…Tell Me Again His Problems Are Not About Religion
Yes, Mitt Romney won the Maine caucus’ yesterday, but more importantly he won the CPAC straw poll. CPAC, that’s CONSERVATIVE Political Action Committee. Their convention is the annual gathering ground for the heart of the conservative movement. It is where Romney withdrew in 2008 and it has been Ron Paul’s playground for the last few years. But this year, during the primaries, Mitt Romney won.
And so I am supposed to believe, when THE conservative gathering in the nation selects Romney as the likely nominee, that his problems are that he is not conservative enough?
“And the core problem to me is not, ‘Is he conservative? Are his policies conservative enough?’ It’s not a policy problem, because their policies are all essentially similar. But it’s a personal problem. People know that, if Rick Santorum, if he was not running for president, he was in a room and you asked him about his positions, he would say exactly what he is saying. People do not believe that about Mitt Romney.”
It’s the why they don’t believe it that Brooks has so wrong. Brooks thinks its because Romney has not talked enough about his past and specifically his faith. Uh, David, remember Joel Belz:
It’s not a trivial matter that Mormonism, as a cultic movement, has a bad reputation when it comes to getting its own story straight. Check out the public record, if you will, including fairly recent interviews with Mormon officials in venues like Larry King Live, 60 Minutes, and Newsweek. Do these officials hold to the fantastical 1827 golden tablets of Mormon founder Joseph Smith—or not? Well, they seem to say: We believe it when we want to, and we don’t when it’s less convenient. Where Mormonism isn’t shrouded in deliberate secrecy, it is covered with confusion.
So when folks tell me they’re satisfied that Mitt Romney won’t try to drag his Mormonism into his politics, and that he would never ever impose his theology on the American people, I have to worry whether that’s exactly what he’s already done. When, in a relatively short space of time, he seems to be on both sides of the same issue—and when such a deviously confusing approach seems to be consistent with his faith rather than counter to it—that sets off alarm bells for me.
Only a few weeks ago, I sat a dozen feet from Romney as he compellingly spelled out his convictions and credentials. He was winsome and persuasive. On the surface, he said almost everything I want to hear my candidate say. On the issues that matter (except for choice in education), he was as convincing as any politician I’ve heard in recent years.
More than anything, I want a president who tells the truth. And I worry deeply when people are overly ready to believe a man whose religious upbringing, of all things, suggests that the truth is a negotiable commodity.
It is BECAUSE of his faith that people so readily disbelieve Mitt Romney. The good news is that the victories yesterday reaffirm Romney’s very likely selection as the Republican nominee, but it is still going to be an uphill battle. Both because of his faith directly, and because Obama is forcing the issue as we speculated yesterday. Turns out Andrew Sullivan agrees with our speculation (I do feel uncomfortable being in agreement with him):
The … Machiavellian observer might … suspect this is actually an improved bait and switch by Obama to more firmly identify the religious right with opposition to contraception, its weakest issue by far, and to shore up support among independent women and his more liberal base. I’ve found by observing this president closely for years that what often seem like short-term tactical blunders turn out in the long run to be strategically shrewd. … [T]he Republican fusion with the Vatican is … a terrible mistake for the party. Obama’s greatest skill is in getting his opponents to overreach and self-destruct. And this issue could not be more tailor-made to benefit the candidate with real potential pull with far-right-wing Catholics and evangelicals: Santorum.
Note that Sullivan, gay and severely anti-Mormon fails to mention how all this plays on anti-Mormon bias. It is the fact that people are so desperately looking for someone not Romney (not Mormon) that makes a play like this effective. And why the desperation? Of course, Sullivan would not mention that – he has contributed to that bias mightily.
And now, the ultimate irony – a man who was elected in the largest public rejection of bigotry in human history is willing to play upon bigotry in order to retain the office to which he was elected. Somehow, that is more than simply shameful.