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."

  • Bias, Profit, or Political Animosity – It’s hard to tell

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 04:50 pm, July 7th 2011     &mdash      4 Comments »

    It is hard to believe some things are real, but it is clear the Mormon assault has begun.  The first volley was World Magazine last weekend.  That was unsurprising – they’d done it before, it figures they’d do it again.  The difference is they are nullified as the whole world now knows them for the close-minded nincompoops they are.  I considered for a time not even putting up the post, but a big part of what we do here is make a record of such stuff so we had to say something simply for the record.

    But it continued this week.  CNN started this morning by raising our suspicions with the headline:

    Christian right, Tea Party still wary of front-runner Romney

    OK – that’s a political story, but it implies the Mormon question.  But what it really accomplishes is to get the juices flowing for an interview they did with someone named Tricia Erickson, who has written a book, “Can Mitt Romney Serve Two Masters? The Mormon Church Versus The Office Of  The Presidency of the United States of America.”  She is, almost predictably, an ex-Mormon.  What more she is now a dyed-in-the-wool fundamentalist Christian.  There’s a good combination.  So bad was this interview, that even CNN felt the need to start the piece with an apology:

    (EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to the provocative–and in some cases, inflammatory– nature of Erickson’s answers, we asked for a response from Mormon historian Richard Bushman, the Howard W. Hunter Visiting Professor of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University in California. His remarks follow the answers below, along with reactions from Corey P. Saylor, National Legislative Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and Ahmed M. Rehab, Executive Director, CAIR-Chicago.)

    OK – nutcase on our hands.  It is not worth fisking the interview.

    Then Alana Goodman at the Contentions blog turned me on to this video.  (You can see it in the video widget at left or follow the link.)  You really should watch it to get the effect.  Some local anchor interviews some local reporter about the Mormon Question.  Clearly they have more time to fill than they have information as the local reporter repeats himself half-a-dozen times in the lead-in interview.  He seems to be saying “It’s not an issue this cycle.”  But then they turn to a man-in-the-street Q&A in which our intrepid, and idiotic, reporter asks people if they know which candidate believes – insert unusual Mormon doctrine here.  Clearly since it is not going to be an issue, this reporter is going to make it one.  When they come back to the studio, the reporter says he was “trying to have a little fun.”  Oops, all he really was was inflammatory, demeaning and oh yeah, obnoxious.

    This is a lot of stuff, but it does not seem worth getting too worked up about.  It’s impotent.  This is not Robert Novak or the Corner at NRO.  This is local television, a highly partisan CNN, and a flat-out rude fundamentalist looking to hawk a book and make a buck.  These are not people whose opinion matters.  Not to mention the fact it all has the stink of moldy, stale bread.

    That seems to be the story on The Question so far this cycle.  It’s the toy of the second, even third string.  Its a hand-me-down of an issue.  People are trying to capitalize, but to date even the bigger name lefties can’t make anything out of it.

    Of course, there is a long time between here and votes actually being cast.  A lot could happen, but if it is going to involve Romney, or Huntsman’s, faith it is going to have to get a whole lot better than this pile of nonsense.

    Post Script (7/8/11 – morning)Matt Lewis @ The Daily Caller points out that the barbs are out for more than Mormons.  He looks at a recent interview that Frank Schaeffer did on MSNBC in which Schaeffer accuses Michelle Bachmann of wanting to stone gays.  Of course, Bachmann has never contended anything of the kind, and the incident is even more sad because Frank Schaeffer is the son of Francis Schaeffer a leading light of Evangelicalism and one of the founders of the movement that brought Evangelicals into political action.

    Most telling; however, is Lewis’ concluding remarks:

    The bigger question, of course, is whether this an isolated incident, or whether this may foreshadow an attempt to cast evangelical Protestant candidates as weirdos. If that’s the case, at least one observer may have seen it coming. Prior to the 2008 election, Romney supporter, author, and conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt warned that evangelicals should defend Romney against attacks on his religion, lest attacks on their faith be next.

    After hearing him give a speech on the topic, one blogger summed up Hewitt’s argument, writing: “If we question whether [Romney] wears strange underwear, the next evangelical that runs will be asked if he really believes the Bible, and the next Catholic will be asked if he goes to confession.  It will open the door to biased tests against religion for candidates.”

    Regardless of whether or not this is a canary in the coal mine, it is fair to say the attacks on Bachmann’s religious faith are just as bigoted as the attacks on John F. Kennedy’s Catholicism or Mitt Romney’s Mormonism. Let’s hope this isn’t a harbinger of things to come.

    Oh, it’s a harbinger to be sure – one that should make Evangelicals everywhere hope for a Romney nomination.  That way the barbs will remain aimed primarily at the Mormons and not spread out so much.  And don’t say we did not warn you.

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    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, Doctrinal Obedience, News Media Bias, Political Strategy, Religious Bigotry, Religious Freedom | 4 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Spending The 4th With A Paulpod, Romney Running Away, and more…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 04:37 pm, July 6th 2011     &mdash      1 Comment »

    It was my pleasure to spend the Fourth of July in the company of friends, the son of one of them being a dedicated follower of Ron Paul.  The conversation was both frustrating and enlightening.  Frustrating in the young man’s complete inability to understand that the world just does not work according to “ought’s” and enlightening in what that says about how we would be best served when selecting who it is we want to vote for.

    My young friend advanced argument after argument about the way things ought to work.  The standard Ron Paul lines – isolationism, competitive bank issued currencies – you know the drill by now.  Many of his arguments about how it ought to work were quite convincing.  But he steadfastly refused to answer the two key questions I asked, “What would the ramifications of that policy be beyond the immediate?” and “How do you propose to do that when the vast majority of the American people would oppose you?”  For example, many currencies around the world are tagged to the American dollar – what would happen to the world monetary system if the greenback went away?  He never really answered, he just kept coming back to “how things ought to be,” citing the constitution.

    But the real revelations came when I pointed out to him the the political will simply did not exist for much of what he thought ought to happen, even if what he thought ought to happen was ideal.  Did he really think the American people would stand still if the fed quit issuing currency?  He did concede that they would not.  So I asked, “How do you govern when the will of the people is opposed to the ideal as you see it?”  He had no answer.

    I patiently tried to explain to him that democracy was not about the ideal, it was about the will of the people, even when they are wrong.  We don’t need leaders that hold up ideals in a democracy such as ours.  We need leaders that govern – which means being responsive to the will of the people while working to prevent things from moving so far from the ideal that things collapse under their own weight.  Leadership in a country like ours is a balancing act, not a movement in a single direction.

    When we evaluate the candidates that we are to vote for, that’s what we need to look for – can they govern in a such a balancing fashion?  Ideologues like Paul, if they miraculously managed to be elected, could serve only as examples of how not to govern.  Like the current highly ideological administration, even if they managed to move some of their agenda forward, the rejection of a significant portion of the electorate would be astounding.  We have been down the ideological path before – it’s called prohibition.  About the only thing that brought us was organized crime.

    Moneywise, Romney Triumphant

    $18.3M in the primary coffers and and another $12M in a Super PAC backing him.  Those are staggering numbers, staggering.  Next closest is Tim Pawlenty at a little over $4M.  This is all part of what is called the “invisible primary.”  And while the press wants a horse race with Bachmann, and is spinning accordingly, his lead in the New Hampshire polls remains enormous.

    News like that all the lefties that seem to keep talking Mormon, even though no one is listening, seem even less significant than they are.  The NYTimes tried to have some sort of forum on the issue, but it provided little actual information, just posturing.  Even FOXNews picked up on the fact that the question is much bigger with Dems than it is of Republicans, which may be why places like London’s ultraleft Guardian keep talking about it.

    The unimaginative in smaller newspapers like the Miami Herald and the Las Vegas Review-Journal just keep talking about it.  Some are still using the issue to attack on the left and the right.

    Amongst te other candidate, Gingrich remains in free fall.  The dark horses keep getting darkerRick Perry seems to be the darling of certain segments of the “Evangelical base.”  What the left-leaning writers, breathless at this finding, fail to mention is that the Evangelical “leaders” they are citing don’t lead as many Evangelicals as they used to – largely malcontents – some, like John Hagee, are problematic.  You may recall that McCain had to quickly back away from Hagee last cycle for his ugly anti-Catholic comments.

    Michelle Bachmann is even sounding like Huckabee, minus the plausibly deniable anti-Mormon comments.  Sadly, it looks like Tim Pawlenty may be eying the Huckabee path in Iowa as well.  Last time, after Iowa, Sarah Huckabee was the moderator of the campaign web site which featured a number of anti-Mormon screeds.  Warning, Tim Pawlenty, Warning.

    Religious Reading

    Religion still matters, especially with African-Americans.

    Though a secularist leftie, this guy has a point.  Mixing religious and political power (not influence, power) usually results in the dilution of subjugation of religion.  Such can result in the oppression this guy fears, but it can also just lead to the death of religion as in the United Kingdom.

    Social issue pledges have already been used as  a litmus test trap once.  I wonder if this one will be?

    Evangelicals are shifting.  Both concern and opportunity.

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    *SIGH* – World Magazine Strikes Again, or, A Zebra Does Not Change Its Stripes

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:44 am, July 2nd 2011     &mdash      2 Comments »

    We interrupt this blessed holiday weekend because some feel it necessary to trample upon it, and we feel it necessary to respond.

    Remember 2008?  There was only one Evangelical magazine publisher willing to stick his neck all the way out and declare electing a Mormon president as problematic – Joel Belz of World Magazine.  Why bore you with a retelling – follow the link preceding.  It tells the whole sordid tale.  What we will remind you about is that the piece Belz penned laid out for the world to see  the code that was behind the charge of “flip-flop” when aimed at Mormon candidate Romney, even before Vanderbilt University demonstrated that codes statistical validity.

    Well, I would have to guess that the attention Belz generated for his little magazine with that stunt those years ago produced the biggest sales boost (which means I bought a subscription so I could read and refute what was written) the magazine has ever seen because he has decided to double-down with the July 16 issue – released yesterday online – covered with a multi-hued image of Romney and a cover story entitled “The many Mitts.”  (It’s good to know they can speak their own code.)

    Also in the issue is a “point/counterpoint” on the validity of electing a Mormon president.  Who is taking the negative stance?  Why our old friend Warren Cole Smith, already a known “principled bigot” and thoroughly refuted by Lowell and yours truly just a month ago.  Can you say “lone voice in the wilderness?”

    On the surface this approach may seem toned down from the maniacal rantings of Belz last cycle, and it is on the surface.  But when the cover story evokes their own well-developed code, such a spin simply cannot hold up.

    This is most interesting coming at a time when, as we discussed earlier this week and as continues to echo throughout the political press, Democrats are the ones with the real problem with Romney, and Huntsman’s, faith!  And so, just like last time – Belz and his ilk seek to strengthen the political enemy for the sake of religious ideology.  Have they no comprehension of the fact that it was this approach last time that greatly aided the election of Barack Obama and all that as come with it – very little of which is good?

    Of course, one need look no further than the “pro-Mormon” piece in the point/counterpoint to understand:

    But is Mormonism a special case? Is it particularly disqualifying, as opposed to, say, the nominal Christianity that so prevails in America?

    Note that crack – “nominal Christianity.”  These people don’t stand in judgement of Mormonism – they stand in judgement of EVERYONE!  Which is enough to make them beneath consideration.

    We live in a different America than we did when World Magazine first stuck its head up in November of ’07.  While this issue of this magazine is clear indication that some have not learned their lesson, most of us on the right have looked at the policies of Barack Obama and their results and have learned that to allow our theological differences to stand in the way of our political unity is a formula for disaster.  Most of us are working to keep the ship afloat.  Belz and his band of principled bigots are rearranging the deck chairs.  They’ll be saved along with the rest of us, but I doubt seriously if they will get anywhere near the bridge of the ship.

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    Bachmann’s Week On The Anvil – They, and I mean THEY, Won’t Stop Talking Mormon – Anyone Else Running?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:36 am, July 1st 2011     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Sadly…

    When we Republicans have an excellent field arrayed, it seems the MSM has two things on it’s mind – efforts to scorn Michelle Bachmann on virtually any level and the fact that Mitt Romney, and Jon Huntsman to a lesser extent, are Mormons.  Not policy, not strategy, just those things.  It’s like Huntsman, Santorum, Pawlenty, and Gingrich (well they may be right about Newt) don’t really exist.  So with that, let’s turn our attention to…

    The Hammering of Michelle Bachmann

    I’ve taken a lot of heat here for stating my opinion that Bachmann is in for reasons other than becoming POTUS; I have never contended she was “not serious,”  just that she was serious about something other than being president.  What she is serious about requires her to be smart, knowledgeable, well read, and eloquent about the plethora of issues that face this nation.  She is a most capable spokesperson for a particular point of view – I just don’t think that view is bread enough to allow her to be elected president, and I think she knows that too.

    Consider:

    There are three ways to run for president these days.

    The first is to run to promote yourself. The second is to run to promote ideas. The third is to actually run for president of the United States.

    The Republican presidential hopefuls running on this old-fashioned third notion are a distinct minority. And that says a lot about the state of our politics: bread and circuses meets reality TV.

    Mitt Romney and the newly declared Jon Huntsman are definitely running for president. So is Tim Pawlenty (although his whiffed pitch at CNN’s New Hampshire debate gave many the sense that he is really angling for a VP-slot).

    But Bachmann, as a declared – again – candidate is worthy of discussion here.  For starters there was her appearance on Face The Nation last weekend:

    Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., says that she prayed to God about whether or not to run for political office and that those prayers provided her with a “sense from God” of “assurance about the direction” she was taking.

    She flirted with doubling down on this claim in her Monday announcement speech, which does away with blaming it on Schieffer.  Now personally it is my sincere hope that any candidate for the presidency spends a lot of time in prayer.  However, a claim of divine guidance to seeking the office is just a bit much.  For one, it is like painting a target on your chest for anyone that does not agree with you religiously.  But more it is an effort to put some sort of a divine imprint on one’s candidacy and that is something that belonged to the kings of yore, not the elected executives of a modern republic.

    I cannot make a case that it is a direct line from that to the attacks that Bachmann had to incur this week, but the fact that she has a target pasted on her is undeniable.  Consider here and hereGeraghty rounds it up.

    We have to remember that in the minds of a good number of people, especially in the MSM, overt religiosity is the same as stupidity.  Those of us of faith know differently, but the only way we can overcome such an image and bias is to sound smart, not just religious.  It has been said by the best of black leadership for some years now that the best way to overcome racism is to be twice as good as the best white people at the same things.

    I am also convinced that many of those that are behind Bachmann so strongly are in that position precisely because she is, like Huckabee, so outspoken about her faith.  We have made the case here many times that it is not smart to vote based on religious identity or just becasue some one “sounds like one of us.”

    Despite The Fact That There Is NO Republican Chatter About It, The Press Cannot Stop Talking “Mormon”

    The press continues to ache for a “Mormon Showdown,” and they are trying to set up Utah as the battleground.  The “big” story on that front this week, was that Romney is attempting to push the Utah primary up.  Of course, it’s all about “Mormon.”  Or is it?

    “Losing his home state wouldn’t be devastating to Huntsman,” Reid Wilson, editor of National Journal Hotline, told the newspaper. “But it would prove a major embarrassment and at a time when every single news story is crucial, it would raise questions about why he lost the one state he should definitely win.”

    Here’s what’s going on.  The press has bought the line the Obama administration has fed them that Huntsman is the Republican they most fear.  Hogwash.  Any good Dem operative knows that such statements improve the likelihood that a Republican constituency will select the individual named as their nominee, so they keep their mouths shut about those they really fear unless they have red meat.  Such statements are designed to give a weak candidate a leg up and thus weaken those they really fear.  And so, background inquiries by the Romney people – likely designed to try and get a handle on a primary calendar that is STILL in flux – gets turned into a Mormon showdown at the heart of the Jello belt.  It’s just another excuse to talk “Mormon” when Republicans are not too interested in it.

    There continued to be a little discussion concerning the data Byron York unearthed that we discussed Tuesday.  The “Mormon Moment” talk continues here and abroad with varying degrees of support and distaste.  Mormons find themselves under the microscope in entertainment and scholarship, and punditry – not to mention silliness.  My question is where was this just a few months ago before the campaign began in earnest?  I am sure many of my Mormon friends are excited to have such attention, but make no mistake it’s about politics, despite what the Elders may desire.  So let’s talk…

    Politics

    Strategy, which must be based on the electoral college, is what really matters in politics.  And yes, in light of that Florida matters – a lot – just like last time, and the time before that, and the time before that, and the time before that….

    There were a couple of interesting pieces commenting on how the right side of the aisle is shaping up this time.  One was this cartoon:

    Sadly, I find it less funny than I do truthful.  More interesting was this CSM piece:

    For now, though, it’s easier to see Romney’s path to the nomination. He is organized, raising lots of money, and, as a repeat candidate, less likely to make rookie mistakes than are the newbies. So with about a half-year to go before the first nominating contests, conservative activists and Republican leaders are beginning to contemplate the possibility that Romney, a relative moderate, could win the nomination, while grass-roots energy lies with the conservative tea party.

    Now, a skilled nominee will manage to harness the grass roots energy in the general.  That’s the first job that faces a candidate after the nomination.  If they cannot unite and energize their party, how can they be expected to do so with the nation?  It’s a must.

    But there is a different feel this cycle.  Bachmann-mania is one case in point, as is the yen for Perry amongst many.  But such polarization is a two edged sword and therefore cuts both ways.  These stories are the MSM helping their friends the Dems.  Obama is in as much  trouble with the Move On types (not to mention moderates) as any Republican nominee will be with the most rabid of the Tea Party folk.  All I can say is this is going to be a very interesting cycle.

    Mitt Romney remains the front runner.  He is already working to overcome the polarization issue.  His strategy seems to be working in spadeshe’s even taking a pledge.  The health care attacks seems to be a constant.  I had the pleasure of seeing him on the stump last week.  He’s good.

    Sarah Palin continues to tease and dissemble.  (Yeah, but it’s always sources or people that want her to run.  There is no there there.)  With Bachmann in, if this is true, Tim Pawlenty has a big problem.   Key word in this Jon Huntsman headline is “mistakenly.”

    Religious reading

    No shock here.

    Smart Thinking:

    They should be looking for someone with at least three qualities: 1) competence in governing, with the more successful experience the better; 2) a sincere commitment to key moral and political ideals, such as the value of human life and liberty; and 3) public composure and the ability to project leadership to all Americans.

    The first quality, competence, may seem too obvious to mention, but in their desire for a values-oriented, conservative Christian as President, evangelicals may sometimes forget about this issue. Job performance is one of the core problems with Barack Obama’s presidency: on our biggest domestic challenges, including health care, entitlement reform, and the economy, he’s simply not doing a good job. (If he handled the domestic front as well as he handled the termination of Osama Bin Laden, he would be performing very well!) We don’t want to elect an ideologically pure but executively inept Republican as a replacement for President Obama.

    I have my suspicions.  The WCC is about as left as they come.  I doubt they would agree to much that wasn’t so watered down as to be meaningless.

    Interesting statistics.  Not entirely sure what the point is – but then it is Terry Mattingly.

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