Article VI Blog

"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."

  • Huck Week, Daniels Missteps (again), The Field In Flux, and more….

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:48 am, February 28th 2011     &mdash      6 Comments »

    The week that was belonged to Mike Huckabee.  He did the book tour thing so he was lots of places and said lots of things which got lots of press.  But before we dive in to the possibles, there was major religion news last week and we need to look at what the punditry is saying about the forming field generally.

    Defending DOMA

    The President decided last week, not the Supreme Court mind you, but the President, that the Defense of Marriage act was unconstitutional and therefore instructed the Department of Justice to cease defending it.  Forget the morality here and concentrate on the legal.

    I don’t want to overstate things, but I am truly beginning to fear for our democratic way of life.  This is very analogous to the governor and attorney general of California refusing to defend Prop 8.  It is a willful abrogation of the procedures of our democracy.  The executive has a duty, by the constitution, to uphold the law of the land, whether that law was passed by the legislature or directly by the people.  It is not the executive’s job to decide what is good law and what is bad law – that is the judiciary’s job.  It’s called “check and balances” and it is the thing that has allowed our democracy to function better than any form of government in history.

    The lessons of history are important here too.  It was when the absolute emergency powers of the Roman Emperor permanently displaced the representative Senate that the long fall of Rome began.  It was when the Crown of England prodded the colonies to revolution through rule by fiat rather than representation,  that the long slow decline of the British Empire began.  When the branches of our governments overstep their bounds, we too begin to decline.

    The good news is that our system contains within it the capability to restore the boundaries.  The NYTimes wrote a story on the 2012 implications of this decision by Obama.  Right idea, in that it is in the elections that we can right the ship, although typical for the old Grey Mare, er, Lady, they fail to comprehend the real depth of importance here.  We must be mindful that as we consider who to elect in the future we do not want a polar opposite – someone that will through equally coercive, non-representative, means move the nation back in the direction we desire – but rather someone that will restore the balance of our government.  If we play the game the same way as the opposition we may repair things for our lives but we accelerate the slide of our nation into the history books.  We doom our children and grandchildren as surely as the mounting national debt does.

    I trust the religious implications here are obvious.  It is tempting to “preach the truth” about marriage; to apply the religious fervor that we righteously feel to this obvious misdeed.  But to do so is to in fact play the game like the opposition.  My faith tells me how very wrong same-sex marriage is; however, my faith also tells me that reason, process, and respect of the opposition are equally a part of my moral code.

    On To The Election

    The serious news is the unsettled state of the primary calendar:

    Already, the unsettled situation is preventing prospective candidates from crafting a campaign strategy beyond the four states that both parties have pledged will go first: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada.

    This piece is from the Boston Globe, and therefore is predictably being used to paint a picture that the Republicans will be unable to bring forth the best possible candidate.  Nonsense, but it does make it difficult to strategize and gives an advantage to the candidate that is light on his feet and keeps his options open until the last minute.

    Some are calling for a whole new primary system.  Fine idea, but not happening this cycle.

    USNews is running one of those online polls and the results indicate a dissatisfaction with the perceived field.  Some are therefore reaching for straws.  My comment is that it is early, as reflected in pieces from the New York and Washington Times.  We Republicans love to dream big, but tend to settle down nicely when it gets to brass tacks time.  The important thing is that we not let our dreams get in the way of reality.

    So, What Was Mike Huckabee Up To This Week?

    In a nutshell, doing lots of press trying to sell a book.  Some question whether he still wants the job.  Some read the book and wondered.  Some sarcastically listed the reasons he won’t run.  Some discussed whether he had a chance of winning.

    Huck himself said he was “seriously contemplating” a run, but then hinted he was happy not running and said he would not run unless he though he had a chance of winning.  (Here’s a hint – if he runs he’s delusional – he has no chance in the general against Obama – none, nada, nicht.)  I thought this AP headline just about summed it up, “Huckabee toys with White House run.” [Emphasis added.]  Folks, the White House is not a toy.

    Chris Cillizza did his typical pro and con thing.  The cons look like they are winning to me.

    Huckabee got in a bit of trouble criticizing Islam.  This caused our friend John Mark Reynolds to rise to his defense.  The interesting thing about this discussion is that those that chastise anyone for criticizing Islam are generally very quick to try and push Christianity out of the public square.  I can’t think of a bigger push of religion into the public square than flying an airplane into a skyscraper.

    Huckabee did demonstrate a talent for saying things in a very unpresidential fashion.  He also said there was too much attention paid to Obama’s pastor.  That from the man who reminded the New York Times, Jeopardy style – in the form of a question, of a common misconception of Mormon doctrine?  And people accuse Romney of the flip-flop?!

    The most egregious statement he made all week was; however:

    Former Governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.) told reporters at the National Press Club that he sees “no value” in Republicans attacking each other in the primaries for the next Presidential election.

    Huckabee’s distaste for negative campaigning is well known, but there is an enormous difference between negative campaigning and playing flat out dirty.  Religion is one of the places where the line between the two should be pretty easy to see – even on Jeopardy.

    Daniels Continues to Need the Scraper for His Shoe Bottoms

    His “social issue truce” comment continues to dog him.  But Daniels’ problems don’t end there.

    The Indiana legislature attempted to follow the Wisconsin lead.  Daniels tried to get them to call it off, and the left was all over that like white-on-rice.  Daniels was pilloried in some circles.  Daniels had a lot of splainin’ to do and NRO appeared to be his major mouthpiece.  Rich Lowry chimed in; as did Avik Roy and Katrina Trinko.  But Jim Geraghty seemed to function as the chief apologist as seen herehere and here.  In that last, Daniels finally admits he was “careless” in his choice of words, etc.  In the end, Daniels was proven correct and the Indiana Senate dropped the bill, mostly because he had already achieved the bulk of what needed to be done by executive order when he took office.

    Results notwithstanding, this was a major political mistake by Gov. Daniels, obvious political skill or not -  a major chink in the “real deal” armor that was developing around him – right up there with the truce comment.

    But his issues did not end there.  Some were quick to point out in the media saturated age, he has some presentation problems.  He did get some major shout outs, but talk of his youthful drug arrest surfaced.  I am not sure what to make of this.  Marijuana became a non-issue with Clinton, but other more serious drugs are a problem from my perspective.  Obama’s admitted cocaine use seemed to pose him no threat, though it certainly made me wince.  Not, by the way, because the use of cocaine a few times damages anyone in any way, but recreational marijuana use is a not much of a crime – the same cannot be said of cocaine.

    That said, some reports said LSD was involved in the Daniels case.  Not only is that stuff incredibly illegal; it can leave life long psychological scars.  I have seen no evidence that Daniels took the stuff, let alone that it has damaged him psychologically in anyway – but there is a a bit more than a youthful indiscretion involved in being near it – that is a major lapse in judgment, even in college in the drug saturated ’70′s.  As a chemistry major in that same era, I have some personal knowledge.  The chemical manufacture of LSD is a fascinating bit of laboratory practice – for me it would have been a real rush just to make it.  The temptation lasted about as long as it took me to look up what would happen if I got caught.

    Daniels is a major asset to the Republican and conservative cause and he would be a huge and worthy presence in any Republican administration, but there is just too much stuff piling up to make him a viable candidate for POTUS.

    So, Romney…

    …really only came up this week in the context of the Huckster “calling him out” on health care.  (So much for not attacking potential primary opponents [see above] and denials of the feud between them.  And while we are being parenthetical, why does the Huckster talk about Romney so much?  I don’t hear Romney talking about Huckabee?  Who is doing the negative campaigning here?)  The left, in this case Politico, was happy to join the Huckster in the effort.  (Funny how the left-leaning MSM seems to agree with Huckabee so much.)  Romney responded.  The prevailing consensus seems to be that the response was inadequate.  I’m not so sure.  This needs to age before Romney can give a definitive answer – until then its a delaying action.

    Romney is not polling with with “those who social issues as the biggest issue in 2012” [sic]  That’s not news – that’s trouble making.  But wait – it’s the MSM so where’s the surprise.

    Remember how last cycle, there was a study at Vanderbilt (where yours truly spent his freshman year) that showed the correlation between “flip-flop” and “Mormon.”  Well, Romney is getting some help from Vandy in other ways this cycle.

    Romney’s faith came up mostly as people discussed the forthcoming “South Park” Mormon themed musical.  The left is using the musical as an attempt to warp religion generally into a shape they can deal with.  Of course it came up in regards to whatever the heck it is Huntsman is doing as well.  Huntsman launched his PAC on the web, but has some serious legal complications.  Huntsman is a non-starter for the moment, except of course in the mind of those that want to make Mormon hay out of it.  John Mark Reynolds responded quite well to any potential Mormon hay.

    The Rest

    Haley Barbour has skeletons and baggage.

    Newt Gingrich‘s baggage is very public.  And yet…

    Tim Pawlenty had a quiet week, but his appearance at the Tea Party shindig over the weekend just past should prove interesting.

    (Lowell interjectsWe heard from a highly-placed and deeply credible source that Pawlenty pretty much laid an egg in his Phoenix Tea Party appearance.   For evidence supporting that assessment, we need look no farther than Herman Cain’s victory in the Tea Party straw poll there.  Cain had 22%, Pawlenty and Romney both had 16%, Ron Paul was at  15%, and SarahPalin mustered 10%.)

    Religion Reading

    Learn about Pentecostalism.  I have always contended it is a short step from Pentecostalism to Mormonism, but I usually get beat up by Pentecostals when I say that.

    Fred, Fred, Fred – it’s not about religion and its not about your sexuality – it’s about the fact that you want to use one to pervert the other and have no real interest in being president.

    More on the faith of the Founders.  *YAWN*  This has grown past serious, it’s just an axe for people to grind.

    30 days “immersion” in a religion is no immersion at all.

    This argument is not unique to Mormonism – we creedals have it too – read Acts Chapter 2.  This is why we developed rules for reading Scripture called hermeneutics.  You have to read Scripture in light of other Scripture.  Pretty much the entire Old Testament reinforces private property rights.  Now what do we do?

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    Jockeying For Position – The Week That Was, Romney, Pawlenty and the rest….

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:06 am, February 22nd 2011     &mdash      9 Comments »

    BREAKING NEWS – 4 HOURS AFTER ORIGINAL PUBLICATION

    John Thune will not be running for the Republican nomination for the presidency.  The field narrows.  And now back to the original post…

    After CPAC, which someone jokingly said should just go ahead and change to ‘LPAC’ (Libertarian…), it seemed like a quiet week.  As David Paul Kuhn said:

    In reality, the Republican primary is already underway. Undeclared campaigns are speaking to top shelf operatives and influential Iowa activists. Candidates are publicly gauging their appeal. Most likely candidates traveled to Washington last week for a de facto presidential audition before the Conservative Political Action Conference.

    The meme seems to be that the field is “wide open” and “anybody’s game.“  Yeah, well, we thought that last time, particularly when the next-in-line John McCain faltered so badly just six months before Iowa, and yet it did not prove to be nearly a wide open as the Democratic primary season where everybody thought Hillary was unbeatable.  And of course, VOA and NPR are not exactly unbiased observers.  But when it comes to sheer bias it’s hard to beat Salon, who just seems to want to make fun of Republicans generally.  I am struck by how often we confuse wit with actual knowledge-based intelligence.  They do, despite themselves, rightly note that Romney and Pawlenty are the two serious players at the moment.

    But if you want to get serious about how things will iron out, this Politico piece on where the Florida primary should go is the most telling.  You will recall that Florida was the hinge on which the primary race turned last time around.

    But if anyone enjoyed a serious bump coming out of CPAC, it’s none other than…

    Mitch Daniels

    First of all, despite hitting a homer at CPAC, his running is still a very open question, and the key factor is his wife.  Here it is from the horse’s mouth.

    After CPAC some have said it is Daniels “moment,” but not everyone is on board.  Rich Lowry was quick to point out that his CPAC speech was “not a typical speech for any politician anywhere.”  Others have noted similar things.  Which really is the issue here.  Daniels “wonk appeal” is undeniable, and as refreshing as such plain talk is, there is a reason such speeches are atypical – they do not translate into votes with the general populace.

    Some, including the very moderate leftie Morton Kondrake, went to great rhetorical lengths to praise Daniels.  But there is little higher Republican praise than that which flows from the Bush familyJennifer Rubin points out that it is not all about fiscal policy, which is where he shines.  His social issues comments still plague him, even if it was “strategic.”  He may be facing immigration troubles as well.  He does; however, have a youth movement that will not quit.

    So here’s the analysis – with a wife now being publicly (If she thought a tiny South Bend television station was not that public, she has not figured out the Internet yet.) hesitant about a run, even if non-committal, it’s not happening.  But any Republican nominee would be very, very smart to have Daniels on the policy team – and publicly so.  If fact, once it is official he is not running, any candidate would be smart to have him on board ASAP.

    But where Daniels has a social issues problem, one of the majors polished his credentials in that area…

    Tim Pawlenty

    Pawlenty has a major, major speech next week.  That will be an interesting space to watch, his performance is likely to play large in his forthcoming decision.  But what was really interesting to watch was that he has stepped into enemy turf with a religious tinge.  That’s right – he went to Arkansas – Huckabee turf.  And David Brody gave him a push this week.  When you combine this with all the overt God stuff in his book, one has to think Pawlenty is working really hard right now to establish an evangelical base.

    My guess he he will then use that base to tack centrist as things heat up, but will it work?  My analysis is that overt Evangelicalism is largely relegated to a ghetto of true-believerism at the moment and not much of a political force.  Not only that, as true-believer types they will quickly walk away from him if he moderates the God talk which he will have to do when things get serious.

    He is also assuming that Evangelicals are “low hanging fruit” in a race where Romney is his primary opponent.  I am not convinced of that.  I think many an Evangelicals learned their lesson last cycle and will back Romney based on competence.

    It is going to be interesting to see how the Pawlenty strategy plays out.  But when it comes to religion, the major talk still belongs to…

    Mitt Romney

    Time offered him up in their profile of the “leading 12.”  They mention the Mormon issue only in passing, and it is not the “Romney, a Mormon,” formulation that became so common last time.  Rather it was, “He also struggles with some social conservatives because of his Mormon faith and unsteady footing on abortion.”  There are a couple of points to make out of this.  The first is it appears The Question has simply become part of the wood work.  Everybody knows it’s an issue on one level or another, but nobody can really put their hands on it or around it.  This piece shows that there really is nothing new to say on the subject.  Hence it is reduced to passing reference or off-handed comment.

    The reason no one can get a handle on it is really two-fold.  Firstly no one will state it as a problem for them directly and overtly.  Those willing to say “No, I won’t vote for a Mormon,” are few and very far between.  Anti-Mormon bias expresses itself most frequently as a distrust and an unwillingness to believe what a Mormon is saying.  Note how Time wrapped Romney’s abortion issues into the same sentence with his faith.  The Vanderbilt study, demonstrating that many who say “flip-flop” mean “Mormon” must always be kept in mind.  That being the case, it is very hard to separate anti-Mormon bias from more legitimate cases on political disagreement.

    Consider this piece from the ‘Evangel’ blog at First Things.  The author attempts to make the case that:

    I know many will point to Mitt Romney’s run for president in 2008 as proof of anti-LDS bias, but too much may have been made of it.  Mitt Romney had several pretty serious problems facing him in the presidential primary.

    Hmmm….  Methinks he doth protest too much. (sic)  By setting up the piece in response to a piece on Romney’s Mormon problem and by attempting to juxtapose the “real” issues with the Mormon one, one is forced to wonder just how much the Mormon issue is really at play in the psychology of the author.  Why not simply write the piece about the problems Romney is facing?  He has plenty as Jennifer Rubin points out.  And then there is the fact that such an article of protest comes from distinctly Evangelical precincts.

    I think it far to say, in the broadest view, that amongst a significant number of Republicans there is a trust issue with Romney, and that his faith is tied into that bundle.  Perhaps by attacking it as a trust issue rather than a religious one, the religious aspects can be overcome?  The left, of course, wants to build on the distrust.  It certainly is going to be in play in Iowa.  And of course, in Nevada, everybody will try to play the Mormon card overtly.  The Nevada angle cracks me up sometimes, it’s a state of gambling, heavy drinking and legalized prostitution.   There is a significant Mormon presence in Nevada, but influential – please.  Try and order a drink in a restaurant in Utah – then you’ll know about Mormon influence in a state.

    In the area of serious politics, the NYPost was all over Romney, basically regurgitating the class warfare line that Ted Kennedy used to beat him in their Senate race.  Politico was all over it.  Said Ben Smith:

    This is, indeed, the likely main line of attack on Romney if he’s the nominee; it’s the one Ted Kennedy used against him in ’94. I just didn’t expect to see it first in the Post.

    I’m thinking inoculation here.

    There was another possible that tried to hit the religion marks this past week…

    John Thune

    While is is close to a decision and his role as Senator is a big part of that decision, he did manage to check in with David Brody at CBN.  He did not say anything wrong, but to the Evangelical ear to discuss a ‘Christian worldview,’ but not a ‘personal relationship with Jesus Christ,’ is a bit of a cop-out.  I wonder if he will be plagued by such imprecise declarations of his faith as the campaign rolls forward, should he elect to run?  And if not, would a Romney or Huntsman be better served by discussing their “worldview” rather than their faith?  Of course not – distrust is distrust and bias is bias.

    What about…

    The Rest Of The Field

    Haley Barbour is in trouble on amnesty and license plates.  I’ve been saying “skeletons” for a long time now.

    Michele Bachmann is apparently going to rely on the Holy Spirit (my paraphrase) to decide whether she will run or not.  And Romney has a “theocracy” problem?!  The left will go nuts over this if she gets in.

    Sarah Palin is too coy for her own good.

    Newt Gingrich has resources.  If I was Newt I’d sell them.  They are worth more that way.

    Oh yeah, Mike Huckabee – well, he’s in trouble with some notable Tea Party types, he lacks confidence in his own capabilities, and the left thinks he can set the agenda.  (That last one raises a smirk.)  Actually, that middle link deserves a brief comment:

    Said Vander Plaats: “I have told many of these candidates that they may make Huckabee’s decision for him. If a Pawlenty or Thune or Bachmann catch fire among the base, I could see Huckabee saying, ‘I think I will sit this one out’.”

    So, the Huckster does not really want the job – he just wants someone other than…Romney?!  In poker they call that “a tell.”  Actually, that last link makes it a bit more than just a tell.  Quoting an unnamed source:

    “[Huckabee] hates Mitt, and his goal in Iowa last time was to stop him,” said one prominent Republican, who’s known both men for years. “If he sees an opportunity to cut Mitt off [during the nominating process], he will take it.”

    The piece contains the usual denials and spins from named sources and the Huckster has issued a outright denial, but the fact that this story has hit the major political outlets matters.  (Not to mention we have been through a – say it, “I didn’t say that” cycle – with him more than once before.)

    Dear friends, what could possibly create that level on animus?  Think about it – here is an admission that Huckabee’s goal was not to win, but to stop Romney. – Something we have suspected all along.  That means he was willing to dupe thousands, if not millions of people out of their hard earned cash to fund a campaign the point of which was not to win.  That means he took many, many months out of his life just to injure someone else.  Can hatred on such a scale be personal?  I certainly hope not for if it were it would be narcissism on a scale that the nation simply cannot tolerate.

    Hatred writ that large can only be based in religious fervor.  I would say that it is now beyond speculation; some of Huckabee’s actions in the 2008 primary campaign were based in religious bias.  I am sorely tempted to say any number of uncharitable things at this point, but then I would be guilty of the same sin I would seek to condemn.  Shame on Mike Huckabee.

    Religious Reading

    Tony Blair – leftie, but smart.

    Slate, the home of the phrase “the founding whoppers of Mormonism, has no business deciding what is and is not “anti-Mormon.“  Frankly, Slate is beginning to strain my cherub-like demeanor.

    Why do we worry so much about the faith of former presidents?  We were treated this week to pieces on George Washington and Dwight Eisenhower.  The Eisenhower piece is not so bad, it’s encapsulating his grandson’s most recent book (great read BTW) and eyewitness accounts are reliable, but in the end presidents should be measured by what they did, and in both of these cases they did pretty good.

    A couple of weeks ago, we looked at a piece by David French on how Mormons and Catholics were supplanting Evangelicals as the predominate relgio-political force in the nation.  Others liked the French piece as well.  Some, not so much.  Tim Muldoon’s response in so left leaning as to not even be funny.  He acts as if it is reasonable for the religious to “take their cues from secular society.”  That sort of defies the point of religion.

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    Mostly Religion Free CPAC Dominates The Weekend, and more…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:28 am, February 14th 2011     &mdash      5 Comments »

    The Conservative Political Action Committee held it’s convention this weekend past and it tends to be viewed as the kick-off for Republican POTUS races.  This year, I think the Telegraph gets it right – CPAC is auditions, not kick-offs.  The field has yet to settle out enough for CPAC to have major impact on the race itself.  Next year’s CPAC will be the really interesting one.  This year’s Straw poll, won by Ron Paul (gee, there’s a shocker) just shows that things have yet to settle out and people are not yet getting really serious.

    CPAC is largely a religion free zone.  This year saw some controversy as the convention included a gay Republican group which caused many of the religion firsters to boycott, but most people are noting that the convention is little affected.  For the best free coverage, check Hot Air and if you are a subscriber, check PJTV.  There were lots of great speeches by the possibles and we do not need to retread here what was covered well enough by others.

    There are a few things to note.  One, Donald Trump’s appearance was, I still believe, a publicity stunt.  He has a TV show that is getting old and needs its ratings revved up a bit.  Mitch Daniels’ speech was strong enough that he may have revived his opportunity.   However, when he has to protest to Politico that he really is in a strong position to run, I’m thinking he has himself in a far less goofy Ron Paul like position (Policy wonk – maybe some good ideas) than serious candidate position.  John Thune did ok, but is running out of spaceAnn Coulter made a fool of herself – actually, that is not really news.

    At this moment, there are only two truly serious players.  Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty, and they are squaring off.  But before we go there, much still reverberates from Jon Huntsman’s resignation as Obama’s, I repeat Obama’s, ambassador to China.

    And Still “The Question” Rings…

    Largely because “On Faith” insisted that it would when it asked about it earlier last week.  Some of the responses were just silly and naive.  Some clearly were not listening until now.  Some found the sweet spot.  One of the more interesting story lines to develop out of the discussion was the Jewish claims of having been through this already.  That’s bothersome.  The minute we start worrying about who has been most victimized is the minute we have lost what we are really fighting for.

    The most interesting question, really, is if Huntsman is not trying to play the spoiler for Romney.  His actions certainly have reignited this discussion, but he’ll have to do a lot more if he truly wants to spoil.  This discussion will die soon – likely is already dead.

    Some liberals took a lousy shot at Dallin Oaks speech last week.  It is too ineffective to deserve comment, let alone refutation.

    Playing The Field…

    A look at Iowa.  It’s a story about Iowa action groups, which are called “tribes” in the local parlance.  That’s problematic.  “Tribes” draw boundaries that tend to fight against negotiation or moderation.  When seeking to build a consensus, the last thing you need is to go “tribal.”  Advocate, promote, champion your cause, but in the end we have to come together or all we have done is not only have our cause defeated, but our opportunity to bring our cause forward.  Just another reason to remove Iowa from it’s current prominence.

    I think Allahpundit has analyzed the battle lines, if not the players, just about right for the forthcoming primary:

    Half the field will compete for the principled “true conservative” nomination (Palin, Huck, Santorum), the other half will compete for the moderate/managerial nomination (Mitt, Daniels, Huntsman), and then there’ll be a showdown.

    It will be argued that “moderate/managerial” is what we had last time, and look where it got us; however, John McCain will no be the candidate this time and we have had four years of management by true believers even if on the other side of the aisle.  We may need true conservative policies to counter-balance this administration, but there are two really important factors to keep in mind.  More than policy objections to this administration are the cram-down objections.  Most pep0le care less about policy than they do that stuff was force-fed them against their will, and that is what true-believers, on either side of the aisle, tend to give you.

    Which gets me to my second point – general elections are decided, always, by the great unwashed moderate independents.  It is a statistical reality we simply cannot ignore.  A “true conservative” Republican candidate will yield the middle to Obama, where those people live, and we lose.  I know the nation is in an angry conservative mood right now, but if it does not settle down things will get worse, not better.

    Give me a break with this.  Hit piece for sure – look who the author is, but it is not even a good one.  If you are going to try and establish a narrative for the other guy, you need to come up with one that is plausible.  And speaking of needing a break.

    As we said earlier, the serious stuff is between Romney and Pawlenty, although Palin has made her first serious move towards candidacy – that would change the dynamic radically and quickly.  Remember a few weeks ago when we suggested that perhaps Michelle Bachmann was letting rumors fly to aid some other presidential possible, by stealing Pawlenty’s Minnesota thunder?  We are not the only ones that had that idea.

    Romney has the best wife power.  No kidding there.  Ann Romney is a dynamo, and a charmer.  People are reaching for straws to attack him now – this time they are trying to reinvigorate “flip-flop” over the paperback release of his book.  Come on – Obama has shown a lot more leg since the hardback edition – hence Romney’s change in tone.  Conditions change and smart people change with them.  But what is really irritating is that we all know – it’s been proven – that flip-flop is often code for Mormon.

    I’m glad some of this is playing out now and not later, when things get really serious.  Obama is weak, but not dead, and if we cannot keep our act together we’ll suffer four more years of this nonsense – something the nation simply cannot afford.

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    Religion Moves Front-and-Center, The Jeb Microbubble Burst Already, The Barbour Bubble Expands, and more…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:37 am, February 10th 2011     &mdash      3 Comments »

    So last week we saw all sorts of Mormon talk which has not died completely, but it is now being expanded to bring Evangelical talk to the fore as well.  But let’s start with the Mormon stuff.

    The WaPo “On Faith” feature, which never really reached its potential, and the fortunes of which have slipped mightily since its inception, finds a new low.  (“Mormonism’s Moment” – more on that idea next paragraph.)  The comments are worse than the insipid and ignorant question posed by the writer.  Otterson rightfully deflects.  Time for this thing to go away.  Here’s the story that started it all – an equally vapid effort to tell a story that has been told and told and serves no purpose other than reinforcing the bias of some and boring the rest of us.

    Frankly, I find the idea that there is a “moment” for any group problematic.  It could be argued that the current administration was elected because of the wide spread perception that it was “a moment.”  It may have been, but that does not change the fact that we have hired ourselves ineptitude on an immense scale.  We need to worry less about moments and more about competency – maybe even more that party affiliation.  I am truly beginning to wonder if we any longer assume that the winnowing and primary process assures us of competency.   For two of the last three Democrat occupants of the White House, competency has been scarce.  Certainly the odds of getting compentency are better on the Republican side, but I wonder if it is a guarantee when the party cannot not even be counted on to keep the simplest of promises?

    And speaking of silly, a piece from Nevada that bemoans the  lack of POTUS candidates playing to the Silver State, takes a shot at the only candidate that did by saying that it was Mormon fidelity, not his organization, that allowed Romney to win the state in 2008.  Yes, most Mormons voted for Romney, but the numbers still don’t add up to that contention.

    This guy seems to think Mormonism is no longer an issue, and I tended to agree with him until last week.  His argument, based on poll numbers is not that convincing since Romney has always polled reasonable well.  The left and the press (oh wait – same thing) are determined to try and pluck this strong until someone listens to the note.  The din last week was just too loud for this issue to be dead yet.  Effective? – we have to wait and see, but there is going to be a lot of noise.  I mean when a guy like our old “friend” Damon Linker keeps coming up, some one is going to bite.  Someone is going to try and may hay out of this….

    Meanwhile, in other religions, Michael Gerson is calling for Roman Catholics to be less diverse.   I think he is overstepping here – it is up to ecclesiastical leadership to raise such questions.

    And the Pawlenty-Evangelical connection is beginning to be drawn.  But some are claiming Evangelicals belong to Obama.  Evangelicals may have voted for The Big O in significant numbers in ’08, but I can promise you that trend will not hold.  His governance has more than erased the romanticism that lead to that statistical anomaly.

    Playing The Field…

    Chris Cillizza wonders if the GOP bid is worth it. (YES)  And while we are there, this is fun.  But does the race really start at this weekend’s forthcoming CPACThe journalists want us to think so because it is a small contained place that they can easily cover.  CPAC matters but not that much and certainly not this early in this race.

    Back to Cillizza, who surveyed the filed on Tuesday which is a good transition to discuss the candidates.

    Jeb Bush made the cover of National Review.  The buzz lasted about a day.

    The real bubble this week has surrounded Haley Barbour.  His aides are talking and he is traveling.  He is even losing weight.  Scott Conroy looked at his  “Southern Handicap.“  The problem is going to run deeper than just perception of Southerners.  I promise you somewhere in his past, likely youth, he has said something quite unsavory on race – it is almost mandatory having grown up in Mississippi.  They’ll bury him with it.  But that would probably account for why the left is tilting him up – think bobo doll.

    John Thune keeps getting good talk.  That later link is from deep in Pawlenty land.

    Tim Pawlenty continued to get some press this week.  He seems to be “in the crosshairs.”  He is taking a little fire from his neighbors.  Politico thinks he is an “underdog.”  The Corner says is is “not Mitch Daniels.”

    Speaking of Mitch Daniels, he had a good op-ed at the WSJ, and K-Lo quotes on how is wrong about “the truce.”  Mostly his geek appeal is being reduced to a joke.

    Mike Huckabee is getting in trouble with supporters and may be leaving the scene.  (Note to the Huckster: Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.)

    Rick Santorum makes a claim that leaves me incredulous and support for Mitt Romney grows.

    Religion News

    After looking at an Evangelical that went to a Mormon school a while back, let’s look at an Evangelical going to Catholic Mass.

    A look at Roe v Wade NOW.

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    Huntsman Rumors Open The Floodgates, Who’s In? – Who’s Out?, more…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:04 am, February 7th 2011     &mdash      3 Comments »

    You would think that given the fact that Jon Huntsman has done nothing but resign as Obama’s, I repeat – OBAMA’s, ambassador to China and that he has made virtually no move towards mounting a campaign, rumors of a Republican presidential run on his part might quickly fade.  In many senses they have.  But his resignation and the subsequent rumors have served to open the floodgates of Mormon talk once again.  We documented, and documented, and documented again that story line last week and still it persists.  Karl Rove insists the issue was overblown in 2008, and yet, given an opening, the press has jumped on it like it was the defining issue of 2012.  Even Roll Call had to get into the act.

    What is truly sad to me is that the latest round of focus on The Question has come largely from Utah and/or Mormon sources – well, there or the left.  I suppose that I should not be surprised that the Salt Lake Tribune was all over it – in multiple stories.  The SLTrib and the CJCLDS have not been friends for a while now, pretty much since they both got started.  The Deseret News; however, is a friend of the CJCLDS and I have no idea why it would go there.  (Interesting Huntsman rumors in the piece though.)  Does the Daily Herald count?  The fact that Salt Lake City television station KSL got into it is consistent with their coverage last time, but they seem to have less of an axe to grind than the SLTrib so I thought they might have settled down – guess not.   The “Utah Policy” blog has always been a reliable effort from Utah precincts, so that blog’s discussion of the topic seemed a little surprising.  I suppose that the large Mormon presence in Utah, and the continued political opposition that often arises between Mormons and non-Mormons in the state (liquor laws and other local issues) that the story certainly has more interest there than it does elsewhere.  Therefore some coverage is perhaps justified – or at least understandable.

    What’s not surprising is the continued discussion from the left.  Jennifer Rubin said of Huntsman:

    I’ve yet to find a single Republican office holder, former campaign adviser, or conservative activist who takes Huntsman seriously.

    [...]

    But the strategist is on to something. The buzz is entirely a creation of liberal media outlets and cable TV talking heads within the Beltway.

    Of course it is – Huntsman provides them with a mechanism by which to try and define the Republican narrative on their terms.  It is not that different that NBC trying to force an early debate.  For example, consider Joshua Green of the Atlantic and Boston Globe wondering if Huntsman can “Shake His Mormon Label?“  If Rubin is right, and I believe she is, and Huntsman has little or no chance, then what is this but a means by which to bring up the Mormon meme and put it into play so that it can be used against one of the stronger Republican candidates.  I mean in many senses 2008 has asked and answered that question not only about Romney but about any Mormon candidate.   The answer is, as we have documented, that it is a unique difficulty.  But all candidates have some unique difficulty; this one is not a disqualifier.

    And we are already beginning to see the left try to shift focus from Huntsman/Romney to Romney alone.  Without mentioning Mormonsim specifically, Weigel at Slate attempts to connect Beck and Romney.  And then some fools don’t need Huntsman to bring it up at all anymore:

    In 2007, Romney gave a speech about religious liberty, religious tolerance and the role that faith would play in his presidency.

    [...]

    That speech put the religious issue to bed for the 2008 primary season,…

    That may be the most politically ignorant statement I have read in a very long time.  Romney gave the speech in December of ’07, much earlier than he planned to, because of what was happening in Iowa, and he still lost Iowa!  “…put the religious issue to bed for the 2008 primary season…,“  Indeed!

    And all of this at a time when Mormons are truly stepping forward to lead religious people generally towards what we need to keep America what it always has been.  Dallin Oaks spoke at Chapman University last week.  (Transcript herefollow-up interview transcript here)  It was a marvelous speech and one that should be preserved for the ages.   It is a masterwork for all people of faith in the United States.  It is also particularly timely.  David French pointed out at Patheos last week that Mormons and Catholics are stepping into the gap left as Evangelicals seem to be in serious disarray.  (More on this in a moment.)

    As conservatives of faith we cannot let the left define the narrative they way they are trying to here.  They want to use our faiths to divide us at a time when we should be uniting under the banner of faith – whether it be behind Mitt Romney, or another candidate of deep religious conviction.  There is much at risk; we can neither take the bait nor stoop to their level.

    So with that, let’s turn to the hard candidate news.

    Mitt Romney…

    …dominated the discussion this week past.  Yes, Huntsman and the inevitable Mormon blowback was a part of that, but also that was by design with the paperback roll out of his book and accompanying media tour.  He continues to offer strong hints.  Some think they have uncovered his campaign slogan.  He is doing well in National Journal’s power rankings.  And as we have previously discussed, he is getting some talk-up by some very influential Republicans.  He is even getting profiled in places that would not recognize a Republican if one was delivered to them.

    One of the more interesting developments of the week was that despite rumors Romney would skip Iowa, he said on Hugh Hewitt’s show that he most certainly would campaign there.  But then the Sioux City Iowa paper carried a story about whether “doing” Iowa is what it used to be – new media and all.  Put all this together and picture emerges in which Romney does not skip Iowa, but he does not campaign there in the traditional Iowa sense.  That might be a win-win for Romney since he probably will not win the caucuses.  An idea the Des Moines Register seems to have picked up on.

    But his status as presumed frontrunner is easily confirmed by the enemies he has – less than a frontrunner would not be worth the effort.  Ben Smith points out a “stop Mitt” effort.  There is nothing on the Internet about who is behind the effort (R Acher and a phone number that I do not have the time to call – if a reader does let us know), but it would be interesting to know if there is an anti-Mormon sentiment behind it.  There certainly is the “flip-flop” charge behind it and we all know that in some instances “flip-flop” is code for “Mormons are untrustworthy.”  Some are pointing to alliances, or lack thereof, in New Hampshire as a problem.  And one must wonder why Fred Karger is aiming himself so specifically at Romney.  Pretty much all the Republicans are opposed to the homosexual agenda, so why be so specific?  (Religion and Prop 8 – no doubt.)

    The Rest…

    Sarah Palin is trying to trademark her name.  Certainly something a media star does, but a candidate?  Which makes this bit of speculation – that no one is declaring yet, but waiting to see what she will do – very silly.

    John Thune latest rumors: not running.

    Haley Barbour latest rumors: running.

    Mitch Daniels remains under fire, despite efforts to help. (Read the comments.)

    Newt Gingrichunderrated?  Nope, overrated.

    Rick Santorumhome for the disaffected Evangelical?  Yep, probably, just not enough of them this cycle to matter.

    Mike Huckabeegood preacher.  Just not much of a presidential politician, which is why Rick Santorum can fill his slot so readily.

    Religion…

    Joe Lieberman, a Jew, is going to write a book on faith.  There are about as many Jews as there are Mormons in the country.  Why are not people up in arms?  Oh, that’s right – he is more or less a Democrat….

    I may disagree with the current president on just about everything, but calling his professed faith into question is as unseemly as it is regarding anyone else.  Whenever I read stuff like this I think of glass houses for some reason.

    Joe Carter links and says, “Nondenominational is Becoming America’s Favorite Denomination.”  I think this says much that lead to the situation discussed in the next piece:

    David French on Mormons and Catholics leading the faithful forwards culturally and politically.

    Simply put, we evangelicals are blown and tossed by the cultural winds. Right now, the winds are blowing against us, and our young people are  reluctant to engage. But God is sovereign, and the fate of the nation is in His hands, not ours. And if we fail, there are others—some from an ancient tradition, some from a new one—who may very well carry out His work with more faith and courage than we ever could.

    Deep stuff that.  Without denominational structures, I am not sure what the way out for Evangelicals is politically and culturally – for now we must follow those better organized and suited.  But I also think it says much about the spiritual state of Evangelicalism at the moment.  Such spiritual matters are not what we discuss on this blog, but I have written about it on my “Godblog” – BlogotionalPlease read it if you are so inclined.

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    An Example of News Media Silliness: Politico and “Huntsman v. Romney”

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 07:55 am, February 4th 2011     &mdash      2 Comments »

    Over the last 5 years or so we have documented more than once the inherently distracting silliness that usually results when the news media focus on any presidential candidate’s religion.  Molly Ball and Jonathan Martin at Politico have written a piece that (unintentionally, of course) illustrates that problem.

    Martin, who is a good if occasionally left-leaning reporter, usually tries hard to get it right.  I think he whiffed badly in this one, which you can read in its entirety at The Mormon primary: Mitt Romney vs. Jon Huntsman.  Here are a few samples:

    Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman Jr. are both Mormons, both wealthy scions of old Utah families, both ex-governors with chiseled features and terrific hair.

    Strike one.  Here we have reporters pushing a story line much too hard.  Romney is the scion of an old Michigan family. I am not sure Romney’s ancestors were even in Utah for more than a few years back in the 1800s, before being sent off to colonize other parts of the Great Basin.  One might as well say Steve Young is the scion of an old Utah family because he’s a descendant of Brigham Young, even though he’s never lived in the state except while going to school there.

    The presence of a second Mormon in the race could help Romney by making the church seem less unusual to those who are unfamiliar with it. But it seems just as likely that Huntsman, with his strikingly similar profile, would erode Romney’s base of support, reordering the GOP field.

    Strike two.  It amazes me (maybe it shouldn’t) that writers who should know better keep making statements like this. Please indulge me as I quote myself from a few days ago:

    There are just over 6 million Mormons in the USA, about the same number as the Jewish population in America.  Of those 6 million Latter-day Saints, about half claim active affiliation with the church.  So we have 3 million individuals scattered across the country who claim to take their Mormon faith seriously, and perhaps half of those are voters, most of whom are concentrated in the Western USA.  And Romney and Huntsman are going to fight over those votes?  And the outcome of that battle is going to make a difference?  And it’s going to be a serious fight, even though Huntsman has no organization, no fund-raising network, and no experience in a national campaign, while Romney has all those things in spades?  If you believe all that, I want to talk to you about a great deal on shares in a bridge spanning the Great Salt Lake.

    I understand the idea that dividing the Mormon base might have some fund-raising implications and might affect the outcome of some smaller state primaries (think Utah, Idaho and Nevada) , but I remain to be convinced that “the Mormon vote” is going to be signficant at the presidential level.

    One Utahn put it this way: Romney is Brigham Young University, Huntsman is the University of Utah.

    Ball one.  The authors get some credit for diligence and cleverness on this one.  Huntsman is much more centrist than Romney, whose positions make him a standard mainstream conservative.  To a Utah graduate like me, with family members who went to BYU, this analogy makes immediate sense.  I guess it’s a bit of inside baseball for Mormons.

    A competition for Mormon bona fides between the two men would end in a draw. Romney’s great-great-grandfather was a 19th-century church leader who moved to the Utah Territory before statehood. Huntsman’s father and namesake is still a top official in the church who lends his Gulfstream jet to other LDS leaders, while his wife’s grandfather was in the church’s Quorom of the 12 Apostles, top figures in the hierarchy.

    Ball two (just missed the corner).  Not to pick too many nits, but it is Jon Huntsman Jr.’s grandfather, David Haight, who was a member of the Council of Twelve.  I don’t know what position Huntsman’s father, Jon Huntsman, Sr., now holds – he was once an LDS mission president in Washington, D.C. – but such vague references like ”a top official in the church” don’t tell us anything and look like mere filler.

    Huntsman, too, went on a two-year mission, to Taiwan. It was there that he became fluent in Chinese. But his family — wife Mary Kaye and their seven children, two of them adopted from Asia — are not strict Mormons, and he has never served in church leadership. More than a few eyebrows were raised in the church when Huntsman’s eldest daughter, Abigail, was married last year not in a Mormon temple, but at the National Cathedral by an Episcopal priest.

    Strike three.  Where to begin with this one?  It is hard enough for members of a faith to judge one another’s devoutness; now we thave the news media doing it?  What does “never served in church leadership” mean?  And if a Mormon’s child chooses not to follow his or her parents’ faith, are we supposed to draw conclusions about the parents’ own religious commitment?  Like those of all faiths, Mormon children do depart from the faith of their fathers.  This is not interesting or worthy of comment in the news media.

    In Utah, the hope is that two Mormons running at a time when the Democratic Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate is also LDS would make the church seem less exotic—something that is undoubtedly beneficial to Romney.

    Now Martin and Ball are in danger of being ejected from the ballpark.  ”In Utah, the hope is….”  Whose hope?  Are these two journalists able to divine the views of an entire state?

    I’ll close with some wisdom from none other than Karl Rove, who happened to be in Utah yesterday to speak at a political dinner:

    Rove, an Anglican who attended high school in Utah, believes the Mormon issue was overblown in 2008 and doesn’t think it will be much of a factor in 2012.

    “This makes me queasy,” he said of the close scrutiny the LDS religion got during Romney’s candidacy.

    “I think people do want to know what motivates any candidate for president, so they want to know what their faith is. But there’s a difference between wanting to identify someone’s faith and come to some sense about their authenticity and what happened to Romney, which was look at his faith and ‘let’s examine its tenets and hold them up for public scrutiny,’ ” he said. “It just makes me queasy.”

    (Emphasis added.)  Ball and Martin should pay attention to Rove.  Focusing on the religious tenets and commitment of presidential aspirants is problematic, to say the least.  Rather than delve into such distracting material, Politico should tell us something helpful about the candidates.

    John adds his two cents…

    Lord please save us from “make news” news.  When I read this piece I had one reaction – How come we have not read the same sort of article about, say, Tim Pawlenty and Mike Huckabee.  Both come with extraordinarily strong mainstream Christian credentials.  Professions of faith figure very strongly in both possibles bios.  Huckabee is well known and Pawlenty’s recent book at points reads like a spiritual autobiography, not a political one.

    Or consider Mitch Daniels and John Thune.  Both are professed Christians, men of deep and abiding faith.

    Do I have to go on?  This piece, and many like it (yes there is more than we have linked to this week – watch for Monday’s post) are, by their very existence in the absence of similar articles about others of differing faiths, religiously biased.

    Let’s return to the question we ask so often here – Suppose Al Sharpton entered the Democratic primary process for 2012.  Would be be treated to piece after piece about he and Obama and the black vote?  Would that not be considered somehow racist?  In fact, we do not have to suppose anymore.  Is not virtually any opposition offered against the president now charged with being racist? Articles about the role race may or may not have played in the election of Barack Obama as president seem to be verboten – I have not read one, have you?   The occassional passing reference, perhaps – but where is the polling?  The investigation?

    Certainly if the “Romney v Huntsman” question is legitimate for such an esteemed outlet as Politico to examine, so then should be the role of race in Obama’s last campaign.

    And let’s not even go to the place about the MSM doing whatever it can to damage the presupposed Republican frontrunner (Romney) as early as possible.  I mean there is just no way the MSM is politically biased, is there?  (Smirk, guffaw…)

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