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."

  • Where Is All This Coming From?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:11 am, March 30th 2011     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    The morning headlines this very day brought us some surprises.  First we read Dr. David Hill in “The Hill”:

    Mitt Romney must face the religion question — again. It’s a persistent and nagging threat to his candidacy. Four years ago, he didn’t have an effective playbook for managing it. The “Hail Mary” pass (pardon the theological pun) was his December 2007 speech in Austin, Texas, wherein he sought to explain his Mormon faith. There was no immaculate reception (sorry again) of the address by the primary electorate, so Romney’s primary season foundered. A new campaign offers hope, but he better get religion right this time or it’ll be déjà vu all over again.

    Woah!  Haven’t heard talk like that for a while.  So then we turn to “The American Prospect” and find:

    Evangelical hostility toward Mormons isn’t as widespread as it was a decade ago — a result, in part, of coalition politics (the Religious Right), Romney 2008 and Glenn Beck — but it’s still present, thanks mostly to irreconcilable theological views and practices.

    A little more reasonable, but still, surprising given how The Question has been playing to date.  What’s going on here?  Two pieces declaring Romney to have a “Mormon issue” on the same day when we have barely been hearing about it up to now?  But we are not done, we have yet to consult the Canadian press.  In two outlets, Calgary and Winnipeg, we find the same syndicated article by one Lee-Anne Goodman concerning Huntsman’s religion problem.  That’s very weird since Huntsman is really signalling for 2016. So what’s going on – where is all this talk coming from?

    Well, there are several things happening.  For one, as Ben Smith points out, Christianity Today published some polling results that show the role of religion amongst the possibles of the moment.  But. when you read it in detail, its about demographics and preferences in candidates – no one asked “The Question.”  So to say Mormonism is the issue is to stretch the poll results beyond their intended limits.  Romney still leads, barely, over likely non-candidate Huckabee.

    Secondly, as Bernie Quigley points out in The Hill, in response to Maureen Dowd’s nastiness that we linked to Monday and I refuse to link to again:

    That Mormons are being met with mockery and ridicule by the squalid likes of the writers of “South Park” in their new Broadway play, “The Book of Mormon,” is good news for Mormons. To “live apart” is what Brigham Young expected and intended. Mormons are today being engaged and those who live inside the box — and Dowd’s been there so long she’s about to turn to stone — are afraid of them.

    That’s right.  The Romney campaign is starting to get very serious and demonstrating it’s strength as it does so.  That has the left, with an extraordinarily weak candidate on its hands, trembling.  Anything they can do to weaken the leading candidates on the right they are going to do.  They cannot beat us on a level playing field, the only hope they have is to force an error.  In point of fact, it is probably this same  reason that the poll results discussed above are being stretched as they are.

    Finally, we return to The Hill piece first linked:

    I wrote about all this in a series of three columns published herein about four years ago, predicting that critics would seize upon some oddities of the Mormon faith in an effort to discredit Romney’s candidacy.

    We at this blog know the temptation of wanting a pet issue to come to the forefront once again.  Whatever minuscule reputation this blog may enjoy is based in an issue that is not shaping up this time in a fashion that is likely to support that reputation.  We are unlikely to be “the hit” this cycle we were last time around.  It would be understandable if we wanted to stir something up, but it would also be counterproductive to our goal of combating religious prejudice in electoral politics.

    In the end, these are whispers – this is all inside baseball stuff.  This is not the earth moving signals of a Robert Novak proclaiming a problem on the horizon.  This is attempted wish fulfillment with a large helping of opposition shenanigans on the plate.  But there you have it, The Question for 2012.

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    Bachmann? For Real? Romney Dominates the Discussion, and a Bit More…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:50 am, March 28th 2011     &mdash      10 Comments »

    Michelle Bachmann – Real or Rogue?

    So, she announced she was going to form an exploratory committee last Thursday.  This drew some interesting commentary from Geraghty.  Sean Scallon filled in a lot of the background:

    Then another born-again evangelical, Jimmy Carter, ran for president, and Bachmann worked for his election. But evangelicals like the Bachmanns quickly became disillusioned with Carter’s liberal positions on social questions when they conflicted with conservative evangelical teachings—especially over abortion.

    Carter-era evangelicals were profoundly influenced by the Christian writer Francis Schaeffer. His articles, books, and lectures convinced many Protestants who were living separate cultural and political lives to join the fray and get involved in the culture war. Organizations like the Moral Majority, the Christian Coalition, and the Family Research Council would not have emerged without Francis Schaeffer encouraging people like the Bachmanns to engage with secular politics and culture. Schaeffer was particularly influential in changing the attitudes of evangelicals towards abortion.

    Schaffer challenged new evangelicals to action through his documentary film “How Then Should We Live?” The Bachmanns became pro-life activists, demonstrating outside abortion clinics and undertaking sidewalk interventions. When the Republican Party in 1980 added a pro-life plank to its platform and nominated a foe of abortion, Ronald Reagan, for president, millions of evangelicals like the Bachmanns became reliable GOP voters. This experience as part of a generational transformation among evangelicals gives Bachmann an edge with a constituency one would think a Mike Huckabee or Sarah Palin would automatically dominate. Huckabee is a preacher, but he comes from the already well-established Baptist Church. Palin is a Pentacostal [sic], but religious activism has never been the driving force behind her career.  And for some religion-centered voters, there’s nothing more compelling than a conversion story and a life of faith-centered action.

    Does that scare anybody besides me?  There are a couple of things that seem problematic.  One is the extreme difficulty of sorting “the call of the Holy Spirit” from our own egos.  The decision to run for president must be undertaken prayerfully, of that there is no doubt, but it needs to be a matter careful consideration, thought and political calculation.  So often, ego creeps into the equation and we harm the cause we think we are trying to serve.  The issues confronting Evangelicals today are not ones that will be corrected quickly.  They will require a long march.  Frankly, very little of the action on them will come from the White House.

    As to the second issue.  Donald Trump is still making noise about running, but even the left is on to his game.  So, it is a little disturbing when Bachmann is being grouped with Trump – and both are compared to Palin.  Running for president indeed requires a media strategy, but it is about far more than achieving media popularity.  When it is hard to tell the media game from the campaign game – there is a problem, and Bachmann seems to have it as much as Palin, Huckabee and Trump.  Again, ego makes these two games difficult to separate.

    Frankly, the current administration seems unable to divorce ego from office and media from campaign – I’ve had enough of it.

    Talking Romney

    Despite the fact that he has not actually said he is going to run, even though that decision does appear to be a foregone conclusion, Mitt Romney absolutely dominated the discussion last week.  He did so through a series of events and actions, all well timed, and well executed.

    Answering Massachusetts Health Care Critics. The week past marked the one-year anniversary of the passage of Obamacare.  The left, predictably, used the occasion to attack Romney.  I know I had to spend a significant portion of the week changing my plan because the premiums on the one I have had for 20 years were going to double.  (So much for “keeping your current plan if you like it!”)  Romney used the occasion to take to NRO’s blog “The Corner” and say:

    If I were president, on Day One I would issue an executive order paving the way for Obamacare waivers to all 50 states.

    Some said it wasn’t enough – some said it lacked ‘humility.‘  Come on people -let’s have some common sense here.  First of all, complaining like this is totally irrelevant.  What people in Massachusetts are experiencing is totally different than what Romney proposed, or even than what was in place when he left office.  Governors, or presidents, do not dictate law – that’s kinda what the country was founded to avoid.  Which brings me to the “not enough” argument.  Repeal would be a good thing, but legislatively it is nearly impossible.  What Romney proposes is a great way to remove the teeth from the tiger.  We may not be able, in reality, to kill the beast, but rendering it harmless is the next best thing.

    And as to the humility thing – PUH LEAZE.  Political leadership cannot afford much that way – it’s akin to bowing before foreign potentates.  What is needed here is smart thinking on how to undo the damage that has been done.  Romney has made a serious proposal here and it deserves to be looked at seriously.  These objections seem born from the fact that people have decided they find Romney distasteful and nothing he can do, or does, can change the fact.  What bothers me is that finding the root cause of the distaste.

    Eric Fehrnstrom used Twitter to call out David Axelrod on this issue.  That’s smart new media stuff there.  It also points out, as Axelrod “embraces” Massachusetts healthcare in the ole ‘Death Hug,’  that people should not confuse hatred of Obama with their suspicions of Romney.

    Winning Important PollsHe is favored among Tea Partiers.  Some may try to minimize the poll, but they would be mistaken.  (USAToday seems to have missed it altogether.)  The Tea Party can be a little fanatic, and the press would certainly like to drive them that way, but they appear to be working very hard to be smart about getting where they are going.  Backing winners is a smart move.  Not to mention the fact that the Tea Party is all about finances, and they do not come any better in that area than Romney.

    Getting Endorsed.  Nevada grows in primary importance and this endorsement helps there, especially this early.  We link to this version of the story over any other because it fails to discuss the “M” word.  Good journalism, almost by definition.   There is a bit of “damning with faint praise” to James Carville saying he thinks Romney will be the nominee, but it’s interesting nonetheless.  And while talking endorsements, Jim DeMint is playing a really funny game so far this cycle – not sure what’s up there.

    Fund-Raising Juggernaut.  Romney hit the road this week, to raise $50M.  The NYTimes (no one else mind you, just the Old Grey Mare, er Lady) claims the number is exaggerated.  Forget picking the number, the idea is simple.  Romney is a great fund-raiser, and he wants to show his opponents some over-whelming force in that arena.

    Elsewhere, we got some insight into how the insiders see the Romney campaign going.  It’s going to be a long primary season.  The MSM keeps pushing Iowa.  They forget it is not about them, it’s about us, the voter.  There was some Mormon stuff from unreliable sources that don’t matter.  (Speaking of which, as if there was any doubt, Maureen Dowd is a fool.)

    The Field In General

    Fox’s Special Report looks at Pawlenty and the field.  The Weekly Standard looks at T-Paw’s “path.”  Ramesh thinks neighboring Iowa may not be that big a deal for him.

    Haley Barbour says race is a non-starter with him.  What race is with Barbour is not the issue, what race is in terms of public perception is the issue.

    And that’s it for serious news from the field.  (Unless you count the fact that Gingrich has already adopted the royal imperative which is not at all a good thing.)  A clear sign it is narrowing rapidly.

    But of course in the area of unserious news there is Fred Karger and friends.  Sometimes, just sometimes, I wonder if the homosexual agenda is going to be the trigger for a new civil war?

    Religious Reading

    WOW!  Reliable reporting on Mormon missionaries.  And even the pro-homosexual agenda left rails against some anti-Mormon bigotry.  Signs of hope friends, signs of hope.

    Deep philosophy, united and divided Catholics and Evangelicals.  This is very deep stuff, but provides some interesting insight.  From the original CT piece that sparked the discussion:

    Yet evangelicals have been wary of natural law arguments. As heirs of the Reformation, most evangelical ethicists have argued that the brokenness of human reason makes it insufficient to successfully persuade people in public on the basis of universally accepted moral norms.

    Folks, I have been an Evangelical virtually all of my life, and I have to tell you, that is news to me.  I have been and am aware that there are some, we used to call them Fundamentalists, that think that, but Evangelicals? – not to my knowledge.  Second of all, the Reformation is all about human reason, and the assertion that the Reformed think reason flawed is just nonsense.  “Reason” is very much a concept that came out of Christianity – have we really turned things this far over?

    One thing is for sure – if reason is not reliable for public debate, we have lost.  You cannot build a religiously diverse nation on the dictates of one religion.

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    Pawlenty Makes It Offical, Everything Old Is New Again (Sorta), and more…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:05 am, March 23rd 2011     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Imagine That – Tim Pawlenty Is Running For President

    Tim Pawlenty announced Monday that he was forming an exploratory committee.  He did it via video on Facebook – which may be the most interesting thing about the announcement.  (More coverage from the Wall Street Journal and Washington Times.)  There is no surprise in this at all.  The dramatic nature of the video seems a bit out-of-character for any Minnesotan; I’ll be interested to see if it is effective.  As the least widely known of “the Majors,” Pawlenty had to be first out of the gate.

    Here’s a look at “Team Pawlenty.”  As if to cement the fact of their left turn – Politco took the first shot at T-Paw.  Jim Geraghty used the occasion to fire off what may go down as the worst pun of the entire campaign, or in the way of things it may become the most overused and trite phrase of the campaign.  At least he got there first.

    *SIGH* – Here we Go Again

    Last Saturday, an article appeared in World Net Daily apparently concerning Romney and his relationship with the homosexual agenda, but in reality it is little more than promotion for a book.  We need to examine this article on two levels, the publication itself, and the arguments therein.

    This article came to our attention as a submission.  World Net Daily has been off our radar for several years now – it’s simply not reliable.  Note, for example, that in the article there appears to be links to supporting pieces; they are instead links to advertising.  Embedded within the piece are audio bites that would appear to again be supporting evidence from other sources to support the thesis of the article.  However, the source of the audio is unidentified and upon listening to it it seems to be a WND produced “radio” segment simply retelling the same story that is in the piece itself.  This is nothing more than an effort to make the article appear to be more serious than it really is, while at the same time capturing advertising revenue.  Besides, if this were truly newsworthy, might we not see some mention of the material somewhere else?

    WND is an outlet designed to appeal to far right wing-conspiracy theorists, and this entire episode fits neatly into that category.  It’s echoing around the halls of conspiracydom, but nowhere in the world of serious political concern or commentary.

    Now as to the article itself, it attempts to make the case that Romney supports gay marriage and gay rights based on his service as governor of Massachusetts.  This can be refuted in three arenas.  The first is that the executive of a state is charged with enforcing the law.  The legislature MAKES law, the judicial refines law, the executive executes it.  Romney opposed, to the best of his ability the gay marriage and gay rights legislation, and court decisions, that occurred during his service as Governor.  But that said, once those laws were made, legislatively or by judicial fiat, he did what a governor is supposed to do – he executed the law of the land.  It’s as simple as that.  Here in California we have watched our executives refuse to do the same, despite the acknowledged and voted will of the people in the form of Prop 8.  So which would you rather have: a governor that obeys the constitution of the state (Romney) or one that defies it?  The only true conservative stance is to uphold the constitution, even if the laws in question are morally repugnant.

    The second arena is political.  Much is made of Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative gay group.  This group does support same-sex marriage, but in most other stances they are conservatives.  Just because someone is willing to work with such a group on any number of issues on the conservative agenda, it does not mean that individual has to support them on the particular issue of same-sex marriage.  It is simply in the nature of being on the national level that a politician has to associate with groups that they share many, but not all, stances.  This, frankly, would be uncontroversial if it were a group that was strong on defense, but wanted to raise taxes – a candidate would associate for the defense stance and not agree on the tax stance.  That’s all there is here.

    The final arena is religious.  This person seems to want to have it both ways.  The far right abhors Romney’s faith, but it is precisely his faith that gives credence to the fact that he does not support the gay agenda.  In case these people have not been paying attention. The CJCLDS has been under extreme fire, up to and including vandalism and other acts of actual violence, regarding its opposition to same sex marriage.  Have we already forgotten the ugliness that occurred in the aftermath of the passage of Prop 8?

    So, what is really going on here?  It’s simple.  Romney is “suspect.”  People learned last cycle that to pronounce such suspicions as rooted in religion was illegitimate.  Given the reaction to Mike Huckabee’s “innocent question” to the NYTImes, they know that even walking close to the edge of such rhetoric will call down the fire from a press eager to show conservatives as knuckle-dragging neanderthals.  And thus with logic only the narrow minded could follow (Joel Belz) “Mormons lie” was born, and “flip-flop” became the publicly acceptable formulation of that charge. (See the Vanderbilt study – immediately previous link.  And please note – our links take you to substantive support of our thesis, not ads.)

    This “article” at WND is primarily an attempt to sell books designed to appeal to a relatively small group of very narrow-minded individuals.  But it also is an attack on Romney based on the flip-flop charge, which is deeply rooted in anti-Mormon bias.  At this point we find ourselves in a bit of a chicken-and-egg conundrum, but  in the end it is unnecessary to actually sort it all out.  It is enough to know that Romney simply does not support same-sex marriage, but he will abide by the constitution – everything else is just trouble-making by people that cannot look the issues in the eye and instead need to resort to innuendo and insinuation, not to mention shoddy journalism.

    The Rest of the Field…

    Haley Barbour is staffing up and going to Nevada.  This latter tidbit is producing some serious speculation, positing that the potential entry of Huntsman divides the Mormon vote allowing someone like Barbour to drive up the middle.  This is nonsense – ‘splain Harry Reid to me and then tell me about the supposed Mormon vote in Nevada.  Oh yeah, and Barbour may have an ethics problem.

    Speaking of Jon Huntsman, his actions “do not endear him to conservatives.”  Translation: he has no base in the Republican party upon which to run.  That won’t keep the press from raising a stink though.

    Mitch Daniels has a book coming in the fall.  Too late to be an effective campaign tool.  But the wonks still love to talk about him.

    Rudy Giuliani still needs to raise money.

    Sarah Palinyada,yada, yada.

    Distraction, pure distraction.

    California – we used to matter, but no more.

    Religion News

    The understatement of the cycle.  The biggest problem with the Evangelical presence in Iowa is that it is very different than the rest of the nation.  Giving Iowa such prominence when it consistently votes differently than the rest of the nation is the problem.

    The very left Guardian in the UK is getting snarky about Mormons and Evangelicals.

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    The Press – Making Trouble – What’s New?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:41 am, March 21st 2011     &mdash      3 Comments »

    You will forgive me a bit of personal comment, but many considered last year’s amazing run by my beloved Butler Bulldogs a fluke.  Many thought that with their best player taking the early out to the NBA, this year’s team would return to second round mediocrity.  All I know is that Saturday they beat the Number One seeded Pittsburgh Panthers.  They have to go through Wisconsin this week to get to a Regional Final against either Florida (a tournament arch-rival of Butler from years back) or BYU.  Be warned, should the BYU match-up occur, any and all support that I render the CJCLDS and its affiliated institutions in the political arena will be set aside.

    I’m just warning you….  And now we return to business as usual.

    Jim DeMint Starts to Look Like James Dobson

    Remember last cycle when James Dobson would come right up to the edge of endorsing Romney and then back a way in an extremely distasteful fashion?  Looks like Jim DeMint, a strong Romney supporter last cycle, finds himself in the same pickle.  First he says Massachusetts health law is not that big a deal, then shortly later, he says it is.

    I gotta say that Romney is a bit of a hot potato on this issue – but then he was last time too, at least in these parts.  I did not fully come out to support him until the day before I voted for him and Massachusetts health care is the reason why.   Why did I eventually come over to “the dark side?”  The reason is straightforward – I think some sort of universal coverage is an inevitability – too many people in the nation demand it.  As distasteful as the individual mandate is, it is the only way to make anything work that will not completely bankrupt an already bankrupt government.  That said, it is unconstitutional for the federal government to set an individual mandate – no if’s, ands, or buts.  That is one huge advantage that the Massachusetts law had over Obamacare – it’s legal.  Secondly the crafting of the Massachusetts system was such that the individual would not be driven into the government system (despite how the Massachusetts legislature has since modified it) – the mandate was not designed to remove consumer choice, but enhance it.  This thing that the feds have foisted upon us has exactly the opposite effect – if it is allowed to stand (as unlawful as it is) – we will all soon be suckling at the government teat whether we want to or not.

    Allahpundit points out that Romney has one heck of a messaging problem hereEFM points out that he really has already done what the Obamacare fighters have asked for – so why the fuss?  Well, for one thing there is the inherent distrust of Romney himself, rooted in the Mormon issue.  Then there is the fact that the Tea Party types simply lack a certain subtlety.

    This latter fact scares me just a bit.  We are seeing the problem in the budget discussion.  Is Congress moving too slow?  Well, they certainly are if you buy Brian Westbury’s argument about inflation from the Hugh Hewitt show last Friday (subscription required).  But by the same token they have to restore things to a proper balance without resorting to the strong arm tactics the other side used in the last Congress, or else we will have become that which we fight against.  This too creates an enormous messaging problem in the era of instant messaging and gratification.

    That’s Romney’s real problem here – create a concise, instant message on an issue that is anything but concise and instant.  Further he has to do so when coming from a place where his faith makes him a bit suspect, particularly amongst those that his message most needs to reach.  Frankly, if the suspicion can be removed, the messaging issue can be solved by people far more expert at such things than I.  The suspicion is not being openly discussed much this round – I wonder if we can knock it down if it does not see the light of day?

    Speaking of Confusing Messaging…

    Haley Barbour’s son is strongly defending his father, but does not want him to run.  First of all, I think that is a strong sign he is going to run, why bother with a defense if not?  But the more I think about the possibility of Barbour, the more I think he would be bad for Republicans generally.

    If you think the lefties and MSM were drooling over the whole Mormon thing last time, wait until you see what they do to Barbour if he gets in.  It must be remembered that the entire view the left has of Republicans is that we are steeped in hidden racism.  As the governor of the deepest of southern states, Barbour is going to get absolutely pilloried about a presumed racism.  My Mississippi sources say you need a cannon to fire from one Democrat to another in Mississippi – that they are pretty rare.  They further blame racism for that fact. (As blacks joined the Democrat party and became active, whites fled to the Republicans.  Of course, there is an inherent racism in that statement – it presumes blacks, who are the majority of people in Mississippi, cannot run an effective party.)  I don’t spend enough time in Mississippi to know the truth or falsity of the claim, but it is very believable.

    The last thing our party needs is to have this particular fight – it would only serve to reinforce an already flawed image of us.

    Amongst The Rest…

    Herman Cain finally did something interesting.

    Michelle Bachmann gets no love, but the left tries to paint the Koch brothers as the right wing Soros.

    Mitch Daniels’ wonk appeal continues.

    And Speaking of Religion…

    Things could be much worse.

    Say what you will, but at the moment, “Mormon” makes headlines and draws crowds.

    So, “Mormons walk in lockstep,” you say?  Then check out this article on a stance taken by a Mormon official on legislation in Utah.  Was the official acting on behalf of the church, or not?  Individual Mormon reaction as quoted is all over the map.  This is not a picture of lockstep.  This is a picture of the CJCLDS looking pretty much like any other church when it comes to politics – lots of people with lots of different ideas.  Imagine that….

    Lowell adds . . .

    I can’t let the Utah immigration law go without comment.  The relationship between LDS Church positions on moral and political issues, on the one hand, and Church member attitudes about those issues, on the other, is practically the subject of song and story.  We’ve commented on it extensively in this blog.  The indisputable, historically demonstrable fact is that members don’t always agree with the Church on such issues, and there is a diversity of opinion among members.  That’s why knowledgeable Mormons roll their eyes when we and our co-religionists are described as mindless automatons who will do whatever the Church wants us to do.   The truth is far more complex than that, as this L.A. Times article seems to make clear.  Read the whole thing!

    And…. As long as John and I are talking about our respective alma maters’ athletic prospects:  I sadly have nothing to say about Utah Ute basketball, but I have been watching this YouTube viral video all week long with great pleasure.  It makes a nice statement about the newest members of the newly-expanded Pacific 12 Conference, who happen to be…my Utes.

    Finally: Go Butler Bulldogs!

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    It’s Starting To Look Like An Election Around Here

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:43 am, March 17th 2011     &mdash      2 Comments »

    Time for a bit of a reset.  At this point the field looks like:

    FOR SURE AND CERTAIN – Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain (but who cares)

    PRETTY DOGGONE SURE – Haley Barbour, Newt Gingrich

    PEOPLE WISH, BUT NOT LIKELY – Mitch Daniels, Jon Huntsman

    SILLY – Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Michelle Bachmann

    That “silly’ category deserves a bit of comment.  These individuals will play very important roles in the coming campaign, perhaps even as candidates, but it is difficult to seriously consider them functioning well in the Oval Office.  They are all so incredibly polarizing that if by some strange twist of electoral magic they got elected, they simply could not function.

    That done, let’s look to the news going down the list

    For Sure and For Certain

    Mitt Romney – The “Death Hug” continues, but this time it was Rick Santorum taking the shot.  Santorum campaigned hard for Romney in 2008, and the thought had crossed my mind that he got in this time to aid Romney by splitting the social conservative vote in Iowa, preventing Huckabee mischief.  Guess I’ll have to think about that some more.  There was some “death hug” frivolity over at The Corner yesterday.

    Romney is being followed.  He was pulling some positive comments from Chris Cillizza.

    There are also some interesting poll resultsHis religion may not be as big an issue as some think.  (according to this poll, it’s not as big as Gingrich’s marital issues.)  But that does not keep people from talking and talking about his religion.  But then it is the NYTimes and Andrew Sullivan, which proves one of our primary theses – Romney’s religion is a tool used by the left to create disorder in our ranks and to support their view of us as generally bigoted and hard-headed.  On this latter point consider this “Huntsman” story that speaks of Mormon political action in conspiratorial tones.

    Tim Pawlenty is getting big press.  I wonder if that helps much anymore?

    Rick Santorum got no press other than the Romney tie-in discussed above.

    Herman Cain – again, who cares?

    Pretty Doggone Sure

    Haley Barbour demonstrates his lack of foreign policy experience while hiring John McCain’s New Hampshire strategist.  Team McCain played New Hampshire like a fiddle in ’08, but McCain fit New Hampshire like white on rice.  Selling Barbour in New Hampshire is a whole different ballgame.  He suffers from a bit of bad taste, and has a ‘death hug’ all his own.

    Newt Gingrich is NOT a “front runner” on the same level as Romney, despite what Politico tries to say.  And if his marital problems are not enough problems for him with social conservative, this is just stupid.  I am wondering if Newt is around the bend?

    People Wish, But Not Likely

    Mitch Daniels made no candidate news and still does not get the social conservative vote.

    The fact that it is Team Obama that fears Jon Huntsman, indicates that they are trying to run him up the flag pole just to peel off more Republicans from someone that might actually beat him.

    Silly

    Shocker! – Mike Huckabee has not made up his mind yet – he may not have it made up after the primary is decided.  He shares “intense” supporters with Michelle BachmannGeraghty comments on the latter.  See our comments about “polarizing” above.

    Same goes with this story on Sarah Palin.  When the moderates and the conservatives in the party are struggling mighty over the budget in Congress, how could someone as polarizing as Palin possibly win?

    RELIGION

    Our friend David French writes quite well – again!

    More on that case out of Great Britain that we deemed “ugly.”

    How religion and politics look to those a generation or two behind us.

    Reporting is controlled by the times as much as the reporter….

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    Some Stories We’ve Been Following and the Usual Stack of Stuff

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 09:46 pm, March 13th 2011     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    More I – Gingrich’s Marriage Problems

    Newt Gingrich did the CBN thing last week trying to do a mea culpa about his serial marital problems, but ended up stepping in it.  David Brody was his usual fawning self in the actual interview,  and featured the Christian forgiveness part of the interview in his postings on it.  But it did not take long for those on the left and the right to find the real news in the interview.  Quoth Newt:

    “There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate,” said Gingrich. “And what I can tell you is that when I did things that were wrong, I wasn’t trapped in situation ethics, I was doing things that were wrong, and yet, I was doing them.”

    OK Newt, here’s the deal – part of the whole seeking confession/forgiveness thing,  is that we own our mistakes, we do not excuse them, and we certainly do not work to make our excuses look somehow more noble than a typical excuse.  David Frum, seconded by Josh Marshall (and I do not typically agree with Frum on much), got this one just right: “It’s not the infidelity.  It’s the arrogance….”  Others go even farther.

    Frankly, this early in a race and this deep in political geek land, I doubt this will have much affect on the campaign Gingrich appears poised to begin – but it is certainly enough to move me from thinking he merely had little chance of  success, to thinking he would be an actual bad move.   This is pretty distasteful to me.

    More II – That Evangelical/Mormon Meeting in Utah

    It seemed to go well, and drew lots of press and analysis.  But the most interesting Mormon/Evangelical story of the week was an article by Marvin Olasky.  Olasky, you will recall is an editor at World Magazine – home of the famous “Mormons lie” meme.  Olasky’s personal stance on things Mormon has been a bit confusing at times.  So it is hard to guess if the piece linked earlier about an appearance he did on Glenn Back is a Mormon shot or not.  He certainly tries to make the case that Beck is somehow sub-Christian, but the word Mormon never comes up.

    Here’s my analysis:  Overt anti-Mormonism has been wholly discredited, both by the campaign last time and more importantly be Prop 8.  Anti-Mormons remain and they are searching for rhetorical means to express their distinct viewpoint without getting pilloried.  My thought is that if they want to retain their credibility, whatever may be left of it, they probably need to just go ahead and give up the viewpoint.  Rhetorical flourish is just too easy to see through.

    More III – The “Death Hug” around Romney

    “Death Hug” is what Time is calling the Obama Administration’s continued efforts to use Massachusetts health care as an argument for Obamacare.  Personally, given how hard they are sawing this string and how little traction it is getting, I think they are playing more defense than offense.  Obamacare is currently suffering the death of a thousands cuts.  By the time the general election rolls around it may be on life support.

    In the meantime, there were a couple of very silly Romney stories out there.  There were also some endorsements and analysis.

    There was also some silly Mormon stuff.  I defy anyone to tell me that this blurb from the SLTrib is not a veiled reference to Mormon sacred garment.   And then there was an interview with the South Park guys about their forthcoming Mormon themes musical.  They may know entertainment, but they view religion and politics purely as fodder for their comedy and when they try to discuss them seriously, they just make no sense.

    Looking Around The Field…

    It’s kind of fun sometimes to look at how the media covers the GOP race.  You can pretty much rest assured the spin will be designed to make us look as disorganized as possible.  NPR’s take that there “is no frontrunner” is designed to weaken the frontrunner (Romney.)  A weakened frontrunner means a harder primary fight which is less time to organize for the general.

    This Politico piece, calling the nascent campaign currently underway a “Kabuki,” is nothing more than an effort to make Republicans look weird and foreign.

    Whoever wrote this AP piece trying to spin Mike Huckabee‘s recent gaffes as calculated political maneuvers is clearly trying to revive the fortunes of a known mischief maker so that he can do what he does best – make mischief.

    Politco calling Rick Santorum‘s chances in Iowa “unlikely” repeats a mantra that only the press believe, that Iowa is so hugely important.  Iowa is important if a candidate makes it so strategically, but it is an oddball when it comes to measuring national trends.  Santorum’s social issue credentials make him a player in Iowa – but then so was Pat Robertson.

    What’s really funny about all of this is the expend all this ammunition at a time when people are barely paying attention, and they are arguments that the vast majority of voters won’t get anyway.  Most voters watch the ads for a week or so before they go to the polling place.  This is just ineffective trouble making

    Sarah Palin still looks as divisive as almost any figure in history.  And in the unlikely event she runs, it will most assuredly be in an unconventional fashion.  Evidence to me that she would not be serious about the attempt.

    For some reason, Scott Conroy is trying to heap Jon Huntsman recover from a hard right to the jaw in New Hampshire.  Sununu’s comments are not Huntsman’s problem; the fact that he worked for Obama is.

    Tim Pawlenty hired a Huck guy in Iowa.  Huck’s Iowa campaign last time around was enormously effective, but it was also underhanded and nasty – not negative mind you, underhanded.  Not sure I’d want to associate with that bunch.

    Geeks still love Mitch Daniels.  Come on, I like the guy too, how can I not?  He’s an acquaintance.  But he is not presidential candidate material.  It would be much better for his small legion of devotees to focus on how best to use his obvious smarts and capabilities than try to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

    Lowell adds . . .

    The attempted Obama “death hug” around Obamacare is fascinating to watch.  I think the president’s problem is that the tactic is so obvious – no one is buying it.  If anything, the Obami’s efforts are calling so much attention to the issue that it will become old news.  The key point here is that Romney actually does have an argument: Romneycare is vastly different from Obamacare.  Whether one buys that argument or not, it exists – but it is somewhat esoteric.  The more opportunities Obama creates for Romney to explain himself on the issue, the clearer his position becomes.   Obama is gambling that instead, his Romneycare-Obamacare death hug will create a narrative that Romney won’t be able to shake.  We’ll see which of the two outcomes result.

    I agree with John about Gingrich.  I’ve always hoped that the other Republicans who are running will listen to Gingrich, but that Newt himself will not run.  Ego is a powerful thing in politics.

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