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"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."

Is The Question Dead? and other news…

Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:09 am, December 10th 2007     —    1 Comment »

As Lowell notes below, Hugh Hewitt asked up on his show Friday if we thought Romney had put The Question to bed with last week’s Speech. I responded “No” and I think the articles we find here are evidence of that fact. The press wants a story here so badly, and there are just enough people out there willing to give them one, that we are going to be reading about this for a very long time to come. But then what the press writes about and what is actually happening can be two different things at times.

Huckabee, or his surrogates, may keep it alive . . .

. . . at least in the short term. After all, that pesky push-polling group keeps showing up on the radar. There are a number of fire-breather type preachers willing to push the issue, as this St. Loius Post-Dispatch story points out:

The Rev. Scott Weldon of Marshfield, Mo., has been way out in front of the Mike Huckabee surge that pushed the former Arkansas governor past Mitt Romney in the Iowa polls last weekend.

“Rarely do we find, in this day and age, a political candidate who claims to be a Christian, and by all appearances actually backs it up with his life!” the pastor of Faith Southern Baptist Church wrote on his blog back in September. “It’s about time Christian people stood up and supported a candidate who is truly doing his best to represent Christ in his life.”

Huckabee has pretty much built his campaign on this stuff. as this Canadian points out:

There’s a line of thought that Huckabee can go too heavy on the God stuff – he’s calling himself the “Christian leader” in the campaign and attributes his recent success to divine intervention. Seriously.

But it’s also that very message that has turned him into the favourite on the religious right.

But then that is the brilliance of Romney’s speech. He drew a line between himself and Huckabee. He presented himself as the mainstream candidate on religion and Huckabee as the fringey guy because of his tactics and the tactics of those that support him. Not to mention that on a policy basis, Huckabee is seriously fringey.

And of course the press…

The New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the Chicago Tribune all ran the what-have-now-become-standard -are stories about The Question, almost as if there was no speech. There are also some more pointed stories like this one out of Arizona. Reporters also could not resist asking Thompson what he thought of The Speech. They missed the point entirely. They want in inter-sectarian showdown. Romney flat out said he is not going to engage in such, but their minds appear to be made up.

This strongly illustrates the press bias towards both some sort of religious narrative for the Republican primary and against religion in general. Such pieces assume Romney’s speech will have no effect. The NYTimes, for example, reaches out to noted fundamentalist small-mind Bill Keller. In the end they are tilting at straw men. Of course, they are always going to be people that don’t get it, but to that many.

Somehow Complete Jerks Can Get Media…

Larry O’Donnell on McLaughlin over the weekend. You know after a speech like that, you would think guys like McLaughlin would shut such nonsense down on their air. It is just unseemly.

Lowell: I think rants of the kind O’Donnell made are exactly what we will see in the general election, if Romney is nominated. The Clinton campaign will maintain excellent plausible deniability while its fellow-travelers purvey poisonous disinformation.

By the way, Romney has already been interviewed on 60 Minutes about African-Americans and the LDS priesthood.

The Left Wants It Most of All…

Consider Susan Estrich on FOXNews.

When Mitt Romney, his numbers falling in Iowa, pledges to keep his Mormonism out of the White House, of course he doesn’t really mean that. I have no doubt that his faith, like mine, plays an important part in his decision to devote his professional energies to the business of politics, as well as to the positions he takes and the values he holds dear.

Yep, they have a vested interest in stirring this pot – it weakens Republicans and they are really afraid of Romney. After all, he beat them in the bluest of blue states.

Or then Dana Milbank wants to paint The Speech as an insincere, purely political maneuver on Romney’s part. No, that is not designed to fire up Mormon/flip-flop code at all?!?!

The Theo-Nerds Have to Have At It…

The AP writes yet another story of the differing doctrines of Mormons and creedal Christians, while a Utah paper defends Mormonism against the “cult” charge – even some Mormons are getting in on the theo-nerd act. The pile of this stuff just keep growing (we have taken to calling this last link “theo-nerds on steroids”) .

Then there are some who are not theo-nerds, but cannot resist taking theo-nerd like shots. I must confess to not understanding this particular approach at all. It is a simple matter of civil, and civic, discipline to resist the temptation to take shots like this. Such discipline should be applied to all sects – that is the entire point!

Now, of course, the theo-nerds are not serious politicians either, so there is some question whether they will matter in the election outcome. If they do it will be because the press makes them matter.

Besides, there has always been some general discussion . . .

. . . and some old arguments. This Politico piece out of South Carolina, where Romney continues to gain ground, invokes the name of the very first bigot to arrive on this campaign’s scene more than a year ago – Cyndi Mosteller:

Cyndi Mosteller, a member of former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson’s South Carolina campaign and a member of the state Board of Education, told a political website in the state that evangelicals can’t follow Romney in good conscience.

Cyndi was a loser when she confronted Romney so long ago, and she is clearly working for a guy that is going to lose now. Note to Cyndi: Your boss, in a comment linked above, says that Romney’s religion does not matter. I’d take the hint.

Lowell: And will Thompson tell Mosteller to knock it off?

There is also general speech reaction keeping the discussion alive in the short term, like this Jewish perspective from Jonah Goldberg and a brief from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

There is no question in my mind that Romney’s efforts in The Speech were to grab the high ground and define the limits of the discussion, as Lowell points out below. And for reasonable people, the majority of people, I think he succeeded. But we live in a media saturated age, where conflict leads to ratings, and there is opposition all too willing to exploit that fact. Romney definitely shifted the vote Thursday, because fortunately reasonable people, even if less boisterous, vote plentifully. But the public discussion? I am not convinced.

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