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."

  • Romney, His Church, 1994, and Abortion

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 10:08 am, December 31st 2011     &mdash      1 Comment »

    Byron York wrote yesterday about a report that Mitt Romney “briefed” the top authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the “Church”) about his position on abortion in the 1994 Massachusetts Senate campaign.

    The Mormon Lay Ministry

    The story York relates makes perfect sense to Mormons, who are steeped in the Church’s organizational makeup.   The key to understanding this story is to understand that Mormonism has a lay ministry.  Romney was a stake president in 1994.  A stake is roughly the Mormon equivalent of a Catholic diocese and usually consists of around 2500 members of the Church in seven or eight wards, which are congregations like parishes.  Each ward is presided over by a bishop, who is like a pastor and does all the things pastors do – care for the poor, provide marriage and life counseling, hear confessions, work with the youth.  (Romney was a bishop before he was a stake president.)  The stake president and the bishops, as well as their counselors and all of the many other members who assist them, are unpaid laity.  In other words, they have a day job, and devote 20-40 hours a week or more to their callings and are deeply loved and respected by the members they serve.

    The office of stake president is one of the most responsible in the church.  Stake presidents are selected by the Church’s highest leaders.  They thus are representatives of the Church, both internally and externally.  What they say and do in their personal lives matters a great deal to the Church and its members.

    So Why Brief the Church’s Leaders?

    In 1994 Romney was about to enter a national political race against Ted Kennedy, one of the most famous political figures in the USA, and was a stake president.  He learned from his pollsters that he could never win in Massachusetts if he took a pro-life position.  York:

    How Romney handled that dilemma is described in a new book, “Mitt Romney: An Inside Look at the Man and His Politics,” by Boston journalist Ronald Scott. A Mormon who admires Romney but has had his share of disagreements with him, Scott knew Romney from local church matters in the late 1980s.

    Scott had worked for Time Inc., and in the fall of 1993, he says, Romney asked him for advice on how to handle various issues the media might pursue in a Senate campaign. Scott gave his advice in a couple of phone conversations and a memo. In the course of the conversations, Scott says, Romney outlined his views on the abortion problem….

    In light of the polling data, Romney decided to run as a pro-choice candidate, pledging to support Roe v. Wade, while remaining personally pro-life….

    In November 1993 … Romney … traveled to Salt Lake City to meet with church elders. Gathering in the Church Administration Building, Romney, in Scott’s words, “laid out for church leaders … what his public position would be on abortion — personally opposed but willing to let others decide for themselves.”

    By Scott’s account, Romney wasn’t seeking approval or permission; he was telling the officials what he was going to do. Scott quotes a “senior church leader” saying Romney “didn’t ask what his position should be, nor did he ask the brethren to endorse his position. He came to explain, and his explanation was consistent with church teachings and policies.”

    According to Scott, some of the leaders were unhappy with Romney’s plan and let him know it. “I may not have burned bridges, but a few of them were singed and smoking,” Romney told Scott in a phone conversation.

    This story tells us something about what Romney’s true feelings on life are. It also tells us something about his independence from the Church when it comes to political matters.

    And So….

    John and I have both met Ron Scott, when we were fellow speakers with Scott on a panel about Romney and religion. I’ve also corresponded with Scott. He is no Romney shill and disagrees with him politically.

    The time seems right for this kind of information to come out.  In my opinion, it’s helpful to the overall discussion of the role of faith in the candidate’s life.  York notes:

    By all accounts, Romney did a lot of good in his time as a Mormon official, and that work was a significant part of his life. In the coming campaign, voters will want to know more about it.

    From what I’ve seen it seems to me that Romney’s supporters have been hoping he’d do that very thing.  Watch this space!

    Finally….

    It’s New Year’s Eve and so it seems fitting to close with this from Stewart Schwartz of The American Thinker:

    Yes but “he’s a Mormon — he’s in a cult,” another spat, echoing at least one Baptist leader who urged evangelical Christians not to vote for Romney “because he’s a Mormon[.]”  Ah, but doing and being make for worship in a way that words and song only begin to express, which makes Mitt Romney as evangelical in walk as Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann.  Which means this: Evangelicals have three dogs in this hunt.  And Mitt, because of his experience and integrity and faith, his potential to lift a nation economically and emotionally reeling from a Democrat-led descent into the leftist swamps — well, that dog’ll hunt!

    Mitt Romney, like Perry and Bachmann, lives and breathes faith in a life so authentic that it automatically makes him a political outsider, the real deal in a political world where love and loyalty are measured in nanoseconds.  Who is Mitt Romney?  New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie answered that simply, telling Iowa primary voters of an enduring and intimate love for his family, a love so un-Beltway that it shines in “a guy who is a father and a husband and loves his wife and his kids.”

    Mitt Romney not part of the faith-based conservative traditions that power a culture built by American exceptionalism?  In the words popularized by that great Catholic theologian, Bing Crosby, “‘Tain’t so, honey, ’tain’t so…”  Mitt Romney, in public and private, demonstrates biblical values in walk and talk, in battling an entrenched Beltway class that includes Obama and Newt Gingrich and, he says, is “gutting” a great nation with  ”[s]low growth, out-of-control regulation, and chronic uncertainty.”

    And so it doesn’t really matter whether Mitt is Christian, Mormon, atheist, or Pescatarian.  What does matter is that he is not Barack Obama, that he is not a Beltway insider, and that he does not answer every question with the words “more government.”

    Happy New Year!

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    Posted in Doctrinal Obedience, Electability, Issues, Political Strategy, Prejudice, Religious Bigotry, Religious Freedom, Understanding Religion | 1 Comment » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Calling On Santorum To Be Classy

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:19 am, December 29th 2011     &mdash      2 Comments »

    Iowa is days away.  Iowa has been dominated, far more than the rest of the nation, by conservative Evangelical voters.  It’s the heartland, and such people are the heart of the nation.  But they can be a fickle bunch.  Last cycle saw a coy appeal to anti-Mormon sentiment by Huckabee bring all those voters home to roost in his camp, and he won.  This year, they appear to be a house divided.

    The two leading contenders for these votes are Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum.  Santorum seems to be enjoying a genuine surge, as Romney takes a surprising lead in the polls.  This situation is causing all sorts of panic in the state.  Bachmann is experiencing defections to Romney and Ron Paul!?

    Erick Erickson, the founder of the very tolerant (peg your sarcasm meters) and wise Red State is now blaming social conservatives for the collapse of true conservatism generally.  Some wonder if Erickson and is ilk are looking for a new Goldwater, and we all know how well Barry turned out for Republicans.

    This is all just Iowa, and American electoral politics.  But lurking at its heart is the dangerous anti-Mormon sentiment that Huckabee played on last cycle.  USAToday has used the occasion to publish another tired story about Romney’s religious woes and the differences between Mormons and traditional Christianity.  There is nothing said in the piece, or to say about it, that has not been said a thousand times before.  But the timing is fascinating.

    The USAToday piece comes right on the heels of Santorum grabbing the endorsement of “Huck’s Army.”  Santorum sounded almost giddy at the endorsement on yesterday’s Hugh Hewitt Show:

    HH: Now Senator, you’re making me look pretty smart, because all of a sudden, people have woken up to something I’ve been saying for a long time, which is one of the three tickets out of Iowa is going to have Rick Santorum’s name on it. Yesterday, you picked up the Harris Twins. Tell people why that matters.

    RS: Well, I mean, that’s the Huckabee folks. I mean, that’s the Huck army, and these are guys who are just really remarkable, and who have been able to put together an online presence, really, second to none. And having those guys involved and working across the country in building that army in support of us is just a huge, huge asset for us.

    Huck’s Army does have a very strong online presence – one that has been rife with anti-Mormon snark, commentary, and downright nastiness.  All the bile that had been on the Huckabee website during 2008 landed there.  Of course it has been behind the fire wall of a discussion forum and they have been working very hard to deny the whole thing because they know it delegitimized the candidacy of their guy last time.  The small amount of digging time I had available to me this morning indicates they, like the Huckabee campaign before them, have done a purge.

    If they are done with such things, then they are welcome in the fold of legitimate Republican debate.  But history has a way of repeating itself.  Therefore, Santorum needs to make it plain and public that such will not be tolerated in his campaign.  There is a known and virulent anti-Mormon movement in Iowa.  No Republican candidate for POTUS can lay claim to that political energy and remain a legitimate contender, not even someone who by all appearances is a good man, like Rick Santorum.

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    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, News Media Bias, Political Strategy, Religious Bigotry, Religious Freedom, Understanding Religion | 2 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    I Guess We Should Not Give Them Any Ideas

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:27 pm, December 28th 2011     &mdash      2 Comments »

    So, this morning we predicted that the “weird” meme promised by Team Obama would get to Mormon by the very oblique angle of attacking Romney’s industriousness and success.  I guess we are more “prescience” than first thought.  This afternoon, a new piece in the anybody-but-Romney mode came to our attention.  This one is from Kevin Williamson, Deputy Managing Editor of National Review!  It goes to great length to spell out a number of fascinating Wall Street business practices promoted under the Obama administration and then concludes:

    So there you have it: hedge-fund titans, i-bankers, congressional nabobs, committee chairmen, senators, swindlers, run-of-the-mill politicos, and a few outright thieves (these categories are not necessarily exclusive) all feeding at the same trough, and most of them betting that Mitt Romney won’t do anything more to stop it than Barack Obama did. If anything, the fact that Romney is having the least luck with the firm that knows him best speaks better of him than does the enthusiasm he apparently inspires in Goldman Sachs et al.

    It shall be a struggle from this point forward to treat this seriously because it really is so much conspiratorial vapor.  However, given the source and the national mood this thing needs to be dealt with, not merely dismissed.  There are three levels on which to advance the refutation.

    First, note the team of Romney supporters Williamson names, “…hedge-fund titans, i-bankers, congressional nabobs, committee chairmen, senators, swindlers, run-of-the-mill politicos….” Let’s just start with your humble team of bloggers here at Article VI.  We are all Romney supporters.  Two of the three of us have donated to the legal maximum to the Romney campaign.  All three of us make a reasonable living, but none of us are exactly amongst the the kind of big money people Williamson seems to think constitutes the heart of Romney’s support.  I have attended more than my fair share of Romney fundraisers, and sure, I have met a few hedge fund types, but far more frequently I have run into lawyers, doctors, and general business people.  The type Williamson dismissively refers to as “…the Chamber of Commerce crowd, because those guys are used-car dealers and grocery-store owners and for the most part strictly from hick….“  At one recent fundraiser I ran into a general contractor I had not seen in 15 years but with whom I had served on the ruling board of my prior church.  Having known his business in its current incarnation, and its prior when it was operated by his father, I can assure you he is not in the category that Williamson seems to see in ever corner of the Romney campaign.

    The group of people supporting Mitt Romney are wide and varied on virtually any demographic factor you want to look into.  Williamson acts as if all of us who are not “Wall Street Insiders” are just tools being picked up and used by the true “powers that be.”  Please Mr. Williamson, to imply such is to imply that I am somehow stupid.  I am a lot of things, not all of them good, but stupid I am not.

    Second, all the connections Williamson attempts to make about Wall Street practices that might be considered unsavory are within the Obama administration and supporters, not Team Romney.  He assaults everyone from Tim Geitner to Nancy Pelosi and then simply asserts that Romney is a pea in their pod?!  Where in the world this assertion comes from, I have no idea.  This smacks of the Bilderbergers – the assertion that governments and parties are just fronts through which the very select few exercise their enormous power.

    What is really sad is that this is a meme borrowed straight from #Occupy, and perhaps in the mind of the most fevered of the Paulpods.

    About a week before Christmas Rush Limbaugh took a huge shot at National Review for shooting at Gingrich,  who had very much borrowed a meme from #Occupy – accusing NR of not being “true conservatives.”  We felt obliged to shoot back.  In our piece we pointed out how important pundits can be in shaping the national agenda, and how by doing such they prevent the pure politicians from leading (following?) the nation into any number of possible suicide scenarios.  In discussing Gingrich’s intemperance we had made the point:

    This is bloodlust in the political sense and threatens to make the revolt of this election the next step in the cycle of ever escalating revolt.  Rather than the “peaceful transition of power” which has separated this nation from so many others, and is the basis for our freedom, we stand on the brink of wider and wider swings in our political transitions.  Something that would make the base on which we all stand far less firm than we have come to enjoy.

    As the sober grown-ups, the Republicans have been the damper on the pendulum and maintained the base for all of us.  Neither the bigotry of anti-Mormonism nor the bloodlust expressed in support for Gingrich’s intemperance are pendulum dampening forces.  If the first two years of Obama prove anything, they prove that as Republicans we must hold our sobriety and reason even tighter.  The counter to a pendulum threatening to swing out of control is not to force it to swing more widely in the opposite direction, but to make it swing less in either direction.

    I find myself wondering if Williamson felt the sting of Limbaugh’s feckless attack to the point that he felt he had no choice but to join the Limbaugh chorus – setting aside reason for the sake of expressing the obvious national anger at the numerous Obama jam downs we have had to suffer.

    Third, the connections he does draw about the practices of  Wall Street and Democrats-in-power are perfectly legal.  It is capitalism at work, nothing more and nothing less.  If it is the opinion of the nation that these practices represent unfair advantages, then pass a law and mandate a regulation, but you cannot condemn people for taking advantage of circumstances to profit.  It is true, the Obama administration has done little to change the rules of the road that Williamson is concerned with, but back to the second point, there is no evidence that a Romney administration will do the same thing.  In point of fact, Mr. Williamson would have a far better chance of bringing his concerns to the fore and getting things changed with a Romney administration than he would with a second Obama term.

    Much that Mr Williamson accuses people of – again only Democrats – is a bit slimy, but in addition to being legal, it is not really even unethical.  Capitalism, by its nature, will have its slimy practitioners.  From small print in used car sales contracts to bait-and-switch sales tactics, such is the price we pay for the opportunities capitalism grants all of us.  The cure to this sliminess is culture, not the government.

    People of character will avoid sliminess in their capitalistic practices because such violates their own view of themselves.  A man of the deep and real character of a Mitt Romney will give us a far better chance of promoting such culture than a candidate of demonstrably lesser character.

    When examined carefully, Mr Williamson’s arguments are not only without basis, but they are self-defeating.  It is a strange cycle indeed when such an inept case comes from a source as respected and time-honored as National Review.

    UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt interviewed Williamson late in the afternoon after publication.  The transcript is here.  Williamson had little defense, only denial.

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    Things Come In to Focus, Which Means Sharper

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 08:00 am, December 28th 2011     &mdash      3 Comments »

    Less than a week from the caucus’ in Iowa and despite the holiday lull, things are popping.  This may be the most cliched, least informative, least informed piece on Iowa I have yet to read/see.  (It’s an NBC video.)  Clearly, “the old rules” are not at play in Iowa (Are they even really the old rules?), and yet everyone is trying to craft a narrative using them.  People are also trying to give it more import than is really there.  From Politico:

    No matter who wins, Iowa will reshape the Republican presidential race one week from today

    “Reshape” is a strong word when there is no winner take all this early.  A leader “may” be established, but as Michael Barone said in the WSJ yesterday:

    …the Iowa Republican caucuses have a poor record in choosing their party’s nominees.

    One need look no further than Michael Shears’ observations of the topics that are moving the Iowa crowds to know that things in Iowa are a little different.  According to Shear these are the hot buttons:

    • Israel
    • The Size of Government
    • Immigration
    • Abortion
    • Energy
    • Balanced Budget

    Pretty interesting that – note that the economy is only indirectly at play (size of government and balanced budget) as well as religion (abortion).  And despite some overt religious discussion, things are subliminal on the front lines.  Put a book mark here, back in a second.

    The real evidence that this thing is shaping up quite differently than anyone expected is that Mitt Romney is well poised to win Iowa, but for all the reasons just cited that is no reason to get cocky.  The proportional delegate counts of the early states will keep this campaign alive much longer than a Romney 1-2/Iowa-New Hampshire punch would have previously allowed.  Even with Romney looking to perform better than expected early, Florida remains the hinge on which things will turn.  There is good news out of there:

    Right now, it seems that only Romney is running here…

    But early activity is not always the final indicator.  Candidates still standing by the time we get there will have built a lot of momentum.

    Then there is the fact that some have kicked the game up to a whole new level.  You know, a court decision in the Bush v Gore thing while necessary, thanks to Gore’s endless litigation, left a permanent mark on the W Bush presidency and I think future historians and sociologists will reveal lead to a weakness in our government that we have yet to recover from.

    Anyway, back to the subliminal religion stuff.  It is NOT so subliminal with the surrogates and ABR crowd out there.  While the ABR crowd is smaller than we may imagine, they are vocal, and by raising religion they can play on misunderstandings and prejudices.  Some people still connect Mormonism and polygamy, so the mention of Mormonism, now matter how “gently” or “newsy” can produce concern – and the people writing this stuff darn well know it.  And somehow those poker tells just keep showing up.

    But with Romney apparently solidifying his frontrunner status, the press is starting to turn to the general.  PBS is telling us that Obama’s “mojo” is back.  That dear friends is tantamount to a declaration of war.  Despite his abysmal performance in office and nearly bankrupting the nation, the lefties of the MSM are not going down without a fight.  But they have a problem.  They want to tell us the Tea Party is a revolt inside the Republican camp, but the #Occupy movement is now calling all elections “rigged.”  Although their claims as to how the “rigging” occurs strikes me as a laundry list of Democrat causes. (Voter ID, etc.)

    So, will religion play in the general?  I think he primary is demonstrating that it will not play on the front lines.  They are going to play on #Occupy sentiment (I hope without the utter wackiness)  and paint us all as “the real class warriors.“  But look for the subliminal and the surrogates.  The LATimes has been beating the Mormon drum indirectly for months now, but this latest broadside is fascinating:

    Except for Jacob Fullmer, a 27-year-old staffer from a small town in Idaho, Mitt Romney headquarters here was empty on Christmas Eve. A former Blockbuster, with angled anti-theft mirrors lining the ceiling perimeter, the place had the feel of a hastily evacuated showroom. Staffers and volunteers had fled home for a short respite before this week’s brutal lead-up to the first voting of the 2012 presidential campaign on Jan. 3.

    Fullmer, a paid field staffer who works 15-hour days and says the thing he loves most about Des Moines is his bed, was trying to stay upbeat.

    “Honestly, it’s been hitting my dad and mom and me more heavily this week, because even though we emotionally prepared for it, it’s gonna be different for them,” said Fullmer, whose parents own a Sears franchise in Rexburg, Idaho. “For Christmas Day, I kept telling myself I would work to take my mind off it, but I am just going to shut down.”

    Political campaigns are magnets for idealistic young adults still unburdened by spouses, children and mortgages. They come from all over the country to Iowa, which briefly becomes the center of the political universe. They come to serve a higher purpose, to invest in their professional futures. But the hours are long, the pay is low and the feelings of isolation can be intense, particularly during the holidays. Many, like Fullmer, have given up apartments and have no permanent addresses. He is staying with a member of the local Mormon church.

    Analyze that carefully, it hits all the expected themes.  Romney is portrayed as the corporate Scrooge, driving his employees to work, even on Christmas, keeping them away from their families – just like on a Mormon mission.

    That’s how the Mormon card will be played, should Romney emerge as the nominee.  It’s “weird,” as we were promised, but it is a different and more subtle “weird” than we might expect.  The emphasis on the strange things about Mormons is not their beliefs, but their industriousness – their drive to succeed.  We have said all along that for mainstream Christians to allow attacks on Mormonism to remain unchallenged was to permit attacks on our own faith.  This approach broadens that – it is not longer a attack on faith, but an attack on the most basic of American values – working hard and getting ahead.

    That a significant portion of our population considers that “weird” may be the most troubling aspect of this entire campaign.

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    They Keep Writing, So We Have To Keep Covering…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 03:00 am, December 26th 2011     &mdash      4 Comments »

    It’s the holiday and nobody is really paying attention, and yet….  So we dive in, but we’ll be brief.

    Romney

    Endorsed by former POTUS George HW Bush.  Does it matter?  Probably not on a retail level, but to insiders and old farts like me it means a lot.

    And speaking of high profile endorsements, Chris Christie is not ruling out the Veep slot.  An at the convention Veep campaign – Christie v Rubio – would be up there with the “Thrilla in Manila.”  That would be a political fight for the ages.  I’d give the nod to Christie in the trenches, but Rubio may be more important on the retail level, so the nominee’s choice is way up in the air.

    I guess Romney was not a great missionary?!

    What’s that old line about protesting too much?  Here’s a tip – if your argument against Romney is political/policy based, DON”T BRING UP RELIGION!  It’s what they call in poker “a tell.”

    How Not To Win A Primary…

    Write racist newsletters

    Fail to qualify for the ballot.

    It’s the little things.

    How To Make a Fool Of Yourself…

    Get your group all confused.

    Bring up really old stuff, that was not as bad as you think it was.

    Well, sometimes it’s your job.

    Think EVERYTHING revolves around your sexual orientation.

    Do I need to explain this one?

    Religion and Politics

    Looking for causation where only correlation exists…

    in Catholics.

    in Mormons.

    This makes sense.

    And now, back to the festivities.

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    “I Bring You Good Tidings Of Great Joy, Which Shall Be To All People…”

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 12:24 pm, December 24th 2011     &mdash      2 Comments »

    Isn’t that what the angels said to the shepherds?  Apparently, not everyone has gotten the full impact of the Christmas message.  Just got this email, concerning events of this day – Christmas Eve – from a regular reader, Thomas Valletta:

    MoeLane on Redstate posted this morning (or last night) on VA not allowing Perry and Gingrich on the ballot in Virginia. I was interested (I regularly read RedState, though I do not always agree – I am conservative and I like Romney). Anyway, I made a comment to the blog because MoeLane made a seemingly disparaging comment about Mormons. He seemed to be suggesting that the issue of Mormonism had something to do with the petition process in VA. That is what I questioned. Basically, I simply asked what the Mormon’s had to do with it. I think I asked in a civil manner, but Moe Lane’s reaction seemed heated.

    I was going to write back to point out that I was not trying to argue or anything, but that I was just wondering. Yet, I could not respond because I got the message: 601 Database deregestration error.

    Puzzled, I googled only to find out that the message meant I have been kicked off the Redstate blog (and evidently it happens to people quite often). This whole thing this morning really surprises me – I have never seen a blog site that kicks people off because of a simple question.

    Can you say “Bah Humbug?”  Personally, I like the whole “Peace on earth, goodwill to men” thing, but I guess they have not gotten the message over there at Red State.

    Sing with me now, “You’re a mean one…Mr. Grinch!”

    Meanwhile, Thomas and everyone else that regularly visits here  —  The good tidings of great joy is indeed here!

    MERRY CHRISTMAS

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