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."

  • The Post That Rants About The Debt Debate

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 08:30 am, July 29th 2011     &mdash      4 Comments »

    This blog is about presidential elections and nothing in the current debt ceiling debate is directly related, so you may consider this a bit off topic.  So be it.

    In all the commentary, analysis and endless discussion about the current debate, I keep hearing one thing over and over and over again, “We need systemic reforms.”  Everybody is trying to use this crisis to promote their pet project – the Balanced Budget Amendment, term limits….  Nonsense, we don’t need systemic reform, we need people reform.  Let me lay this out for you.

    What we are witnessing is a failure of elected leadership.  Don’t get me started on the president.  He is childish, churlish, petulant, self-absorbed and in so far over his head that the Titanic looks near the surface.  Harry Reid seems to be Obama’s court jester – he’s not even trying to lead.  Which brings me to John Boehner.  I have a great deal of personal sympathy for Boehner.  He is in a heck of a jam between the Tea Party freshman and the rest of the party.  But that jam notwithstanding, leadership would find a resolution.  Boehner is doing his best imitation of a bull in a china shop when clearly a different approach is called for.  Like I say, I have a great deal of personal sympathy because I don’t know what that different approach is (if I did, maybe I’d run for office) but clearly something else has to happen and it has to happen NOW.

    Leadership is an art, not a science.  (Again, one of the reasons yours truly is no good at it – I’m a scientist at heart.)  There is much that has to be taught to someone so they can lead, but if they are not adept at it to begin with they will never succeed.  It is hard to find institutions that teach and foster it anymore.  But worse in a society that apparently values egalitarianism more than prosperity, we tend to suppress those that are adept.  Without leadership, ideas are just ideas – they never can become a functioning reality.  When we do not foster and value leadership we end up with a culture of competing ideas, but little reality.  At some point debate must end and action must ensue, or we will find chaos.  And financial chaos is staring us dead in the face.

    I don’t know what is going to happen between now and Tuesday, there is a lot of end game to go around.  But I do not think it is too early to use this situation as a call to restore character and leadership to a place of value in our nation.  We don’t need to point fingers at who is failing at it right now – there will be plenty of that to go around.  We need to foster it in ourselves and learn to recognize it in those we vote for.

    By fostering leadership in ourselves we first of all meet our obligation as voting citizens.  In a republic such as ours we are each leaders in the ultimate sense.  We need to learn to vote intelligently.  We seem to have grown to the point where political ideology is more a matter of “religious” conviction than thought out position.  Ideology matters, but it is not determinative of leadership and leadership matters more in the end.  A good leader with bad ideology is Bill Clinton – the nation worked with him in the White House, even if we disagree with much that was done.  A bad leader with bad ideology is Barack Obama, watching the nation rapidly travel to the edge of a precipice.   In our small leadership role of voting we have to learn this important fact and look for it in those we vote for.  We have to have the strength of character to vote against our ideology when leadership becomes the most necessary trait.

    As we approach 2012 we need to examine the candidates carefully and with the lessons of this debate in mind.  We do need to evaluate where they stand on the issues of the day, but more we need to examine their character and leadership ability.

    Which brings me back to my point about people reform.  Our system was designed to be used by good people and operated by good leaders.  Systemic reform is an admission than we are less than what the founders thought us to be.  I, for one, do not wish to think that of myself or those around me.  Not to mention systemic reform will invariably bring with it elements of unwanted forms of government.  Term limits, for example, will empower the bureaucrat over the long term which will eventually result in a kind of aristocracy we will not like – please, consider California when you think about term limits.  As further example, I know the BBA as currently proposed contains “exceptions,” but no one is a true prophet and all necessary exceptions cannot be foreseen.  It will burn us someday if it comes to pass, or be so denuded by the courts as to no longer be useful.  Any reform you can come up with will have as much or more potential downside as it has upside.  We simply do not need reform, we need better people in the system we have now.

    It all comes down to who we vote for, and most importantly how we make our decisions about who we will vote for.

    Hmmm.  Maybe this post is not as off topic as it might seem.

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    Religious Attacks Abound, NOT Mormon Based, Savior Watch Contionues, The Board Shifts, and more…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:29 am, July 25th 2011     &mdash      3 Comments »

    If you are religious and want to run for president, prepare for…

    …Attack, Attack, Attack!

    If you’re a Romneyite, I suppose it’s a good thing, but if you value your religion and your political voice I would not be to happy. The savaging of Michele Bachmann continues apace and as Rick Perry’s entry in the race looks increasingly likely, he too is coming under extreme “scrutiny” for his faith. The political math is pretty simple. Attacking Perry and Bachmann for faith means evangelicals, the people most likely to try and sink Romney are going to be too busy defending themselves to go after Romney. Not to mention they are dividing the vote between them which means the bloc probably won’t be big enough to defeat Romney. Some are talking about Romney’s “stealth” campaign in Iowa. A Perry/Bachmann cage match with some interference by Pawlenty could make for an extraordinarily strong showing for Romney in that state in which all expect him to under perform. Perry appears to be gearing up for South Carolina, ala Fred Thompson, but…. I wonder what a surprise win or a stronger than expected second place in Iowa would do for Romney? Only good things I am sure.

    But the attacks on Perry and Bachmann and anyone else religious are scurrilous and problematic. We have contended all along that religion based attacks on Romney would result in similar attacks on those of us in the more mainstream expressions of faith. Further, we contended that if we attacked Romney on the basis of his faith we would be aiding and abetting our opponents and that certainly seems to be the case. One of our friends at Evangelicals for Mitt has risen to Michelle Bachmann’s defense this week past, and rightly so – not to mention some others. (Speaking of which, Nancy French at EFM got a bit of a nod from “Christianity Today.” I am just waiting for the attacks to begin on them.) I predict that this will be the ugliest campaign in terms of religion this nation has seen in a long, long time, and I do not think Romney is going to bear the brunt of it.

    So what went on? The mini-furor over Bachmann’s church departure echoed a bit, but is largely done. The attacks this week were based on reports of sever migraine’s. That’s what David French was defending her about above. It’s a low blow, that’s for sure. Here’s a good, if left leaning, synopsis of the issues facing her. It’s not pretty, but then she is a bit extremist so she is likely to draw extreme response.

    This may be the best analysis of the Bachmann thing I have read to date:

    I talked to a bunch of party operatives and analysts last week, and every one of them said that while Bachmann could well cause the early demise of Tim Pawlenty’s candidacy and complicate Romney’s bid for many months to come, she stands almost no chance of victory. And never did.

    So why all the fuss?

    She’s a bonanza for the news media, which these days have vast acres of not only cable TV but also cyberspace to fill. She’s manna for pundits, who can talk only so archly about the vanilla vanguard of Romney, Pawlenty and company. When Bachmann stormed into view, she provided a wanted, needed burst of flavor and color. But flavor and color go only so far.

    Yep, Tim Pawlenty is in a world of hurt since her entry in the race – not that he was doing that well before. This lead some to believe he was behind the headache attack, but he denies it vigorously. Pawlenty needs to settle down, that is for sure. He is too reactive and unsure of himself. He fails to attack Romney in a debate then comes out and overstates the case in a radio interview, a classic sign of someone that knows they are standing in quicksand. It is too early to write him off, but he has got to get his footing quickly.

    Some wondered if Perry/Bachmann was the super ticket. Which brings me to…

    …The Latest Savior, Rick Perry

    When Jesus came to earth, the Jews were anxious for the arrival of the Messiah and there were many that laid claim to, or were shoved into, that slot. There is a certain stripe of voter in the Republican party that strikes me very much the same. Perpetually dissatisfied, they cast about for the perfect candidate. This stripe of voter is largely, but not entirely, religious. Therefore, when someone comes along and claims a “call,” or otherwise speaks their language, they hop on the Savior express, yet again.

    Perry, should he run, will be formidable, at least for a while. This group is so fickle that they just cannot be relied upon until they are actually forced to cast a vote. This was Fred Thompson last time, and Perry sure seems to have more “fire in his belly” than ol’ Fred did, not to mention a much better political machine. But this is an election for President, not Savior, despite what some seem to think.

    Perry is not as extreme as Bachmann, so much so that many of those that have been looking to him as Savior may have a serious issue on their hands, so the MSM will have a harder time finding a petard upon which to foist him. But they will work hard at it. If anything the religious attacks will be harder and uglier. I think the jury will be out on Perry for a while yet.

    The Board Is Altered, But Mormons Are Still In Play

    Bachmann and Perry’s likely entry have changed this elections dynamic considerably. What looked like a Romney/Pawlenty/also-ran race now looks like a Romney v winner of the Bachmann/Perry undercard. And as we have seen, the undercard is getting all the current religious attention. Nobody is talking about the fact that Romney is a Mormon. But they are talking Mormon:

    So, the LDS church is responding to all this in a responsible way. They’ve added to their online resources a page devoted to the church’s stance on political freedom (they like it). They, for one, want to talk about what really matters.

    There is some Mormon election buzz. Deseret News covered some of Huntsman’s statements on his faith. And Time got a little underhanded with this headline on their Swampland blog:

    Who’s Changed More: Romney or Huntsman?

    Think they’re evoking “flip-flop” and tying it to Mormonism? No, of course not, that would be biased reporting. Not Time.

    But that takes us to…

    The Silly Political Attack on Romney

    So here is the thing. Before politics, Mitt Romney was a businessman, a pretty good one. Lots of people are, Lowell and I for example. A number of Romney’s friends are therefore quite naturally businesspeople themselves. Doing business requires making hard decisions, even painful ones. Sometimes it means laying people off or foreclosing on mortgages. So this week saw a mini-flood of stories about Romney’s decisions to lay people off when he was at Bain and some of his supporters business decisions as well. This was entirely predictable as the tactic was used against Romney by Ted Kennedy in Romney’s barely-failed Senate run against the Democrat legend. I hate the tactic because it plays upon and reinforces people’s ignorance about the difference between a company and the economy. Not to mention it plays on people insecurities when what they need is to be motivated to reach now heights.

    This got little play, but it’s early. Look for a return of this meme and call this week past a trip into the wading pool to see the temperature of the water. There are lots of polls saying lots of things right now, but in the broader ones, Romney is still carrying the day significantly.

    In The Side Show

    Jon Huntsman is in disarray before his campaign was ever really arrayed. Huntsman is too moderate for the base and now that the media has Bachmann to knock around on the religion angle, Huntsman is not a useful tool to bring up the whole Mormon thing. The MSM may try to revive him because he is moderate, but I think if Bachmann hangs tough she’ll be more fun for them.

    And speaking of too moderate for the base, Rudy Giuliani must still need to raise some money because this week past saw some more talk of his taking a shot.

    Religion Talk…

    …There’s a lot of it.

    One person is trying to paint a Mormon as more reasonable, and biblical, than the Evangelicals. Now that is a twist. Although his failure to mention Romney should tell us something.

    Good question. Silly question. Christ was NOT a politician.

    There is a bit of a point here.

    Closing Fun

    For a comic geek like me, this story showed that in some areas our senators have a complete lack of imagination.  My choice, were I a senator, would be Black Lightening – he actually served in the president’s cabinet.

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    Herman Cain “Goes There” – The Huckabee Strategy Poorly Played

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:51 am, July 19th 2011     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    The Washington Times:

    Republican presidential primary candidate Herman Cain says front-runner Mitt Romney cannot win the party’s White House nomination next year because of his religion.

    Romney would be a good choice, but I don’t believe he can win,” Mr. Cain told editors and reporters of The Washington Times.

    Mr. Cain on Monday became the first of Mr. Romney’s nine declared and potential nomination rivals to say publicly and explicitly something long whispered: namely, that the former Massachusetts governor’s Mormonism is an obstacle too big to overcome in the most solidly Republican region in the country. The South has a high concentration of evangelical Protestants, many of whom doubt the legitimacy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    “I know the South, and you have to win the South. Mitt Romney did not win it when he ran against John McCain” in the 2008 primaries, said Mr. Cain. “The reason he will have a difficult time winning the South this time is because when he ran the first time, he did not do a good job of communicating his religion. It doesn’t bother me, but I know it is an issue with a lot of Southerners.”

    The San Francisco Chronicle, of all places, analyzed this one correctly:

    Apparently, GOP Presidential candidate Herman Cain woke up, looked at his puny, single-digit-and-dropping poll numbers, and decided get his Mormon bash on with a not-too-subtle backhand at fellow Republican, and early poll front-runner Mitt Romney.

    Cain came in to this thing intending to be the “plain speaker,” the guy that “said it like it is.”  Huckabee parlayed this plain spoken guy thing into second place last time.  Unfortunately, few people have Huckabee’s political gifts, though many share his lack of concern for what playing the game this way can do to the party and conservatism in general.  Anyway, instead of grabbing the space, Cain is having to compete for it with Bachmann, and increasingly Pawlenty – and both of them are getting more traction in the space than he is.  It was inevitable someone would try the “innocent” question, or in this case statement, gambit.

    Remember what the game is here.  Such a plausibly deniable utterance allows the candidate to provide political cover for the gross anti-Mormons while being able to try and not look anti-Mormon themselves.  I have been worried that with the latest ads and Huckabee daughter hire, Pawlenty would be the one (not to mention his pretty bad numbers) that went there first.  (Although I honestly thought Pawlenty was classier than that.)  Maybe Cain was too and decided to beat him to the punch.  What Cain has apparently forgotten is that anyone that anti-Mormon will likely be even more racist.

    Regardless, Herman Cain is not Mike Huckabee and this will serve only to push him out farther in the margins than he already is.  As we saw yesterday, religion generally is under severe fire.  It’s not going to work this time.

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    Religion In The Crosshairs – Mormon and Otherwise

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 10:58 am, July 18th 2011     &mdash      2 Comments »

    Make no mistake dear friends, the battle is joined in open politics.  To date, the war against religion has been something for culture and courts, but it is now a major player in our presidential politics.

    Starting With The Mormons

    The attacks on Romney’s, and now Jon Huntsman’s, faith (now yawners in their own right) are being turned, as we have predicted they would be for years now, in to attacks on religious people and religion generally.  Here is how it is working.

    Take for example, the attempts to stir up the “Are Mormons Christians?” issue.  This is an issue that will be debated forever.  Mormon doctrine, despite their worship of Christ, is so heterogeneous in comparison to creedal Christianity that there will always be those that want to put them outside “Christianity.”  I have made my argument here a number of times and will not revisit it – such would be a distraction in this discussion.  It has come up in the context of the possible Rick Perry run.

    When you have Perry, a open and outspoken Evangelical, speaking about his possible run in definitive evangelical language, people to whom doctrine means little and political stance everything, and therefore unable to effectively distinguish between Mormons and Evangelicals, are only going to see a weak point in the opposing party to exploit.  (As an aside, how come we never exploit such minor divisions?  For example, Jewish-Americans and African-Americans?  The answer, of course, is that we would find it utterly distasteful, perhaps even immoral.)

    While exploiting that division, they are painting we Evangelicals as close minded, even bigoted, which some amongst us certainly are, but most are not.   Yet, the image is very unpalatable to the average American voter on either side of the aisle.  Even the Washington Post is starting to notice this is something a bit different than the standard Mormons v Evangelicals line.

    This whole strategy is really apparent in Iowa, and while Iowa may vote oddly for the primaries, they still set a tone.  On the one hand, with the hiring of Huckabee daughter Sarah by Tim Pawlenty, and an ad on his part that some are questioning if it plays the Mormon card, one begins to wonder if Pawlenty will “go there” out of desperation since Michele Bachmann is sucking all his air out of the room.  Romney’s Iowa strategy now seems more aimed at Bachmann than Pawlenty.  But they are not done setting us up as uber-religious nutcases.

    Focusing on Evangelicals

    With Pawlenty unable to get traction, and Perry in the distance, taking a stand in South Carolina, not Iowa if he gets in, Bachmann now carries the evangelical flag.  Unlike Pawlenty, she is not leaving any room for the Mormon card to be played on her behalf, and so the long knives have come out for here in two stories.

    The first story concerns Bachmann and here former church.  Her family recently resigned that church because her congressional duties had prevented her attendance for at least a couple of years.  So some intrepid reporters (troublemakers?) went looking and found some ancient Lutheran doctrines in opposition to the papacy and tried to make a big deal out of it, causing the denomination to respond.  Now in the first place, the church the Bachmann’s were a part of was the Wisconsin Synod – very middle of the road in the Lutheran spectrum.  Yes, Martin Luther, founder of Lutheranism, and the Pope did not get along – it was called the Reformation.  It also happened in the 16th century for crying-in-my-soup!  If you want to make a deal out of this, you could probably say that ALL protestant faith and anti-papal.  What’s really amazing is that there are many on the farther right of the protestant spectrum that still bear amazing amounts of anti-Catholic bias, but despite their histrocial roots, Wisconsin Synod Lutherans are not much counted among them.  This entire meme points out that the point is not to inform about the candidates religion, but to try and play gotcha.

    But they did not stop there.  Bachmann’s husband runs Christian Counselling clinics, that by some tellings will advise you to “pray the gay away“:

    A former patient who sought help from the Christian counseling clinic owned by GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann and her husband, Marcus, told ABC News he was advised that prayer could rid him of his homosexual urges and he could eventually be “re-oriented.”

    “[One counselor's] path for my therapy would be to read the Bible, pray to God that I would no longer be gay,” said Andrew Ramirez, who was 17-years-old at the time he sought help from Bachmann & Associates in suburban Minneapolis in 2004. “And God would forgive me if I were straight.”

    Now I, and I am willing to bet you a number of other Americans, do not find this controversial.  Which is, I am sure the reason the story is not getting as much traction as it’s proponents would like.  So, a new buzz has been created:

    Hear that snickering? That’s the sound of the 2012 mudslinging starting in earnest.

    If you aren’t yet familiar with the growing whispers about Michele Bachmann’s campaign—the uncorroborated speculation that the candidate’s profoundly antigay hubby, Marcus, is a closeted gay man—you will be. The chatter has already made its way from the blogs and Twitter (Cher tweeted that Marcus has tripped her exquisitely tuned gaydar) to the alternative press to The Daily Show, where Jon Stewart and Jerry Seinfeld left each other in stitches this week taking shots at Marcus Bachmann’s effeminate manner and “center-square gay” voice. (Anyone out there old enough to remember Paul Lynde?) As Stewart joked, the guy is “an Izod shirt away from being the gay character on Modern Family.” Clips of the comedians’ faux “comedy repression” session promptly popped up on the websites of such stodgy outlets as The Washington Post and The Atlantic.

    Now, absent evidence, that is about as scandalous as politics can get.  The purveyor of this rumor just linked takes things a step further in speculating about the Bachmann’s:

    The degree to which Christians should anticipate or even pine for persecution has long been a common debate topic. (“You know if you are never persecuted for your beliefs then you are probably not bothering Satan too much,” asserts this poster at ChristianOvercomers.com, adding that “being delivered up to Satan and the rules of his beast system is your DESTINY as one of God’s elect.”) The tendency of some religious conservatives to see themselves as a political minority under siege has even been given its own cheeky moniker, Christian Persecution Complex.

    In modern-day America, chances for actual religious martyrdom are few and far between. For the pious like Bachmann, political martyrdom can be the next best thing.

    Bachmann has already pointed to religious bigotry as a source of her political opposition. “I was attacked repeatedly for my religious faith, and the media was a willing accomplice,” she told the Minneapolis Star Tribune of her 2006 House race. “I’m really disturbed by the media’s lack of tolerance and understanding for the belief of a committed Christian.”

    And so, we move from issue (homosexuality) to unfound rumor, to portrayal of Christians as having some sort of martyr complex – in other words, we’re “nuts.”

    Not pretty is it?  Said Cal Thomas this week past:

    Religion can and has been used as a distraction to dupe voters.

    He is very right about that.  We cannot allow ourselves to be so duped.  We cannot fall for the inter-religious baiting they are trying to provide us with.  We have to learn to fight back against the scurrilous rumor-mongering so evident against Bachmann.  Our candidate have to learn how not to supply these people with such ammunition, and if they do not we have to marginalize them for the sake of what progress we can make.

    Other wise, we will just keep losing.

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    Defining What We Need From A POTUS

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:40 am, July 15th 2011     &mdash      1 Comment »

    Two articles appeared yesterday that could make you pretty depressed if you are at all inclined to depression.  One at Bloomberg from Peter Orszag (OBAMA’s former Director of Budget and Management) and the other from Daniel Henninger at OpinionJournal.  Said Orszag:

    The continuing weakness in the labor market and the saga of the debt limit highlight the dual problems we face: low economic growth right now and an unsustainable amount of debt for the future. Unfortunately, both are probably more significant than policy discussions and official predictions about the U.S. economy suggest.

    The history of economies recovering from severe financial distress implies the unemployment rate will remain stuck at elevated levels for years, not quarters. And sluggish growth, in turn, will mean larger budget deficits.

    Said Henninger:

    Robert Lucas, the 1995 Nobel laureate in economics, has spent his career thinking about why economies grow, and in particular about the effect of policy making on growth. From his office at the University of Chicago, Prof. Lucas has been wondering, like the rest of us, why, if the recession officially ended in the first half of 2009, there hasn’t been more growth in the U.S. economy. He’s also been wondering why this delayed recovery resembles the long non-recovery years of the 1930s. And he has been thinking about the U.S. and Europe.

    In May, Bob Lucas pulled his thoughts together and delivered them as the Milliman Lecture at the University of Washington, an exercise he described to me this week as “intelligent speculation.”

    Here is the lecture’s provocative final thought: “Is it possible that by imitating European policies on labor markets, welfare and taxes, the U.S. has chosen a new, lower GDP trend? If so, it may be that the weak recovery we have had so far is all the recovery we will get.”

    The Obama-will-turn-us-into-Europe argument is a staple of the administration’s critics. Prof. Lucas’s intelligent speculation, however, carries the case beyond dinner-party carping.

    See what I mean?  Ugly stuff.  I’m not an economist; I don’t have all those facts and figures to back me up, but I am a businessman and I make my living by visiting and helping businesses around the country.  I visit 20-25 businesses, mostly manufacturers, every month.  While that perspective gives me a less than glowing picture, it is not one nearly so pessimistic as these articles portend.  I see businesses that have grown in the last 18-24 months and that project growth for the next 12 – good growth.  I see businesses that need to expand and the balance sheet shows the money is there for the needed leases and real estate and equipment, but rather than build a new plant, they continue to try and squeeze more from the same.  I see businesses that are working massive overtime to meet demand but absolutely refuse to hire.

    Essentially, I see a crisis not of business and economics, but of confidence.  People are simply afraid.  The great economic engine of the United States of America is not out of fuel; people are simply refusing, because it looks so scary out there, to put it in gear.  I can’t say I blame them.  When you read economic news like these articles and the president behaves petulantly, even childishly, who can be confident?  We’re out here working our little behinds off, and the president threatens the entire global financial system for the sake of his political legacy.  The president is supposed to have our back, but nobody thinks he does.

    And that more than anything defines what we need as a nation from our president, particularly in these times.  We need someone that has our back, that gives us CONFIDENCE when we step out and risk it all to make a buck.  Well, it is clear that is not Barack Obama.  And so I survey the field of Republicans and wonder who can give the economy that confidence.  Well, it is no shock to anybody that this blog leans heavily in the direction that Mitt Romney is that person.  But I do not want to argue for Romney right now – I want to tell you what will not build confidence.

    I mourn for every abortion that happens every day.  I pray for the souls of all involved.  Every time I am told I cannot pray “here” because well…, I fell that brief flash of anger.  When I try to watch TV or go to the movies and am told I HAVE to think that homosexual practice is a perfectly normal human activity, I wince.  But if all of those things disappeared tomorrow and nothing changed economically, I would have little confidence about tomorrow.  If; however, the economy returned to its normal robust self – if we returned to essentially the economic America we have always been instead of the European social democracy we are threatening to become – then I would be confident not only in the future, but in my ability to carry on the good fight on those social issues that indeed plague us.

    The last thing we need right now are pledges about marriage and abortion.  We do not need purity tests; they are under these circumstances distractions.  Worse yet they divide a party that desperately needs to be united to overcome the fiscal mess we find ourselves in.  That is why the smart candidates are not signing those things.  Seems like Michael Gerson, quoting Jeb Bush, agrees.

    But we need more.  The smartest candidate, the one that ultimately wins, has to do a bit more than prove he is better economically than Obama. (Heck – I probably qualify on that account.)   The smartest candidate has to grab the nation by the scruff of the neck and tell us we are better than this.  He, or she, is not going to win by pointing out how bad Obama is – that is as we used to say in physics class “intuitively obvious to the most casual observer.”  The smartest candidate will be the one that tells us how good we are and makes us believe it.

    So tune your ears dear readers.  Rise above the fray of the ordinary that the media and this administration would pull us into.  Focus on what matters, and remember just how good we really are.  Don’t look for the candidate that will keep things from getting too bad – look for the candidate that inspire you to make things excellent.  And tell your friends to listen that way as well.

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    Traps Sprung But Empty, Purity, The Bachmann “Surge,” Mormon “Wars,” more…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:37 am, July 14th 2011     &mdash      1 Comment »

    Last week I wondered if the Family Leader marriage pledge was a trap.   Well, Michele Bachmann signed it, Mitt Romney did not nor did Tim Pawlenty and that has resulted in a lot of press.  The thing was not just about marriage, it was about African-Americans, women in combat and a whole host of social issues.  The pledge should bother any reasonable candidate.  Even the marginal candidates are dissing it.  The guy behind the pledge is Bob Vander Plaats.  Devout readers of this blog will remember good ‘ol Bob – he teamed up with Mike Huckabee to play the Mormon card in Iowa last cycle.  What’s amazing is that it took hyper-left Salon to point this out.  Sure Vander Plaats makes the usual denials, but come on, we watched it.  History is history.  Quote BVP:

    In 2008, I was Huckabee’s state chair in the state of Iowa. And I remind people, it wasn’t the Mormonism that I think turned the people of Iowa off on Mitt Romney and why Huckabee won. Because Mitt Romney led the polls in Iowa for a long time, and he was a Mormon then as well. He leads the polls today in Iowa, and he’s still a Mormon. I think what it was is that Iowans just had kind of a disconnect with Romney. They probably couldn’t relate to him real well, but they could relate to Huckabee extremely well.

    And what lead to the disconnect precisely?  Maybe Mormon whispers capped off with a NYTimes interview?  Could be – don’t ya think?

    This all leads me to an interesting piece by Jonathon Tobin at Contentions entitle “Purity Makes Good Politics”:

    Politics may be the art of the possible, but while demonstrating flexibility is important for a legislator it can be a drawback to winning elections.

    Agreed, hence the Family Leader pledge’s ability to act as a trap – not unlike the plausibly deniable Mormon attacks of Huckabee and Vander Plaats in 2008.  This causes Tobin to look at Bachmann’s recent Iowa ad in which she “pledges” fiscal acts and write:

    The political value of Bachmann’s purity shouldn’t be underestimated. As Chris Cillizza wrote in today’s Washington Post, unlike most members of Congress, Bachmann’s legislative record is no burden to her candidacy. During her five years in Congress, Bachmann has not devoted any effort to “going along to get along” as most members must do in order to pass legislation. She has not brought home any “bacon” to her district because she viewed her purpose very differently than her colleagues. Instead of log rolling with other members to gain passage of pet legislation, she has spent all of her time “tilting at windmills” and generally running afoul of her party’s leadership.

    [...]

    In fact, if her congressional record resembles anyone’s, it’s that of Barack Obama, who coasted through his three-plus years in the Senate with no object in mind but the presidency. That ought to scare the dickens out of the rest of the GOP presidential field.

    That does raise an interesting question about what the electorate has learned from the Obama administration.  Have they learned that it is governing capability we need most in a candidate or do we just need the opposite pole of purity?  I still believe the electorate is smart enough that they will not fall for right wing “purity” to counterbalance Obama, but rather competence.  But it does make for an interesting way to analyze…

    The Bachmann “Surge” and Purity

    Recent polling shows Bachmann barely leading in Iowa.  This has caused some to declare her “surge,” even though Romney still leads nationally, significantly – and head-to-head.  As we have stated here for quite a while, Iowa is a bit of an odd duck when it comes to the purity and religion stuff.  In some ways it is sad as it gives the willing Democrat allies in the MSM plenty of opportunity to paint the entire Republican party as if it was Iowa.  It does not help when she does things like be the first out of the box to sign that pledge, even if some thing she is not as polarizing as she might appear at first glance.

    My friend David French penned a wonderful piece at the Corner about the savaging Bachmann is taking:

    One of the most disgusting political spectacles of my lifetime has been the single-minded effort of the Left to destroy Sarah Palin. Without burdening the readers with a litany of links, we all remember the “not a real woman” comments, the stalking author/neighbor, the hacking scandal, the recent (enthusiastic) fishing expedition through thousands of e-mails, and the vile insults from academics, politicians, and celebrities alike. The goal: to banish her to the fringe of American life, to turn her into a figure of mockery and contempt.

    Now, apparently, the Left has decided it’s Michele Bachmann’s turn.

    David is right.  It’s ugly and its mean and its hateful.  It is designed to push those of us of faith, and reason out of societal discourse.  And while we conservatives are still way too numerous to be fringy, it is time we also faced some hard facts – we are no longer in such a majority that our viewpoint can be automatically assumed to be the social and cultural norm, especially on social issues.

    There are a couple of things we can learn from this fact.

    For one thing, purity simply cannot prevail politically without such a substantial majority.  Therefore, if we want to win and incrementally move the nation back towards our direction we have to be more inclusive.  The age of purity pledges has got to come to a halt.  We need confidence in our candidates that they will do what they politically can to moves things back towards us, but it is many steps and many years back to anything resembling “purity.”

    Secondly, we cannot take this stuff personally.  Last weekend I encountered two women in separate settings that were attempting to “pass” as male.  I don’t know if the were “transgendered” or just weird.  Yes, I found it off-putting, even a bit repugnant.  But in the end they were not aiming to offend me.  They were acting in offense of my personal social standards, but they were not looking to offend me – just express whatever brokenness they were experiencing.  That is true for most people with whom we disagree.  If we take such actions as offensive we are back at purity, which is a formula for political loss.

    So who does Bachmann really imperil? – Tim Pawlenty.  As Aaron Blake points out, they are pretty different people, but both need Iowa.  Even if Pawlenty is working to look more evangelical.  (In the end will it come down to who Huckster endorses?)  I am not sure a loss at the Ames Straw Poll dooms Pawlenty, but he is certainly at this point fighting an uphill battle – much more uphill than he probably anticipated.  Bachmann is serving as a lightening rod, much as Huckabee did last time, for all the purists on the Republican side.  Romney is so commanding of the other parts of the party that for any other candidate to succeed they have to marshal those troops.  Bachmann is simply pushing Pawlenty off that pedestal.  I find that disheartening because I think with Bachmann signing pledges and such she threatens to further radicalize that branch of the party whereas Pawlenty would have helped move them back into the mainstream.  But also disheartening are the claims of…

    Mormon “Wars”

    The whole world, left and right,  want to make it look like war between Romney and Huntsman.  Huntsman seems to be shooting more than Romney even if it’s indirect shots.  But then that seems reasonable if, as the left would say, Huntsman’s campaign is over before it starts.  The fact of the matter is that politics is battle – candidates are competing to win, so in a sense there is a “war” between each candidate and each other candidate.  The only reason they are making more of this than any other candidate competition is because of the Mormon connection between the two.  Any excuse to bring up the religion of the candidates.

    On Faith is asking The Question again because they can’t think of anything else.  There are two movies coming out taking pot shots at Mormonism.  One on the presidency and one on Prop 8.  The American Conservative is talking and talking.  That asinine Memphis TV spot from last week continues to draw comment.  And in Scotland we read what may be the funniest formulation of The Question we have ever encountered:

    We already know that a moron can be elected president of the United States, but can a Mormon?

    Go ahead, I dare you not to laugh at that.  Now that the laugh is over, make no mistake about what is really going on here.  The war against RELIGION is moving from the sidelines to the front line, and Mormonism is being used to move it there.  Sadly, many among us are taking the bait.  When we have pledges and stupid TV spots designed to marginalize Mormons from the “real Christians”  all we really accomplish is giving the true opposition something to aim at.  They succeed in making us look small minded.

    No place is this more evident than in a HuffPo analysis of the recent Pawlenty religion video.  In this video Pawlenty is offereing heis reasns for not signing the pledge discussed above.  IN it he examines the usefulness of pledges as tools to know where a candidate stands.  He says, “When somebody is running for or holds high office, whether it’s mayor, governor, or president of the United States, voters want to know, and deserve to know, ‘Who is this person?’ You know, ‘What shaped their values? What are their values? Is this a person that’s good to their word? Can we count on them?’”  The HuffPo author tries to spin that comment as a “flip-flop” (Mormon code) shot at Romney and Huntsman.  See what I mean?   It is going to be very interesting how all this plays out.

    Other Romney News…

    Jim DeMint said nice things about Romney this week, including that his faith is not an issue, that caused all sorts of reverberations since he had been pretty ugly just a few weeks ago.  Some are now wondering if he will endorse Romney as he did last time.

    Some tired to make his fundraising coup look less impressive than it really was.  This was utterly predictable, and therefore meaningless.  Romney polls well in Florida, and is putting together a ground game in Iowa.  (Still look for him to finish two or three there, but at least he’ll compete, unlike some.)  He is also picking up endorsements and enemies – both a sign of success.  The enemies are just the latest of the purity crowd.

    Others…

    Sarah Palin tries to keep hope alive.

    Rick Santorum got an impressive endorsement, but he also signed that pledge.  I thought he was a lot smarter than the latter.

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