up over a good Irish joke, either.
Well, I would be quite surprised if Romney thought the line was funny under the circumstances. As John says, in private the joke could be funny. In the first paragraph of a well-known, almost iconic national columnist, it is not.
Back to John: As we have said all along, the left (well, maybe except for Rutten) has a hard time telling the difference between Evangelicals and Mormons – proof.
On radio programs, and among friends, I have seen this dilemma resolved with a kind of self-inflicted intellectual violence. Rational thought was murdered before danger was assessed. It’s as if in a state of paranoia, they shot dead a cousin who was trying to gain entry to the common house simply by knocking.
Did they try to determine if their otherwise rightly ostracized cousin was trying to help them? Did they consider that by the rules they helped establish, that their cousin had every right to try and enter the house by knocking?
That "cousin" analogy is a great one! Not unlike cousins, Mormons are "family," perhaps distant family, but family nonetheless, whether we like it or not.
FROM THE SILLY DEPARTMENT
WHAT!?!?!? A Mormon candidate doesn't count? Some people are never satisfied, especially not Earl Ofari Hutchinson, but then he is, in my opinion, a professional reverse racist.
This actually brings up one of the key points in all of this – identity politics. The democrats play it like a symphony and we simply do not. One of the reasons the left bangs The Mormon Question drum so hard, so often is they want to get us playing their game; it has very little to do with the actual labels and very much to do with shifting the playing field on to ground where they think they can win. That is not so silly.
That is unsurprising actually – funny thing about being the only candidate consistently performing well and rising in the polls, trivial objections start to melt away.
A Mormon President, the first documentary film to explore the Mormon Prophet, Joseph Smith’s campaign for the US Presidency and its implications for the candidacy of another Mormon, Mitt Romney, has begun production and is slated for a fall 2007 release.
Produced and directed by filmmaker Adam Christing, the film will be released in the heat of a presidential campaign that includes Romney and is part of a movie-making trend of examining the history of the Mormon religion,…
Which takes us back to the ABC News piece at top. The Question has now morphed from a concern about a presidential candidate, less than legitimate though it may be, into a full-fledged media phenomenon. It's just a bandwagon, that's all. Full of much sound and fury that we can only wish is signifying nothing. However, in this day and age when people allow media to sweep over them like a Christmas time tsunami, who can tell.
And finally from Lowell . . .
This op-ed in Salt Lake City's Deseret News appears in a regular column by a Mormon and a creedal Christian (gee, where else have we seen that combination? ). The creedal is Frank Pignanelli, a Democrat and former minority leader of the Utah House of Representatives. (Full disclosure: I have known Frank for nearly 30 years and supported him from afar when he ran for Mayor of Salt Lake City several years ago, but he has no other connection this this blog.) This graph caught my eye, as it accurately expresses the typical Mormon resignation to MSM slams, in contrast with the outside observer's outrage over the same slams:
When I confront my LDS friends (loudly, with arms waving) about responding to these horrible insults, the usual reaction is a shrug of the shoulders and a mumble "what can one do about it?" But something has to be done. Insidious discrimination, whether against Mormons or others, is a disease that permeates all the fabric of our country. Both Mormons and non-Mormons, in a very public manner, must paint this intolerance for what it is: bigotry. This is not the time for passive-aggressive behavior. Indeed, these narrow-minded fools will learn that there are serious ramifications for their stupidity, if we aggressively counter religious discrimination. We may not be able to convince the bigots overnight, but we can at least shame them out of releasing their poisonous thoughts.
To borrow a phrase from Glenn Reynolds: Read the whole thing.