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."

Trying To Find THE Worst Meme Of The Week

Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:32 am, June 6th 2011     —    2 Comments »

You would think with the Dems in control of the White House and the Senate that their mouthpieces in the MSM could afford to work on building their veneer of impartiality.  It would appear, however, that the electoral results of 2010 have them just frightened enough that they are screechier and nastier than ever.  There were two memes that dominated the week just past – the week in which Mitt Romney formally launched his campaign – and both were coldly calculated to torpedo Republicans and especially those seeking the White House in 2012.  Let’s start with our little pet at the blog…

The Romney Religion Meme

In an amazing bit of candor, Mark Halperin said this week about Romney:

“If he didn’t have his experience from last time, particularly with the prism of the media, which does not like Mitt Romney or root for Mitt Romney in the way most Republican and Democratic nominees have.”

We could debate the “most Republicans” aspect of that for a while, but lets take it at face value.  The media is agreeing that Romney has the media against him.  Therefore, everything that we read has to be viewed through such a prism – especially when it comes to the religion question.

To some extent, the media coverage this week has been refreshing.  The nastiness we discussed last week did echo a bit.  But this go around is very different than last time.   We are not seeing the right questioning Romney’s faith.  Instead we are seeing what we expected last time – the left trying to use it as a wedge to divide Republicans and retain the White House for of the least popular presidents in history.  (The FAR left just used it to beat their drums – to champion their causes – forgive my previous metaphor, it was unintentionally racist.)   Two pieces rose to the fore in this category this week.

The first was Tim Rutten in the LATimes.  Rutten works very hard to play up the Smith piece we examined earlier (oddly without mentioning the Dyer and Lott pieces from the same seminar in favor of Evangelicals voting for a Mormon) and he takes potshots at Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput without having the slightest bit of comprehension about Chaput’s arguments.  The LA Times followed this up with a piece on the Romney campaign that tried to declare his religion as his primary obstacle to election.

Clearly the LATimes is trying to make something true that simply is not true.  We do not have the Robert Novaks quoting highly placed Evangelical sources.  We do not have NRO and other  right leaning sources endlessly discussing the issue, we have instead the least read major newspaper in American trying to make a story.  (And trying.)  Given the LAT’s declining circulation, I wonder whether by linking to it we have not created a significant bump?  One writer called Rutten an “Historical Idiot.

The other piece that took the forefront came the next day and was Dan Gilgoff at CNN.  Not nasty as Rutten, the Gilgoff  piece is just more of the same old yada,yada,yada – it flat out did not need to be written save to raise the issue when there is not much discussion of it.   Gilgoff was not the only one doing this kind of stuff – some guy at the Washington Times did a similar piece, quoting an Iowa source.  Look it is an issue in Iowa (how do you think Huckabee rose to prominence?) but that does not mean it is an issue for the election generally.  The CSM got in on the act as well, but being viewed as “a cult” themselves, the Christian Scientists have a dog in the hunt.

There was a bit more serious work on the subject out of Vanderbilt (the place that brought us the study last time that “flip-flop” = “Mormon” – which makes one wonder about this.)

“Our findings do not rule out the possibility of a Mormon candidate being selected to run against President Obama,” Geer said. We just think that a higher jump might be needed for Romney or Huntsman.”

Ahh, sweet reason.

Of course, Romney had his defenders on the issue, some in very unusual places.  Not to mention the LDS church got some defense too.  There was also much silliness on the issue, and headline grabbing.  Not to mention some bad, and oddpolitical analysis.  But the best defense was an interview Kathryn Jean Lopez did with Hugh Hewitt:

LOPEZ: You say you underestimated the anti-Mormon bigotry last time around. Is that a real problem for Romney? For Huntsman?

HEWITT: No.

Kinda puts all this into perspective, doesn’t it.

And while we’re here, some basic Romney related political news.  This is the most obvious headline ever written, and this the least surprising news of the decade.  This is the press trying once again to establish a narrative that simply is not true.  *SIGH*

SPECIAL NOTE: At press time this has been circulating as the Newsweek cover for this week.  It is both dumbfounding and horrifying.  I’ll leave it to Lowell below.

“Unhappy With The Field” Republicans – The Other Meme

It’s old news by now, but we still hear it – from The Hill and Chris Cillizza – even despite the fact that the field really is solidifiying.  We see it in Chris Christie rumors, and Rick Perry rumors, and Donald Trump rumors and on/off Jim DeMint rumors and self-inflicted Mike Huckabee rumors.  What’s really going on here?

Well, certainly there are some people out there that want some one other than who is in the field.  Either they are serious backers of the subjects of the rumors, or they are just malcontents.  But the fact of the matter is there are not enough of them out there to make a difference.  In truth, these people, at least the ones that have serious political capabilities, have decided not to run because they have looked at things and know they do not have enough support to get anywhere.   But true believers are true believers, so they are going to keep trying.  One of the ways they do that is by calling up the press and generating buzz.  What I can’t believe is the press is gullible enough to fall for it.

But, as we have established, the press is interested in aiding the Dems.  So if they can establish this meme, they divide Republicans and one of the least popular presidents in history stands a reasonable shot at reelection.  Which raises the question about who is really gullible?

That’s what makes this meme so despicable.

Which brings me to Rudy Giuliani.  The rumors persist and Rudy is helping.  Giuliani is a real American political hero, and what happened last cycle is a shame, but he chose the losing strategy and now he has to pay his campaign debts.  I just wish he could figure out a way to do so without this sort of nonsense.  We need a strong an united Republican party.  It’s not helping.

Speaking of “Unhappy With The Field”…

The Faith and Freedom Event was this weekend just past.  Here is the CBN analysis.  This was a Ralph Reed event.  Does it represent a comeback for him?  Only timer will tell, but what it does show us is that the Religious Right has gotten a lot smarter.  There was no Mormon bashing (at least reported to date.)  There was no divisiveness, there was a simple attempt to get at the stances of the candidates on the issues key to this coalition.  This is is noted contrast to the religious coverage of ROmney noted above.  It is also worthy of note that this thing has gotten almost no press.

There were hundreds, if not thousands of people at this event, all behaving – having a civil discussion about things religious and political.  Compare that the the handful, literally, of sources cited in all that coverage we gave above about Romney and religion.  Seriously, there are only about 4-5 people that produced all the quotes in all those articles.  Meanwhile the FandF event has gotten the minimum coverage that can be given to an event where virtually all of the players showed up.

Once again, we see the press playing up the division, and ignoring the truth on the ground, all in an effort to portray Republicans as something other than they are.  We need to redoucble our efforts to paint the true picture.

The Rest Of The Field

Sarah Palin is NOT a candidate, despite what some people may think.  Even when she sorta, kinda tries to sound like one, she is missing the mark.  Sadly, her and Huckabee, both of whom have made a living out of being “possibles” these last few years are going to find that avenue closed as the field solidifies and it becomes apparent that they are not in it.  Right now, both seem to be reduced to stunts – Huckabee and his comments linked above (“no door is closed”) and Palin and her bus tour.  What they should be doing in consolidating their audience into a sold fan base and turning themselves into pure media figures.  It is time to drop the pretense.  Yeah, the competition is tough in the commentary business, but they’ll be fine.

Tim Pawlenty is taking the most traditional route around.  Through Iowa to New Hampshire. His wife is getting the press treatmentFOXNews notes how the field is really shaping up – Romney v Pawlenty.  He is making policy speeches and there is beginning to be some push back.

Most interesting is that he is saying nice things about Michelle Bachmann, but she is not returning the favor.   This really makes me wonder about Bachmann’s reasons for getting in.  Could there be a personal beef involved?  We have seen this game played before.  Mike Huckabee, not a chance of winning nor a friend of anybody but Mike Huckabee, played Iowa specifically to rob Romney of momentum last time.  Pawlenty finds himself prohibitively behind in the polling in New Hampshire and therefore needing Iowa in the worst way to attract enough attention to keep the campaign rolling.  Bachmann fits nicely in the Huckabee/Iowa mold and could have the same effect on the Pawlenty campaign.  Watch this space.

Jon Huntsman seems to be getting very real.  He certainly has a friend in George Will, and he did the FandF event.  I found this fascinating:

“We will be competing vigorously here [New Hampshire], and in South Carolina and in Florida, but we probably won’t be spending a whole lot of time in Iowa,” he said. “I guess I understand how the politics work there.”

OK, skipping Iowa makes a lot of sense for him, as it does for Romney, and for the same reasons – But South Carolina?!  Either he thinks Pawlenty or Bachmann are unbeatable in Iowa, or he is going for a modified Giuliani strategy.  Well, we saw how things worked for Rudy last time….

Newt Gingrich is losing ground fast.  Another week or two of this and I’ll start placing bets that he is out BEFORE the caucuses.

Important Religious/Court Story…

The Obama administration is using the NRLB to attack more than Boeing on behalf of their union buddies.   I  am getting visions of Senator Palpatine and his ranting about bureaucrats before he became emperor.  Do you think Obama is a Star Wars fanboy?

Wise Words in closing…

Haley Barbour:

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour issued a stern warning to conservatives Friday: relent on ideological purity in the primaries or risk losing the general election.

“We’re going to nominate someone for president who doesn’t agree with you on everything and who you don’t agree with on everything,” Barbour said. “But I’ll tell you what. You’re going to agree with them a whole lot more than you agree with Barack Obama.”

If they don’t, Barbour warned, they’ll play right into the Democrats’ hands.

“Barack Obama has worn out two sets of knee pads, down on his knees praying that conservatives are going to split themselves,” he said.

I think he’s been reading this blog!

Lowell adds . . .


Well, John and I really did think that if Romney ran in 2011 his religion would be a subject of much less interest. Now we see the cover of this week’s issue of Newsweek:

How many times have I said on this blog, “Where to begin?”

Let’s try our oft-used context test:  Imagine Joseph Lieberman, when he was a presidential candidate, dressed as a Hasidic rabbi and jumping for joy on Newsweek’s cover.  Can’t do it, can you?

On the other hand, part of me wonders if this isn’t a perversely good sign.  I have always thought “The Book of Mormon” musical was a left-handed compliment, and perhaps a recognition that Mormonism has reached a place of cultural acceptance that makes it old hat to ridicule the faith.  Yes, I know we can all think of other ways in which we would know we have “arrived.”  But maybe we are like Catholics or Presbyterians — and even Jews — who are regularly satirized on shows like Letterman.

Also, having read all the articles in this issue of Newsweek, there’s nothing terribly offensive in the content.  There are the usual minor inaccuracies and the gum-popping effort to put a glitzy spin on the article:  Subtitled “Mormons Rock!” the article’s teaser sub-headline is“They’ve conquered Broadway, talk radio, the U.S. Senate-and they may win the White House. Why Mitt Romney and 6 million Mormons have the secret to success.”

Oh, please.  The secret to success?  I’m one Mormon who needs  a little help with that one, I guess, especially at bill-paying time.

But on the still other hand, I agree with John’s assessment, e-mailed to me:  “Nothing new, nothing deep, just claptrap, but the image and tone say it all.”  Of course I understand that McKay Coppins and his colleagues at Newsweek seem to be trying to write something newsy and interesting, but for heaven’s sake, Mitt Romney is running for president of the United States.  Isn’t there more to him than his religion?  And if we have to talk about his faith, can’t we do that in something approaching a respectful manner?  That cover photo is in many ways the equivalent of showing Barack Obama in Kenyan tribal robes in a jocular attempt to call attention to his African ancestry.

We can do better than this.

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