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."

  • Stories and Reality – The Primary That Is and The Primary The Press Wishes For

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:24 am, May 31st 2011     &mdash      1 Comment »

    Let’s face it, stories are better than reality – the characters are bigger and broader, the events are epic, the consequences stupendous and there is ACTION.  Reality is often tedious, hard work, and just not so shiny.  Thus as we retell events of our own lives we “embellish” in classic “fish story” style.  Thus the Jerry Springer Show encourages real-life personal conflict to become cartoonishly violent.  “Reality TV” is anything but real with contrived situations and producers egging the on camera people to do things that are interesting, but that is about it.

    Someone once said to me that “people run for president of the United States for a lot of reasons, and many of them have little to do with the reality of becoming POTUS.”   Those are wise words.  In the old days the other reasons had mostly to do with making sure certain issues, or views on issues, were represented – or that a particular state or region got noticed.  In the modern age; however, those other reasons are mostly about media.  There are rumors that one of the current  “candidates” is required to run by virtue of a media contract of some sort.  Certainly Mike Huckabee has demonstrated that a failed run at the nomination can be turned into a pretty decent media career.  Pat Robertson has demonstrated that there is a feedback loop between a run and media success.  These kinds of media successes, based on runs at the nomination, are likely to lead to more and more people walking, more and more purposefully, the same path to a media career.

    This phenomena, because of the unspoken alliance between the MSM and the Democrat party, has not hit the Dems with near the force that it has the Republicans, but it likely will at some point.  In the meantime within the Republican party it is moving from oddity to problem.  The problem is exacerbated by a left-leaning MSM willing to fan the flames for two reasons.  For one, “candidates” that play for media are more than willing to make of themselves bigger and broader characters.  They simply make better copy because copy is precisely what they are after.  Secondly, of course, as some people fall for the “candidacies,” the divisions created within the Republican party, even if only temporary, weaken the coalition (a repair is never as strong as the original structure)  giving a boost to their unspoken allies in the Democrat party.

    This trend also results in people in the party looking for “star power” when they should be looking at governing ability.  I certainly think that tendency, along with a healthy dose of anti-Mormon sentiment, drove many of those that backed Huckabee last time and urged him to run again this time.  Such people, now that Huckabee has made it clear he will not run seem to be casting about for their next “star” and this entire phenomena was almost transparent in the coverage of the Republican field this week past.

    So Who’s Playing For Media?

    Well, let’s cast about a bit.  Despite the fact that the experts think the field is more or less set, many are agitating for “surprises.“  The field is not nearly as “weak” as the MSM wants us to think.

    Nobody draws more press faster than Sarah Palin, and she stuck out like a sore thumb this week.  She has a movie coming out and is starting a bus tour – which most sane people would read as a promotional thing for the movie – you know like recording artists touring after an album release.  But no, particularly in Evangelical circles, people got all weak in the knees swooning over the possibilities.   But people that watch politics and not media, note that she simply is not doing the things a person that is seriously running for president would do.  Does that mean she will not run?  Not necessarily, but it does indicate that if she does it is not to win – it is for some other reason.

    Relatedly, and interestingly, were the Palin/Bachmann comparisons.  This is the same sort of non-serious analysis as we see with the Romney/Huntsman  comparisons.  Aside from gender, what really connects these two?  There is more than in the Romney/Huntsman deal, but not much.  They both appeal to a certain constituency, but even that is a sub-set of a sub-set and not likely to make a big difference.  Bachmann is doing some things that look like she is somewhat serious, but not doing well at them.  Bachmann may be playing this more seriously than Palin, but I still see her as a media candidate.

    Texas Governor Rick Perry was urged and cajoled to reconsider running this week.  I think Perry is the “Star Search” guy.  Those that are looking for a star lost Huckabee – Christie gave them a flat “NO” and so now they return to Perry.  It’s flattering when people urge you to run, and when the press asks you if you’re going to run.  There is a tendency not to say a flat “no” because you want the flattery to continue.  Perry is a serious guy, if he ran he would run for serious reasons, not media, but in this case he is a media candidate becasue the media is driving the rumors, not him.

    Rudy Giuliani may be the best mayor in NYC history.  He was pitch perfect as the mayor on 9-11 and in its aftermath.  But he is also one of the most disgraced, by virtue of a practical “no show” when the actual balloting began in the last primaries, as a presidential candidate. He simply cannot be serious about running.  And yet, we are treated to story and story after story after story.  What’s up?  We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again, he still has debts from the last campaign and he needs to raise money to pay them off – it’s as simple as that.  He has to keep his brand alive so that he can keep the cash flowing to some extent.

    Oh yeah, and maybe Iowa counts in this category too.

    Straddling the Fence

    Some candidate try to have it both ways when it comes to being serious and playing for media, or something else.  Newt Gingrich seems to fit in that category.  He is a serious guy, but so far his efforts have been some comical, not to mention he is so divisive, that he does not really stand a chance.  Newt has a major commentary/think tank operation to support.  He is trying to look serious, but my guess is he is working to improve his image to support the operation.

    Rick Santorum, making it formal this week, is a traditional “representing a specific constituency” candidate.  He is a good guy and serious about his issues and stances, but the constituency he represents simply is not big enough to carry the day.  He will do a good job, however, of making sure the voice of that constituency is well heard and plays an important role in the convention and platform.

    Who’s Playing For Real?

    Two names are the absolute real deal and one seems to be a for real candidate even if, in the opinion of this observer, is doomed for failure.

    Certainly playing for real is Tim Pawlenty.  Last week represented the first week of his “official” campaigning.  He called himself a “truth teller” and set about by appearing in important places and, essentially, telling them the bad news.  Some called it “pitch perfect.”  However, he drew some attacks and there was a bit of buzz about his apparent lack of charisma.  I think the “truth teller” thing’s appeal is limited.  The base wants it – but the vast majority of the American people do not – they want entitlements and small government too.  It’s schizophrenic, I know, but it really does seem to be what most people want and expect.  It also means a politician has to thread a needle.  In Pawlenty’s case, I think the turn towards the center that he would inevitably have to make will, with this approach, be too drastic and torpedo his chances.

    Also playing for sure and for certain is Mitt Romney.  He will make it official June 2, in New Hampshire.  This lead to renewed speculation about his Iowa strategy.  But if you want to know why he is announcing in New Hampshire, look no further than his polling numbers there.  Most analysis is that he is the guy to beat.  Even those that are not “in love” with him are starting to turn towards him.  There is no surer sign of his strength; however, than the fact that he is being targeted by the left and attacked from the left-center.

    At the moment, the primary that is is between Romney and Pawlenty, but that can change.  Gingrich has the ability to turn his candidacy from the farce it has been to the real deal if he applies himself.  Likewise, Jon Huntsman is playing for real and can be impactful if he plays smart.  His wife is on boardSome think he is taking the “Daniels spot,”  but given that he is setting up shop in Florida, I wonder if he is taking up the Giuliani spot from last time?  Although I have no idea why he would as that strategy is a proven loser.  He is very much to the center, maybe even left,  of the center-right grouping which definitely puts him in the Giuliani slot.

    But most telling for everybody are the continued, albeit lazy, Romney comparisons.  Which brings us to…

    The Whole Mormon Thing

    Some are still asking The Question about Romney.  They are asking it derisively about Huntsman.  Huntsman is trying to have it both ways, and I really believe that will, in the end, hurt him severely.  There is even some very slanted “historical” analysis, and analysis of the political activity of the LDS church.

    But the tide actually seems to be turning.  There are pagans pointing out the absurdity of religiously biased voting.  The most left-leaning paper in the English language defends Mormonism as one of many religions in the wake of the Broadway show.  And the Southern Baptists are becoming less predictable than they once were.  Some are even beginning to see the synergy of faith-based public services in an age of smaller government.

    That said, there was one outrageous article published in the week past, but we will leave that for another post.

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    Palin and Daniels In The Pipeline?, Huntsman Rolls Out (sorta), Romney Rises Above, and more…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:24 am, May 23rd 2011     &mdash      1 Comment »

    Palin has a “fire in her belly.”  She says:

    …I want to make sure that America is put back on the right track, and we only do that by defeating Obama in 2012.

    Well. there are a lot of ways to accomplish that besides running.  She’s a valuable player, but at this point, after Trump and Huckabee’s blatant media plays, her running would not be helpful.  Running a presidential campaign is not about media presence.  It requires massive amounts of organization, preparation, strategy.  There are tells about when someone is seriously running and when they are playing media presence.  I don’t see the “running” tells in Palin.  That means that if she runs it will be media stunt and not a serious candidacy.  I am not at all sure that a media stunt will help defeat Obama.

    Speaking of tells, Mitch Daniels tells it all – He is not running.  Wish I could say I was surprised.  His will be an endorsement worth having.

    Jon Huntsman (too bad he spells his name wrong) appears to be getting very serious though.  He is dodging The Question.  Not to mention he is earning a reputation for flip-flop, in the opinion of some, making Romney look good.  (Hey, there’s the definition of “damning with faint praise.”)  Some think he is playing for the McCain vote. (There is  a proven loser.)  He is eating with the right people.

    Meanwhile, Tim Pawlenty is beginning to attract some attention.  He has made it official.  He knows how to have fun.  He has a great story, and he is “plausible.”  By being steady he could very well be the last man standing, but I tend to think the electorate is too engaged this time to settle for last man standing.

    Is Michelle Bachmann coming on? Signs are increasing that she will run.  The question is, “How hard?”  I don’t think she can do much but spoil for Pawlenty who need Iowa to get a running start at things.  However, there are rumors that her run is not to win, but yet another media stunt.  I am not at liberty to disclose the rumors, but here’s hoping that if they are true she will, while playing for media, play not to spoil for the serious players.

    Which brings us to Mitt Romney.  Have to agree with this assessment of last week for him:

    Any week filled with clear displays of his strengths and others’ flaws is a good week for Romney.

    He nailed the president (“threw Israel under the bus“) more than once.  Obama continued with the ‘death hug,’ which says more about Obama’s weakness than Romney’s.  The mandate discussion continues amongst the wonks, now getting into semantic detail that no one cares about, al though a few seem to get it.  He keeps getting declared the frontrunner.

    Huckabee may be through as a candidate, but he is not through trying to make trouble for Romney.  Watch this space.

    But in all this discussion you have to remember that no one is really paying attention at this point.  Although, Obama’s extraordinary mishandling of Israel this week past could change that.

    And finally, what’s really bad about “The Book of Mormon” musical – and if he was fooled by Trump, why would anybody bother?

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    Saturday Thoughts – How Faith Should Affect Votes

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:49 am, May 21st 2011     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Yesterday we saw “religious identity” politics return in spades.  It got even worse today when an emailer sent us a link to an editorial cartoonist drawing Romney in his sacred undergarments, justifying it this way:

    Editorial cartoonists have a tradition of drawing politicians in their underwear.  President Clinton is often drawn with his pants around his ankles and boxer shorts with a pattern of little hearts.  The same treatment is due for serial adulterer politicians like Newt Gingrich, Arnold Schwarzenegger and too many members of congress to list.

    Well, let’s see, Clinton, Arnold, Gingrich all pretty much publicly pulled their pants down with their various sexual escapades.  No such thing for Romney.  Then, of course, there is that little, but very important word, “sacred.”  Ridiculing misdeed is in the great tradition of editorial cartoonists – ridiculing that which we hold sacred most certainly is not.  I suppose, like Mapplethorpe, he has a right to such ridicule, but it does not rise to the level of editorial comment as what Maplethorpe does does not rise to the level of art.

    But the return of religious identity politics has set me to wondering about why it works politically.  America was founded in part in an effort to make religious identity, though not necessarily religiosity,  politically powerless.  That is precisely what “no religious test” is all about.  Yet we want to reassert religious identity in politics because all around us we see what happens when religiosity is removed from the public square – we get sacrilegious drawing masquerading as editorial comment, we get crucifixes in urine, we get presidents that would throw Israel under a bus.  More importantly we get skyrocketing out of wedlock birth rates and nasty, even violent, debates on same sex marriage.  But reasserting religious identity politics is no way to restore the society to some form of decency.  We’ve been trying it for a while now to little or no affect.  Not to mention history has shown such to be a complete failure.

    The evangelical readers here will recognize, though I have no idea if the Mormon readers will, the concept of “spiritual formation.”  This is the evangelical term for developing ones faith and walk with Christ after the initial salvation event.  There is a large void of it in Evangelicalism, and what there is is largely a hammer and tong approach to something that requires quite a bit more finesse.  I guess what I am trying to say here is that for the vast majority of American Christians there really is nothing to their religion other than religious identity.  Catholics are pretty good at spiritual formation, as Mormons seem to be.  Hence we get articles like this from David French.

    There are a lot of reasons to account for this and I will not go into them in this post, but I do want to talk about at least one way out of this morass that does not require conversion to Catholicism or Mormonism – education.  Consider that most of the of the religious/political thinkers that we read every day are trained, at least in some point in their academic career, in a Catholic school, or maybe a yeshiva.  Mormons accomplish much the same thing by remaining somewhat culturally isolated, thus counter balancing the pervasive influence of our increasingly irreligious culture.

    There are indeed many private Evangelical schools out there, but most of them turn out people focused on doctrine, not culture.  They tend to indoctrinate, not educate.  There is a recent rise in classical academies in a effort to fix this problem, but even that will have a limited appeal.  Not everyone is cut out to feast on the Greeks and Shakespeare.  Somehow we need to penetrate to the person whose education may remain limited to the high school, trade school, or community college level.

    To this problem, I would like to suggest the community religious school cooperative.  What I mean by this is that churches of various types in an area could band together to form a private school – perhaps even one that relies in part on the neighboring public school for some of its instruction.  By having many churches band together, the process of coming to agreement between them would tend to knock down much of the indoctrinating tendencies of the more narrowly focused religious school about.  By working with the local public school for classes in things that are less controversial, like math for example, the cost of starting and maintaining the school would be greatly lowered.

    My father graduated from a Lutheran high school in Minnesota, but the majority of his instruction was from the public school next door.  He went to the Lutheran school for religion classes only.  In this day and age we might want to include literature instruction and perhaps even history in the “religious” instruction, but the essential idea would hold.  I work with an endowment my father established to try and fund this school which operates on amazingly low budgets, and tuition, given this sharing arrangement.

    This approach would be, essentially, a step up from home schooling.  It would allow similar education to move to families where stay-at-home parenting simply is not possible.

    Obviously the idea needs a lot of work, but education lies at the heart of spiritual formation.  What do our readers think?

    Lowell adds….

    I posted the following comment on the cartoonist’s web site:

    Ridiculing the religious garments Latter-day Saints wear is simply insensitive to the beliefs and feelings of millions of people who mean you no harm (unlike those who threatened violence against the Mohammad cartoons).  There is no intellectual justification for it.  You might as well put a comically large yarmulke on Joe Liebermann every time you draw him.  How would you justify that?

     

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    Here We Go Again…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 09:01 am, May 20th 2011     &mdash      2 Comments »

    Before we get into the serious stuff for this post, be notified, Pawlenty will make it “official” Monday.  It is amazing to me that something so obvious gets so much coverage.

    And now down to business. I had thought we would make it through the primaries without the blatant examination of Evangelical “problems” voting for a Mormon that we saw last time, but alas.   I think because The Question has been so quiet, the left – in this case represented by Ronald Browstein at The Atlantic – has given us the piece, “Will Evangelicals Sink Romney?“  There are a lot of problems with the piece, not the least of which is it does not account for what I would like to call “the Obama Effect.”  What I mean by that is that the directions this administration has taken the nation are, in the view of many on the right, so dire that we will set aside much that may have bothered us in the past simply to set things back in the generally proper direction.  Yesterday’s speech by His Majesty, uh, er, the President, will go a long way towards making that effect most pronounce in Evangelicals.  Israel is very important to Evangelicals and Romney got it absolutely right when he commented on Obama’s speech by saying he “threw Israel under the bus.

    Brownstein’s piece also suffers from assuming that Evangelicals learned nothing from what happened last time.  We simply are not that stupid.  Even absent the atrocious policies of the current administration, Evangelicals got nothing they wanted out of the last election cycle – in the primary or the general.  They know that they have to do something different to advance their agenda.  Whether that is Romney or not, only this cycle will tell, but they certainly know they have to look at things a bit differently than they did last time to get to where they want to go.

    On Wednesday we linked to a marvelous piece by Jeremy Lott, “In Defense of Mormons.”  It came from a symposium hosted by Patheos’ Catholic Portal and Evangelical Portal, entitled, “For Life and Family: Faith and the Future of Social Conservatism.“  Another marvelous piece has appeared form that symposium since Wednesday by J.E. Dyer, “Yes, Christians Can Vote for Mormons“:

    I have my doubts about Mitt Romney and his political aspirations, but not because he is a Mormon (or Latter-day Saint). Nor does Jon Huntsman’s LDS affiliation affect my opinion of him as a potential presidential candidate. I’ve never really “gotten” the antipathy of some evangelical conservatives to Mormon politicians.

    Clearly, Evangelicals and creedal Christians generally are learning about this stuff and growing wiser.  Past data and voting patterns cannot be expected to be indicative of what will happen this time.

    But the real tell in Brownstein’s piece lies in a paragraph almost 2/3 of the way through:

    Almost all GOP analysts agree that Huckabee’s departure increases the odds that evangelical voters will fragment early on, especially in Iowa, whose caucuses will kick off the Republican race. But if the contest eventually reduces to Romney and one rival — either in the South Carolina primary or immediately after it — Huckabee’s exit increases the possibility that evangelicals will unify against Romney, unless he can expand his appeal with them.

    In other words, “This isn’t really a problem (‘Almost all GOP analysts agree…’) but I am going to write at length about a highly unlikely hypothetical scenario because doing so will create a problem for most likely opposition candidate.”  The piece is precisely what I did expect from the left this cycle – efforts to break us up – attempts to use religion as a wedge inside the Republican coalition.  But I really did expect them to be less blatant and smarter about it than this rather crude and blunt instrument, but there it is.

    Fortunately, we do not need to buy it, and we shouldn’t.

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    Newt Collapsing, Mormon Talk Rising, Republicans NOT Moribund, Romney Takes The Lead, and more…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 02:46 pm, May 18th 2011     &mdash      2 Comments »

    Remember when I said Gingrich was having a hard time catching a news cycle?  Well, the problem lasted until about 10 minutes after I published the thought.  First it was health care (even one of Romney’s worst critics on the matter said Newt made Mitt look good.) , and that blew into a complete Paul Ryan beef.  Then there were personal issues old and newSerious sarcasm ensued.  Clearly Mr. Gingrich does not know the first rule of holes.

    Here’s a spokesman’s response to all this:

    “The literati sent out their minions to do their bidding. Washington cannot tolerate threats from outsiders who might disrupt their comfortable world. The firefight started when the cowardly sensed weakness. They fired timidly at first, then the sheep not wanting to be dropped from the establishment’s cocktail party invite list unloaded their entire clip, firing without taking aim their distortions and falsehoods. Now they are left exposed by their bylines and handles. But surely they had killed him off. This is the way it always worked. A lesser person could not have survived the first few minutes of the onslaught. But out of the billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia emerged Gingrich, once again ready to lead those who won’t be intimated by the political elite and are ready to take on the challenges America faces.”

    That response indicates two very important things.  The first is that Gingrich is having a hard time distinguishing his old role as a thinker/pundit/commentator and his new role as a candidate.  The former snipes at the press, the latter rises above them.  Secondly, the ego evident in such a response is unbecoming in a candidate.

    Gingrich is damaged goods – has been for quite a while.  It must be remembered that he did not retire from the House, he resigned, with egg on his face.  Is political redemption possible?  Of course it is – insert your Winston Churchill thought here – but clearly Newt has not learned the lessons that Churchill learned while in the wilderness, nor are circumstances nearly as dire as they were when Churchill was asked to form a government.  It seems clear to me is that Gingrich is still viewed as damaged goods and he is not helping change that view.

    It is very early and few people are actually paying attention, so he can still survive, but I do think that at this point he will be actively opposed by a number of people that are in a position to do him very serious damage.  I am not yet prepared to say he cannot win, but I will say such would take political skill far in excess of what he has demonstrated up to this point.

    Speaking of Early…

    People seem to be in a hurry to declare Republicans “unhappy with the field.”  They see silly weaknesses in all the possibilities.  They point out that Romney, even with a clear polling lead (told you so) lacks “stalwart support.”  Come on people!  Romney is still officially only exploring, the field is far from set.  It’s a competition for crying out loud.  The idea is for someone to win and build a coalition – we are not even close to there yet.  There is an actual process involved.

    But, of course, they are not interested in reporting that, they are interested in establishing a narrative – a framework on which they can build the story of the Republican primary season.  The framework may or may not actually fit the facts, but that’s not necessarily what they are interested in.  This is the media which, despite now obvious and huge flaws, is in a swoon over Obama.  They are not above using the normal process to paint us as discontented and dysfunctional.

    The only good analysis of the race generally right now seems to be concerning Iowa.  It seems people are figuring out that it does not exactly reflect the nation generally.

    Mormon Talk

    It’s about more than the POTUS race.

    Publicity leech.  Wait – that’s unkind to leeches.

    The real discussion centers on the article last week comparing Romney and Huntsman’s “strains of Mormonism.”  It was in the New Republic and clearly an attempt at mischief, yet it got enough readership that TNR doubled down.  The matter was made much worse by the fact that some serious Mormons treated it like a serious discussion.  Such articles and their related commentary never really get religion.  I don’t care if its about “strains of Mormonism” or discussing the differences between evangelical and denominational Protestantism.  People are individuals and while statistic generalizations are possible when it comes to examining potential candidates those generalizations are meaningless – those individuals and their individual stances, thought, piety and everything else is what is at stake.  Discussion like this are a diversion, trying to get us to look at the generalizations instead of the individuals.

    There was also a minor league attempt to resurrect the “Mormons lie” meme without calling it by name – instead blaming it on a whole wing of the Republican party.  I don’t think this guy understands American democracy.

    Which leads me to the one great piece that appeared on the issue this week.    Jeremy Lott spoke at a symposium recently on the question, “Should traditional Christians be comfortable supporting Mormon candidates for office?”  His remarks were reprinted in Patheos.

    Allow me to answer the question with another one: “Why should they not be comfortable supporting Mormon candidates?” So far as I am concerned, the only legitimate answer is not a sectarian one.

    There may indeed be good grounds to oppose a Mormon candidate for office. Yet they ought to be the same grounds that you would use to oppose someone from your own religious tradition. Random traditional Christian voter X should not vote for Mormon candidate Y for the same reason that he would not for a Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish candidate—because you disagree with the candidate about political matters of great import.

    Please, read the whole thing.  The read it again.

    Elsewhere…

    Mitch Daniels continues to be coaxed, prodded, and anticipated.  Jon Huntsman really is unexamined.  Bachmann may be pushing up her decision date, but if she is being pushed by Pat Buchanan, I know pretty much all I need to know.

    And now Rick Perry rumors are emerging.  While the Republican party is far from in the disarray that the media would have us believe, there is a small group of people searching for Candidate Perfect.  Guess what folks, Candidate Perfect does not exist.  Perry and Christie can sound the way they sound because they have their states behind them – but do you think they would honestly sound that way running on a national level when they need votes from California and Massachusetts?  Let’s be real here.  These guys have a great future ahead in talk radio – they have that down pat.  But national candidacy requires a bit more finesse.

    Finally…

    This is wise advice and this ought to be interesting.

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    The Week That Was – The First Truly Eventful Week of the 2012 Campaign

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:30 am, May 16th 2011     &mdash      2 Comments »

    Let’s dive right in…

    Mike Huckabee Made an Announcement…

    he’s not running.  He’s “following his heart.”  (More likely his pocketbook, but I’ll cease to wisecrack now.)  Not really that shocking and while there has been analysis piled quite deep, no need to bother.  He’s gone – that’s all that matters – well, that and the fact that Mitt Romney has a lot more class than I do.

    Mormon Talk Picks Up…

    …seriously.  Huntsman’s apparent seriousness about running has created a huge uptick in the amount of talk on “Mormon.”   I honestly think it was invited by LDS spokesman Michael Otterson writing about a “Mormon Moment” at WaPo’s “On Faith” area.   Not to mention Deseret News got into it.  Folks, if LDS sources are going to have the discussion, you can bet the media will follow quickly.

    So the left thinks the Mormons will save the party from the rabid Religious Right.  USAToday tries to figure out which of the two is the more Mormon Mormon.  (The fact that they are so different ought to be a reason to stop talking about Mormon, since they clearly will not block vote – but no it’s just another angle.)

    But the worst of the worst was the usually reliable Chris Cillizza, with a video that gets into gossip of a Huntsman/Romney family fued.  He seems to intimate that Huntsman wants to play spoiler by dividing the Mormon vote.  I don’t think the Mormon vote is significant enough on a national scale to make a difference, and since it is western it is not strategic enough for the primaries.   It’s just gossipy, not newsy.

    So with that let’s talk about…

    Jon Huntsman

    He’s trying to do the usual, but is having a hard time.  There are questions about his tenure as ambassador to China and the propriety of campaign preparations.   Of course, there are questions concerning his Republican “authenticity” after working for Obama.  Some asked if he was a “traitor?  He tried to make room for himself, but the Dems may have played their hand prematurely.  (Think about it….)

    And then there is the whole Mormon issue.  The phrase “Huntsman distancing himself…” appeared a lot in those links.  I refer you to my comments of last Wednesday.

    Mitt Romney

    Reaction to his health care speech continues.  The White House was quick to double down on the death hug and their willing allies at the NYTimes echoed.  There started to be meta-coverage of the negative reaction in blogs and news.  But some more positive coverage began to emerge as well.

    AP covered it as “tough choices.”  For what has to be the first time in living memory, the NYTimes gave it more reasonable coverage the the WSJ.  FOX managed to find the real take away from the speech:

    Romney: My First Act as President Is Undoing Obamacare

    And the candidates showed who’s smart and who’s not quite so smart.  All this while Romney is simply carrying on.

    Michael Barone points out there is no true frontrunner, but the piece is from Friday and includes Huckabee in the analysis, not to mention Trump and Palin.  Huckabee is now gone, Palin is not going to run, and Trump is a bad joke.  My guess is that most of the votes aimed at those three will, if they do not go to Romney, not bother to go to anyone.  Huckabee’s withdrawal should leave Romney a clear cut front runner.  It’s still a steep uphill slog for him, especially given the bitterness that came out last Thursday, but to say he is not a front runner is far more difficult than it was last Friday.

    Newt Gingrich

    He actually got in officially last week, but Romney’s speech and Huckabee’s withdrawal robbed him of all but a single news cycle – and he did not penetrate that too much.  There was a bit of worthwhile analysis concerning Newt, but all-in-all, it was another lead balloon for “Mr. Speaker.”

    Tim Pawlenty

    The only coverage he is getting says he is bland and compares him to Michael Dukakis.  Come on people, he’s better than that!

    Mitch Daniels

    So his wife made a public appearance which set everybody all atwitter – given that most know it is her and the marriage that is the reason for Daniels hesitancy to enter the race.  Some of the right people seem to like him.

    But the NYTimes basically slapped his face with a glove.  Daniels and his wife have divorced and gotten back together and the Times dares Daniels to run so they can rip into the story.  This story has not been a secret, but it has not been discussed much either simply out of respect for the couple and in an effort to help things work out for them.  Some say they don’t care about it.

    I care that the NYTimes would be this nasty.

    Donald Trump

    Why are we still talking about this man?  Well, we’re not really, save in the Evangelical ghetto.  There is just something wrong with that – very wrong.  UPDATE 5/16/11 at 4:30 PDTTrump is NOT running.  Not surprising.  Now please, everybody, let’s get back somewhere close to seriousness. BACK TO ORIGINAL POST.

    Just for fun…

    …and despite what I wrote, comics don’t do politics very well.

    Religious Reading

    Microfinanacing, an interesting trend.

    Could this be why Huckabee bowed out and The Question doesn’t play that much.

    Closing Quote…

    My point here isn’t that Daniels is the obvious person conservatives should support for president, in the event he decides to run. He may not be. At this stage it’s impossible to know which candidates will acquit themselves well and which will not. That’s what primaries are for.

    The observations I want to make are separate and apart from the merits of a Daniels candidacy, and it starts with this one. The very purity test that Marr wants to impose on Daniels would have disqualified Reagan. That fact alone should give a moment’s pause to Marr and others who think like him.

    [...]

    My concern is that conservatives, at least the variety that Marr represents, become increasingly anti-empirical and even anti-intellectual. In judging a candidate they subordinate, or almost entirely overlook or even misrepresent, the substantive record of public officials in favor of the style they prefer, which is fierce, confrontational, in-your-face.

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