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."

  • Superman and Citizenship – Chipping Away At Icons

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 08:54 am, April 30th 2011     &mdash      3 Comments »

    And Now For Something Completely Different…

    So, Thursday last I was driving around and as is typical, listening to the Hugh Hewitt radio show.  Sounded like a pretty typical show and I had a lot of work to do when I got back in the office during the second hour, so I did not turn the show on while I was busy responding to email and otherwise documenting the end of a hectic work day.  And then, suddenly, every form of communication I own (email, texting, instant messaging, the telephone) ERUPTS into simultaneous activity!  It seems our friend Mr. Hewitt wants to talk to me on air and everyone that listens to the show is trying to tell me so.  I figure that there has been a Romney/religion story break and while I am dialing the show I am busy checking my sources to see what has happened.  When I am finally on line with Radioblogger what is it I discover Hugh wants to talk about? – The announcement that Superman is renouncing his American Citizenship in Action Comics #900.  Yes, it’s true, I am an avid comic book collector and have an unfortunate level of knowledge about such things.

    First some background in in order.  Comics, it must be remembered, have their origins in the magazine publishing business, hence they are dated and numbered.  To publish 900 issues of anything is an amazing publishing achievement.  This is especially true of comics, despite beloved and continuing characters.  Sometime in the 1980′s, the comic market switched from stuff kids picked up in drugstores to serious collectors.  Number 1 issues are highly collectible so it has become the general market strategy to end a title after a limited run and begin anew with a slightly different title and a new #1.  Action Comics is one of the few exceptions to this rule.  Action, originally an anthology book, is where Superman made his first appearance in a short, quickly taking over as the title’s principle character until eventually it became a Superman title.  With Superman came success in the comics publishing industry, innumerable costumed hero/mystery man titles followed, and a genre was born.   DC Comics in deference to this history has refused to end Action’s run as it has so many other venerable titles, and the extraordinary milestone of issue 900 has been reached.  That fact alone is monumental in publishing and DC Comics is to be commended for it.

    Under such circumstances, anniversary issues have become big events for those few remaining titles whose runs continue.  Anniversaries are marked not by publication dates, but by issue number.  Decades ago publishers pushed publication of issues so far ahead of the posted dates to aid in marketing that the dates are virtually ignored.  Hence any issue with an even hundred number is an anniversary issue.  Arrayed around this post are images of the covers of Action Comics 100, 200, 300…900.  As you can see, in the earlier years such issues were fairly normal, but as time progressed they have become “events.”  It should also be mentioned that Action Comics is far from the only Superman title, but it is the oldest, the originator.  If you are interested in others, please check this out.

    As such issues began to gain in importance and recognition they took on the aspect of the retrospective on the character or perhaps the creative teams that had worked on the title.  In the 1980′s, as the collector’s market really began to develop, such issues became events – often marking major transitions in the character, and in more recent years marking a “reboot” in the character.  (For the completely initiated, a “reboot” is a reinvention of a franchise – think the most recent JJ Abrams Star Trek movie.)  Reboots often allow for similar story telling transitions as ending a title and coming up with a new one, so the buying boost achieved by this newer practice can be replicated.

    Synopsizing the various hundred issues of Action Comics has proven to be difficult.  Many of them pre-date my life, let alone my comic reading, and are well beyond my means to add to my collection.  This link gives a synopsis of every Action issue since the mid-80′s (there’s that magic date again) but I simply could not find data any earlier than that.  However, this information when combined with the covers depicted here should give the reader a good idea of the transitions that have taken place over the decades.  Most especially notable on casual viewing is how much darker the images have become as time as moved forward, and it is highly notable in 900.

    And now a different strain of background.  DC Comics is, and has been for quite some time, owned by Time-Warner.  It has been considered the most “corporate” of the comics publishers.  Major competitor Marvel is also very corporate, but until it was acquired by Disney a few years ago, it was small potatoes as a company (though usually beating DC in sales) compared to the Time Warner giant.  When Disney bought Marvel, there was much trepidation (and the jury is still out) that such would spell the end of the great story telling at Marvel.  Think about it, when was the last time you saw something really creative with Mickey Mouse?  Disney has been far more interested in preserving and protecting its iconic character than it has been in telling new and better stories about/with Mickey.  Many feared the same fate awaited Wolverine, Spiderman and several other iconic Marvel stalwarts.  They certainly felt like such had happened at the corporatist DC with it’s big three – Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.

    This has, over the years, made it hard for these titles to draw the best creative teams.  In the early 90′s when Todd MacFarlane rebooted Spiderman to the point that Marvel added a new Spidey title featuring MacFarlane, but not giving him profit participation, MacFarlane took a walk and went independent.  This problem was compounded as the cross-title publishing trend took hold (story arcs that cross multiple titles, thus meaning plots are handed down to the creative teams from a coordinating editorial board rather than allowing the creative teams to actually create.)  Superman, iconic to begin with, has suffered the most from this trend.  Not to mention the fact that as the most powerful hero ever it’s hard to create genuine conflict for him.  Supes has been for a couple of decades now, pretty moribund.  Sales have been reasonable, it is after all Superman, but creatively it has suffered.

    With this background, it is unsurprising that with Action 900, the publishers and creators would want to do something to shake off the iconic mold and try and make the character once again interesting.  Consider the by now oft quoted words he speaks as he renounces his citizenship, “I am tired of having my actions construed as instruments of US policy.”  It literally drips with the desire to shake off the bonds that have constrained the character for my entire lifetime.

    But that raises two essential questions.  Firstly, what is wrong with such constraints, and secondly, should not some icons be left iconic?

    The fact that such constraints are viewed as bad is, as comics always are, reflective of our culture generally.  However, in my opinion that is a sign of creative laziness, not real creativity.  Consider an analogy to science.  Are the laws of physics to be considered constraints?  Can an engineer on a whim decide that electrons now carry a positive charge and therefore make a computer on entirely different principles?  Of course, not, and yet the creative nature of what engineers have been able to accomplish is extraordinary, revolutionary even.

    At the turn of the 20th century, people began to ponder if Newton had pretty well figured everything out, and there was little left for science and engineering to do.  And yet, very creative people (not artists certainly, but creative nonetheless) have worked within the constraints of the laws of physics to transform the world in ways unimaginable in 1900.  There is much that could be done with Superman inside the constraints placed on the character by its iconic nature and its corporate worth.  In all the flotsam that has emerged under the Superman name in these last decades, there has been some very good work.  In can continue.

    Should not some icons be left iconic?  Consider the movie “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence.”  In it, Jimmy Stewart, playing Ransom Stoddard – a US Senator,  attends the funeral of a little-known rancher in his home town.   Stoddard has achieved this lofty perch doing much good for the territory-come-state in the process, by being know as the man who shot Liberty Valence, bringing the first real justice to the then territory.  When the press asks Stoddard why he would attend such an unnoteworthy funeral, he tells them the true story of who shot Valence, and it was the character he had come to bury, not himself.  Yet, the press did not print the story saying, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”  In other words, Stoddard had done so much good as the man that shot Liberty Valence, that only harm could result from breaking the legend.

    I indeed think that is the case when it comes to Superman and US citizenship.  Supes is iconically American and he has over the decades done so much good in raising American spirits.

    It was barely a decade ago that he did so much to honor the true heroes of 9-11.  He was a war hero in WWII.  He has rallied the troops and the nation on many, many occasions.  He stands for the best that is the United States of America.

    This move is another move away from the idea of American exceptionalism, and it is an important one.  But I also think it is temporary.  They have tried to break the Superman mold before, and every time he seems to be pulled back into it.

    Our nation is much the same.  We have been pulled into the darkness many times, but we have emerged a better stronger place.

    I got into comics because of that dreadful Batman television series in the 1960′s.  I was a kid – it worked.  But in discovering comics, I discovered a whole new world of things, and I discovered history.  The WWII exploits of Captain America (another iconic character currently gone horribly awry) were formative in my understanding of the nation and my place in it.  Maybe those people that pick up Action 900 will have the entire world of Superman opened up for them.  Maybe they will look not just at Action Comics 900, but at the decades of Superman product and they will discover the patriotism and goodness that has defined this nation historically.  They will create demand for Supes to rectify this outrageous slight.  The publishers will readily follow if it means sales.

    One of the nice things about pulp culture like comics is that nothing dies, it just gets recycled.  It’s time to stop reading Superman, but it will only be for a short while.


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    Will Huckabee Run?

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 08:06 am, April 29th 2011     &mdash      2 Comments »

    We’ve pretty much been assuming Mike Huckabee won’t run in 2012.  After all, he’s gained back a fair amount of weight and he’s making lots of money as a Fox host.  We thought the final nail in Huckabee’s political coffin was his decision to pardon, while governor of Arkansas, a man named Maurice Clemmons, who had been given 95 years in prison. In November 2009, in Lakewood, Washington, Clemmons shot and killed four police officers in cold blood.

    Now it seems that Huck may be hearing the siren song of presidential ambition.  Byron York offers his analysis here, noting that Huckabee’s presence in the race would change the political dynamics significantly:

    The shape of the Republican presidential race depends on Mike Huckabee. The primary season will be one kind of contest with the former Arkansas governor in the race, and another without him. With Huckabee, the race would feature a favorite of social conservatives in a leading role in a campaign likely to focus on economic issues. Without him, a more economic-minded candidate might lead, with several other candidates vying for what would have been Huckabee’s social-conservative spot.

    From an Article VI Blog perspective, Huckabee’s entry into the race cannot help but bring increased attention to The Question.  Even if the candidate himself doesn’t bring up Romney’s Mormonism, the news media will.  After all that happened in 2007-08, the subject is just irresistible to them.  Stay tuned.

    All that aside, I can’t resist noting this story about a conservative artist who pulled his work from the BYU bookstore, “claiming the LDS-Church owned school is catering to liberals offended by his painting, ‘One Nation Under God.’”  What’s interesting about this kerfluffle is that BYU also declined to have the artist speak at a campus event about the painting in question because of the school’s political neutrality policy. Just another chapter in the story about how Mormon political thought is anything but monolithic.


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    Trump Trumped – It Can Get Serious Again

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:55 am, April 28th 2011     &mdash      2 Comments »


    So, Obama releases his birth certificate leaving Trump look the fool.  The biggest loser is likely not Trump, who was only after media play to begin with, but those people, and especially the Evangelical people, that took him seriously.  This is most especially true for Franklin Graham who made his first serious foray into publicly talking politics.  His dad got fooled by a crook, Franklin just got fooled.  There is a lesson in there.

    Getting Serious Again?

    Well, kinda.  Ron Paul is back in.  And, eh, NO, he will not make our masthead.

    Surveying The Field…

    Writers have to write, analysts have to analyze and pundits have to pun(?!) So everybody has some idea about the Republican field, even if there is no real news.  Of the latest crop, Krauthammer made some sense, pictures tell no liesevery body has an idea about what the Barbour withdrawal effect will be (Michael Barone, who the smart money follows, says none really), the Journal staff chatted, and Chris Cilizza backhandedly accused Mormons of voting in lockstep (unless Huntsman gets in.)  Cilizza should be smarter than that.

    But Now That ‘Mormon’ Has Come Up…

    Some creedal  Christians were defending Mormonism in a backhanded sort of way.  That’s  good thing.  But some Mormons chose to nitpick.  Not so good.

    This is interesting and this may qualify as the stupidest question that has ever been asked in this whole discussion dating back to 2007.

    The Players…

    Mitch Daniels. The Barbour withdrawal renewed the Daniels speculation.  He still has some serious drawbacks and he has not helped himself.

    Mike Huckabee. Under pressure from Fox, he seems to therefore be showing his cards.  Not running (we knew that) or is he?  He is too busy playing media games.

    Mitt Romney. The ‘death hug’ continues.

    Tim Pawlenty. Seems to be driving on ice.

    Jon Huntsman. Not as rich as you might think.

    Rudy Giuliani. Still has debts to pay.

    Religion News

    Jim Wallis continues to, rightfully, draw fire.

    David Brody has gone where it is a bad idea to go.

    The shape of Christianity is changing.

    Lowell adds . . .

    Amplifying a bit what John says about Chris Cilizza, here’s Cilizza’s point regarding Romney’s position as frontrunner:

    “The key here is what Daniels and Huntsman do. Daniels could really eat into Romney’s case that he’s best equipped to guide the economy, while Huntsman could cut into Romney’s donor base – both men are Mormons – and potentially steal votes in two key Romney states: New Hampshire and Nevada.”

    Not so fast.  Donors do not see Huntsman as “the Mormon candidate.”  They see him as the former popular governor of Utah.  Of the two, Romney is the candidate who unabashedly takes his faith seriously.  Any Mormon who pays attention to the race and who actually talks to other Mormons about it knows this.  So the only place where Huntsman’s Mormon-Utah connections will have any impact is Utah, both in terms of donors and votes.  As much as I love my home state, it’s not going to swing any election.

    Joanna Brooks strikes me as someone whose heart is in the right place, but who can’t really be seen as someone who explains Mormonism to the world.  In other words, if you are trying to understand that faith, have a few grains of salt available when you are reading her work.  John’s right, in her comments on David Brooks’ op-ed, Joanna Brooks (no relation) is nit-picking.


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    The Trump Boomlet, Politico and Anti-Mormonism, The Real Race, and more…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 10:56 pm, April 24th 2011     &mdash      1 Comment »


    4/25/11 1:55pm PDT

    Haley Barbour is out – done – not running.

    “I will not be a candidate for president next year,” Barbour, a Republican, said in a statement. “This has been a difficult, personal decision, and I am very grateful to my family for their total support of my going forward, had that been what I decided.”

    We’ll never know why, but in my opinion he would have faced the biggest uphill slog of anybody that is truly viable in history.  The deck was stacked against him from the beginning.  As I have said, I think his presence would have brought a racist taint to the party as a whole – Again, I have no idea whether Barbour is a racist or not, but it just would have been de facto with the MSM.  Barbour can do a lot of good for the party in other roles.

    And now back to the original post.

    Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump…

    There has been enough press on Trump seeking the GOP nomination in the last few days that I am almost beginning to doubt my own conviction that the whole thing is a scam designed to get media attention for Trump.  The Donald seems to have convinced Charles Krauthammer and Franklin Graham.  Every time someone tries to call his bluff, he ups the ante.  Some are beginning to postulate that he is vying to play spoiler for Romney.  (Why? – “rich guy” jealousy?  Doesn’t make sense, most presidents are wealthy.  If such is the case it is more likely he is a closet Democrat – see “call his bluff.”)

    And yet, I think I will hold my conviction.  He really does have some serious issues.

    When it comes to Trump, this observation will make you laugh, because otherwise you’d have to cry, and this really tells the story:

    At least 75% of Republican voters and at least 75% of American voters surveyed said they were undecided or didn’t know enough about Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour and Jon Huntsman to give an opinion of them.

    Translated, that means there is a media vacuum – and Trump is rushing to fill it because none of the legitimate candidates are in a hurry to do so.   The press has been complaining loudly about how “slowly” the GOP race is forming, mostly because they are geared up to cover it and there is nothing to cover.  So Trump steps in.  You have to remember, the Trump story started floating as much as 5-6 months ago, but got no traction.  Of course it got no traction – hardly the first time Trump has tried this gambit.  He has floated himself early in the last several cycles.  But go back to that observation that I said would make you laugh:  It’s about Trump and the near collapse of his financial empire a few years back:

    Donald Trump is the living, breathing proof of John Maynard Keynes’ famous maxim: “If you owe your bank manager a thousand pounds, you are at his mercy. If you owe him a million pounds, he is at your mercy.”

    Trump is in point of fact a master at upping the ante.  He wants media attention, he’s not getting it – so he ups his game.  He calls Krauthammer; he interviews some hires; he does whatever it takes to make you think he is serious, thus forcing coverage.

    One thing is for sure, I will never play poker with Trump.

    Politico, Anti-Mormonism, Religion and the Race in General

    Middle of last week, we linked to Ben Smith’s attempts to look at the Mormon issue.  I have no idea why Smith is doing this, the story by his own tacit admission seems to have no legs.  But he kept it up.  Does he think the work has not been done here?  (Of course not, Politico does not read this blog.)  But his approach is from data on public attitudes, which is only part of the picture.  The effect on the primaries last time simply cannot be measured in looking at the attitude of the average Republican voter.

    There were really only organized anti-Mormon forces in Iowa, and to a lesser extent South Carolina.  And of course, they never confessed to being “anti-Mormon,” it had to be inferred from their behavior – how fast did they jump behind Huckabee after the NYTimes interview? – things like that.  Such small numbers of people are not going to look, on a national basis, like significant anti-Mormon sentiment.  But those are two extraordinarily influential states.  Romney more or less bet the farm on winning Iowa, thus enabling a relatively few anti-Mormon zealots to have an enormous impact on the outcome of the primaries.

    Secondly, there is the factor that people do not so much vote against another religion as they vote for their own. (Despite what Pat Robertson says – or maybe because of it?)   This certainly had an effect in the rest of the nation.  The CJCLDS has always had to combat the image of “otherness” – “they are just not like us,” is something I have heard over and over.  (In my experience if you remove the theological distinctives they are very much like us, but that is a story for another time.)  There are things the church can do to help combat this “otherness” issue, but such is their decision to make.  There are also signs that Mormons may be ahead of the curve with regards to developments in evangelical theology.  (The observations in that link were originally pointed out to me by a Mormon friend in an email exchange a couple of weeks ago.)

    But the question of anti-Mormonism amongst Republicans is a distraction.  The left we know hates religion generally.  They work very hard to play on our divisions and turn them into chasms.  They are also not afraid to mischaracterize us.  That is what we need to stay focused on.

    The Race Is Starting To Shape Up

    Jonathon Martin points out that April/May is when a lot of the names that have been tossed about have said they will make decisions.  Everybody is trying to assess the field  some well, some so-so, some not so well and some are arguing with the not-so-wells.  And don’t forget what the wives are saying!

    The role of Florida is still in serious play.  And so with that…

    …Let’s Look At The Players

    Oh yeah, there is a new playerGary Johnson.  Think less charismatic version of Ron Paul and move on.

    Mitt Romney – The best measure that Romney is “the guy to beat” than how much effort is being expended to criticize him.  It’s coming from all over the political spectrum.  I am sure the governor will answer all this an more when he actually begins to campaign, but for now its is simply and indication that he is well placed.

    Tim Pawlenty keeps failing to get traction and has an “oops.”

    Mike Huckabeewill he or won’t he?  Some think he will, but he is pretty thin skinned, not to mention the obvious.

    Haley Barbourtrying hard, but uh-oh.

    Michele BachmannHopes and efforts.

    Mitch Danielswonkish wishes.

    Sarah PalinI agree with Franklin Graham here, but why is he quoted authoritatively?

    Newt Gingrichmissteps again.

    Fred Kargergee ya think?  BTW, nothing to do with homophobia, just seriousness.

    Lowell adds . . .

    John and I have been noodling back and forth a little on what Politico is up to regarding Romney, Romney-Huntsman, and Mormonism.  I don’t know if John agrees with me, but I think Ben Smith is just looking for GOP presidential race stories, and it seems that Romney-Mormonism is always there on the shelf, ready for bored pundits to use.

    What’s interesting about Ben Smith’s latest is that his quotation from an e-mail exchange with his latest expert, David Thomas Smith,who offers some pretty tired analysis:

    One of the interesting things about Romney is that anti-Mormonism doesn’t seem to have been an issue for his dad back in the 1960s. Some of the professors at Michigan [where Smith used to teach] remembered Romney Sr.’s tilts at the presidency when he was governor of Michigan, and they don’t remember Mormonism ever being mentioned. Looking back at books and media from that period I can see that it was mentioned, but rarely negatively or as any kind of impediment to his chances. The probable explanation is that Evangelical Protestantism is a far stronger political identity now than it was then. Evangelicals, who were much more evenly dispersed across the parties then (as well as across the ideological spectrum), didn’t have the kind of sway in the GOP that they have now and were probably quite used to voting for candidates whose beliefs and values were remote from their own. Also the LDS Church in those days resembled a mainline Protestant church in its outward appearance and was probably seen in a more benign way than it is now. So the whole fact that Mormonism is a problem for Romney now in part reflects the way that other political and religious identities have developed.

    Is there anything new here?  I don’t think so.  What is missing from any Politico piece about The Question that I have ever seen is any discussion about how the left might use Romney’s faith – indeed, the faith of any Republican candidate – against him.  We likely won’t see anything like that unless Romney gets the nomination.  If that happens, we will be in a whole new Article VI world.


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    Quick Reads and Hits

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:33 am, April 21st 2011     &mdash      1 Comment »

    Excited?  Way Too Early!

    USAToday says all our candidates are “flawed.”

    Polling seems to agree.

    As John Pitney points out – It’s WAAAAAY early.  Smart lefties know.  There are lots of distractions.

    However the race plays out, new media will play big.


    Got faint praise from the Boston Globe!!There is some piling on.

    John Fund says he doesn’t need it.

    CBS gave him a picture gallery.

    He beat the Donald like a drum.

    He took a serious shot at Obama and hit the target in the bullseye.

    Ben Smith at Politico seems to be trying to single-handedly revive the Mormon question.  That first link contains this whopper:

    Jon Huntsman’s engagement in South Carolina poses a threat to Mitt Romney for the obvious reason — two former governors with vaguely similar profiles occupy the same space — and for a less obvious one: Huntsman threatens the lowered expectations in the heavily Evangelical Protestant early states of South Carolina and, by extension, Iowa.

    “Being a Mormon had nothing to do with Romney’s problems here,” Huntsman consultant-in-waiting Ricahrd Quinn tells RealClearPolitics. “It was being Romney that was his problem.”

    UH-Huh? Where did Romney get his very first Mormon challenge last time?  Her name was Cyndi Mosteller and the place was South Carolina.   In these posts Smith seems to be acting as shill for the Huntsman backers in SC, not reporting facts on the ground.  (See comments below on “enthrall” for a clue as to what may really be going on.)

    Speaking of the Donald…

    …He keeps trying to act seriously.  But smart people are not buying.


    …Keeps being very serious, even if others keep writing bad punsThe view from Minnesota.

    The Huckster…

    Polls well, but can’t decide.  But those around prove that he, and they, are a silly distraction.


    seems to be where the Huckster is.  But that’s not news.


    …Continues to enthrall the left, staring into the lion’s mouth.

    He had a “Mormon analysis” done this week, and it drew comment.  I still think it’s a way to backhand Romney on religion.


    Gingrich has trouble raising money.

    Barbour just has trouble.

    Thompson gets it.

    Readin’ ‘Bout Religion

    HEHWonder what will happen here?

    Morality and budgets.

    Richard Land – good stuff.

    If it doesn’t matter, why write so much?

    Dennis Prager has a point.

    Our old friend Wayne Grudem interviewed.


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    From The Sublime To The Ridiculous

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 09:08 am, April 18th 2011     &mdash      2 Comments »

    The Left-Leaning MSM is Pathetic, Just Pathetic

    Last Thursday, Romney’s sworn enemy, the Boston Globe, carried a piece trying to figure out whether “Mitt” was a nickname or his “real” name – so they asked for his birth certificate.  Josh Green at The Atlantic tried to turn it into a full-throated left-side-of-the-aisle birther movement.  Even Time’s “Swampland” blog passed the meme on.

    I am fairly sure these people had their tongues planted firmly in their cheeks, but there is a problem here.  Some things are self-parody – namely Donald Trump and his birther strains.  Parodying a self-parody is kind of like a double negative – you end up with something people take seriously, and then you end up looking even more foolish than Donald Trump.  Even Ben Smith as figured out Trump is a joke.

    But if you really need evidence that Trump is playing for media cred, consider that he continues to say he will announce his candidacy, or lack thereof, on the finale of “Celebrity Apprentice,” as reported in Contentions and the NYTimes.  The only people that seem to take Trump seriously are the left (who want to use him to smear the right), WorldNetDaily, and Newsmax.  Even the Tea Party, looking desperately for a frontperson, is not considering Trump, despite his polling. or nonsense like this.  A sign that polling is meaningless at this stage and that the Tea Party is smarter than the press wants to paint them.

    And before we leave silly behind completely, can you believe someone took the time to write this up? – or this for that matter.  And this made me ROTFL – maybe even LMAO.

    Meanwhile, in serious Romney Land…

    He is making good hires.  He is getting good endorsements.  He is polling quite well strategically.  He is writing hard-hitting op-eds, and making very truthful statements.  And, he is being attacked.

    Some attacks are from the right.  Some are from the farther right, and some from the muddled middle may not be attacks at all.  In this last link, David Frum wonders if Romney’s “not cynical enough.”  As to the right-wingers, I wonder when they will learn from their own futility?  If they would quit playing for “purity” and starting playing for the party, we might actually get somewhere.  As things are, with this bunch they split the party and we end up with McCain and Dole.

    As to Frum (the muddled middle), he wonders if Romney is “not cynical enough.”  I think that is a poor choice of words, but an idea worthy of exploration.  I do think Romney has great faith in the innate intelligence of the American people and would rather treat them that way, than pander to the lowest common denominator, which is what most of the political consultants push candidate towards these days.  I think Romney’s approach stands a chance to actually challenge the nation to pull itself out of the seemingly ever-downward cycle of garbage that has passed for politics of late.  (Even if it does account for the fact that some will not be pulled forward, regardless.)

    The religious attacks are starting to get a little serious.  The was a HuffPo piece on the Mormon view of Eden, designed seemingly to paint Mormons as the worst of the end-timers.  (I sure have not experienced that.)  But it was up to our old friend Peggy Fletcher Stack to turn that into a broadside at  Romney.  I think Peggy is thinking “wishfully” here.  I just do not think that the Mormon issue is going to play this time like it did last time, except among the rabid and unimportant right.  (Well, until and if we get to the general, then the left will bang the Mormon drum LOUDLY!)

    Besides, with the left trying to co-opt religion as a straw man for the homosexual agenda, ala Fred Karger (hogwash) the right will not be able to get any media air.  But even that effort is going to fail, because no one can get the story straight when it comes to Romney, religion, and homosexual marriage.

    And while we are talking attacks, Peggy Noonan last Friday (subscription required) was no attack, despite the fears and emails of some of our regular readers.  She’s one of the good “guys.”  This, however, is an attack, but it is so without genuine substance, so much having made up it’s mind before it was written or explored as to almost be beneath notice.

    Do We Suffer From Ennui?

    Many in the press seem to think so.  Despite a burgeoning field, some say we are “praying” for better options.  Even Christian outlets are getting into this act.  It finally dawned on me when I read this brief post from a respected philosopher/theologian in Denver.  (He rains plaudits upon Michelle Bachmann.)  The Republican Party is coming together just find, but Evangelicals find themselves adrift and the press cannot tell the difference between the Religious Right and the Republican Party generally.

    We talked a lot last cycle about Evangelicals cordoning themselves off in an Evangelical ghetto if the continued to insist on candidates that walked, talked, ate, and smelled like them.  We talked about the fact that if they continued to think that “authenticity” meant some sort of similar identity, they would end up without influence.  And so, it seems it has come to pass.

    Politics and governance is a particular art and skill that comes with a particular approach.  If it did not, we would all be doing it.  That means people who do it will, by definition, be different than us.  At least those that do it well.  and so, with that let’s look at…

    …That Burgeoning Field

    Haley Barbour went to New Hampshire (as told by Politico and The Fix) and he won a straw poll in South Carolina. (Sorry Huckster.)

    Tim Pawlenty continues to hire and make pronouncements, but is anyone listening?  He courts the Tea Party, rallies them with talk of his fiscal conservatism, but is he fiscally conservative?

    Jon Huntsman made a major gaffe, I mean MAJOR!  So now the story is  who leaked? – an effort to make the story about something other than Huntsman’s MAJOR GAFFE.  I don’t think so Huntsman, too little too late.

    Mike Huckabee won’t run so he can continue to paint the picture that he was not the religious bigot – they were – maybe these folks too.

    Reading About Religion

    What’s this?  Mormons experiencing other religions?  Can it be they’re…open minded?

    And while we are talking about Mormon students, this story really gets my goat:

    After all, the honor code had been created during the 1960s in an effort by ultra-conservative BYU President Ernest Wilkinson to root out liberals, and honor code enforcement (including anonymous referrals) had been used to bait and harrass feminist, liberal, and gay students, shut down campus free speech, and compromise the privacy of pastoral counseling for students.


    According to Smith, athletes of color, who make up about 23% of the athletes at BYU, make up nearly 80% of the athletes suspended, dismissed, or forced to withdraw for alleged honor code violations.  African-American athletes are experiencing a disproportionate rate of honor code enforcement.

    Oh, please.  In an age where political correctness is so rampant that students are denied degrees for their religious stances, an honor code is a “weapon?”  The simple fact of the matter is universities are allowed to have policies and enforce them.  Some will have left-leaning policies, some right and students should respond accordingly in their personal choices about where to go to school.

    But to assert racism!?!?!  That is simply chicken-and-egg.  Before you DARE make that assertion, you best prove that African-Americans do not actually violate more frequently than others.  The article goes on to provide anecdotal evidence of a racial problem and “bait-and-switch” recruitment tactics, but there is a huge difference between mistakes made and institutional racism.

    A look at the religious left.

    Lowell adds . . .

    Our regular readers are probably wondering if I am still alive.  I happily report that as far as I know, I am  indeed still here, and grateful to John for keeping the ship afloat.  All is well; I have simply had a little more employment than is reasonable, if a man wants to have a little extra time for blogging.

    Through all of that I have been watching developments and have been mildly intrigued by the chatter surrounding the “Book of Mormon” musical.  A few thoughts about that:

    1. My co-blogger at The Hedgehog Blog, Ralph Kostant, posted some interesting thoughts: Why “The Book of Mormon” is a Broadway Hit, But No One is Staging “The Koran.” Highly recommended.

    2. Kathleen Flake wrote a Washington Post op-ed a couple of weeks ago, in which she comments on the significance  of the musical.  Flake’s work on Mormon engagement with American society is well-known to our long-time readers; she is the author of  The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle, about which we have commented much.

    Flake has some specific advice for Romney:

    So what’s a Mormon presidential candidate to do? I say embrace “The Book of Mormon” — Stone and Parker’s version, not just Joseph Smith’s. Oddly enough, the characters in “South Park” have been making a compelling case for religious tolerance for almost 15 years. In 2003, its take on Mormonism was voiced by Stan’s spurned friend Gary. After a half-hour of hilarity about what Mormons believe, and after Gary realizes that his religion is just too much for Stan, the otherwise mild-mannered boy yells: “Maybe us Mormons do believe in crazy stories that make absolutely no sense, and maybe Joseph Smith did make it all up. But I have a great life and a great family, and I have the Book of Mormon to thank for that. The truth is, I don’t care if Joseph Smith made it all up, because what the church teaches now is loving your family, being nice and helping people.”

    This appears to be the point of the Broadway musical, as well. But the point most relevant to politics comes in Gary’s last words to Stan: “And even though people in this town might think that’s stupid, I still choose to believe in it. All I ever did was try to be your friend, Stan, but you’re so high and mighty, you couldn’t look past my religion and just be my friend back. You’ve got a lot of growing up to do, buddy.” Expletive deleted, of course.

    I don’t plan to see “The Book of Mormon” myself, but it occurs to me that the musical’s success it isn’t a bad omen at all for Mormons who, like Mitt Romney, want to participate in American society at the highest levels.  We are starting to be like the Catholics:  fair game for any kind of ridicule, but also beyond the point where most people see anything scary in what what is being ridiculed.  In other words, just part of the American religious landscape.   All in all, I think that is a good thing for everyone.


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