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."

  • Quiet Time

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:23 am, April 30th 2012     &mdash      1 Comment »

    It seems we are officially between the primary and the general.  Just a few things worth mentioning this morning.

    Yet another story on how Evangelicals will vote for Romney, but not be enthused.  Evangelical petulance or a media desire to create a self-fulfilling prophecy?

    It saddens me to read something like this from Catholic circles.  It does lend credence to the Evangelical petulance theory.  (Evangelicalism is a movement both within and independent from various denominations.)  However, I think it is a minority of Evangelicals.

    There are lefties that have gone beyond the pale – Maureen Down being the leader of that pack.  No longer simply knee jerk, she is so convinced of her correctness that thought is simply not called for any more.  E.J. Dionne has typically been a step below that; instinctively and knee-jerk leftie, but there was usually some thought and argument behind his assertions, but he may have crossed the line with this piece:

    He would never put it this way, of course, but his approach looks forward by looking backward to the late 19th century, when government let market forces rip and a conservative Supreme Court swept aside almost every effort to write rules for the economic game. This magical capitalism is the centerpiece of Romney’s campaign, and it may prove to be his undoing.

    [...]

    What Romney has going for him is a journalistic presumption that he is either a closet “moderate” or so opportunistic that he is altogether lacking in a coherent worldview. The first is wrong. The second is unfair to Romney. What he believes matters, and it is the biggest obstacle between him and the White House.

    [Emphasis added]  Folks, that may be the most dishonest ringing of the Mormon bell we have yet to run across.  While arguing about “unfettered” capitalism, Dionne manages to utter every religious dog whistle phrase he has heard.  It may be a cute literary device, but it is also manipulative, deceptive and most of all ugly.  This language was deliberately chosen, make no mistake.

    Finally, in closing, Weasel Zippers quotes this Daily Mail piece:

    Barack Obama has already held more re-election fundraising events than every elected president since Richard Nixon combined, according to figures to be published in a new book.

    Obama is also the only president in the past 35 years to visit every electoral battleground state in his first year of office.

    And says:

    He excels at two things and two things only: Running up enormous debt with other peoples’ money and raising cash for his own self-serving ends. He is nothing more than an ordinary street hustler in an extraordinary position.

    Very plain spoken and very sensible, also quite troubling.  Not so much because of who he is, the world has been and always will be full of hustlers, but because we fell for it.  But then sometime such things happen.  Most important to remember is the old adage, “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.”  Something for those less-than-enthusiastic Evangelicals to think about.

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    “Not An Issue” and Other Frightening Things

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:10 am, April 27th 2012     &mdash      1 Comment »

    LATimes political cartoonist/blogger David Horsey, under a cartoon that manages to make fun of religiosity generally says:

    Jokes about polygamy and funny long underwear aside, Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith has not been, and will not become, a factor in the presidential campaign of 2012.

    Horsey’s cartoon and post make it an issue, even if he says it’s not an issue.  You cannot set aside jokes about “long underwear” in drawing a conclusion.  The six remaining readers of the LATimes know that the LAT has rung the Mormon bell in re: Romney more times in the last year than Big Ben has chimed the hour.  No, of course Obama is not going to get up and say “Don’t vote for my opponent, he’s a Mormon.”  But not an issue?!  Already is and has been for quite some time.

    If it wasn’t an issue, why would the BBC go to all this trouble?:

    A startling investigation into America’s fastest growing religion and the former Mormon bishop who says he now wants to be President of the United States.

    [...]

    “Mitt Romney and the Mormons”, reported by John Sweeney and presented by Kerry O’Brien, goes to air on Monday 30th April at 8.30pm on ABC1. It is replayed on Tuesday 1st May at 11.35pm. It can also be seen on ABC News 24 at 8.00pm on Saturdays or on ABC iview .

    If it wasn’t an issue, why would McKay Coppins, who has is trying to carve out a niche for himself as the “Mormon guy” in the media keep playing this kind of gotcha:

    But in a 2002 interview with the Mormon newspaper Church News, Romney was much more forthright about the extent to which he is influenced by his faith.[...]

    In October 2000, just a few days before the closing ceremony of the Summer Olympic Games, Brother Romney flew from Sydney, Australia, to Boston, Mass., to attend the dedication of the [Boston, MA Mormon] temple.

    While he needed to be in Australia for the closing ceremonies, he felt it more important to attend the dedication. With no time to rest following a 24-hour flight, he was among the throng waiting in line early that morning for the dedication.

    “My commitment to my Church and faith is all encompassing,” he said. “The opportunity to attend a temple dedication in the presence of a prophet in my hometown, where I served as stake president and bishop, is an opportunity that I would never miss.”

    Coppins will no doubt defend himself by saying what he said when he started the Mormons and women meme, “This may be the way Dems will raise Mormon issue: not attack it, but say Mitt’s afraid to talk about it (thus making it sound spooky)” Oh good Coppins, so you’ll just use an out of context quotation to make it sound like a brainwashing cult.  Coppins cannot blame the Dems for an attack that he is clearly making.

    Amazing Stuff

    Mitt Romney may not be the first Mormon president of a nation.  The story concerns the heavily Islamic African nation of Mali.  If a Muslim nation elects a Mormon president, and Romney’s Mormonism is a factor HERE – something is very wrong in America.

    Amazingly bad taste.

    Amazing levels of hatred.  It is frightening that such levels exist in our nation.

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    Whom Do The Religious Favor?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:28 am, April 26th 2012     &mdash      2 Comments »

    Tuesday, Lowell told us about a Peter Beinart piece in which Beinart contended that liberals have a bigger anti-Mormon problem than conservatives.  Paul Waldman at The American Prospect tries to disagree.  It may be the lamest refutation of a sophisticated argument I have ever read.  Waldman offers no evidence, only perception and besides, Beinart has polling data:

    Voters with high levels of religiosity favor Mitt Romney, while voters who are moderately religious or nonreligious favor President Barack Obama, according to a new Gallup poll.

    Fifty-four percent of registered voters categorized as “very religious” said they are currently supporting Romney, while 37 percent said they would vote for Obama, in the presidential race. Among the “moderately religious,” 54 percent support Obama and 40 percent support Romney. Among the “nonreligious” Obama’s support is even greater, 61 percent, while Romney gets only 30 percent.

    Let’s face it, the left hates religion, they do not distinguish between Mormons and Evangelicals and Catholics and Orthodox.  They view us all the same.  If fact they hold us in such contempt that they don’t bother with facts.  Last week Eric Alterman and Hugh Hewitt debated at the Pomona Student Union.  Here’s the video – the action starts at 34 minutes.  Alterman asserts that the LDS church did not allow blacks until 1978.  Hewitt jumps straight to the heart of the matter and attacks the bigotry inherent in making the assertion essentially out of the blue.  It is a masterful argument against bigotry.

    Alterman was also wrong on his facts.  African-Americans were allowed in the LDS church virtually long before 1978, but they were not allowed to hold office in the church until then.  That is not a minor distinction.  I have argued here before that making sure the world knows LDS doctrine correctly is fruitless in the political realm.  But facts of history are a different story.  It is a sure sign of bigotry that Alterman cannot be bothered to get his facts straight.  Watch the video, it is important both in Hewitt’s response and illustrative of the bigotry we do face.

    Of course some still want to fight the “Are Mormons Christians?” battle.  Megachurch maven Joel Osteen’s recent repeat of his declaration that they are has traveled like wild fire across the internets.  Theologians of course should be worried about these things, but when it comes to voting those that are concerned about it strikes me like Pat Buchanan declaring that “nominal” Christians are the issue.  It is simply unbecoming in a political setting – heck it is unbecoming in any setting other than in private between friends – to declare about the status of anyone’s faith.  At least Buchanan is not as crazy as this guy.  (Come on, I HAD to link to that – it’s funny.)

    Ringing The Mormon Bell

    ABC rang it.

    CNN rang it.

    Larry Elder says, “Careful!”  Elder’s argument is that such puts Jeremiah Wright back into play, and that is an argument Obama loses.  Agreed on that level, but the nation loses if we make religious affiliation and background a regular part of our presidential vetting.  Elder recognizes and wishes to rightly combat the very negative influence that Wright is in the African -American community.  However, doing so in this context, even though it calls attention to an important issue, worsens the nation generally.  Simply put, not all issues, even important ones, are presidential issues.

    Pay Attention to ME!

    Only Newt Gingrich would pre-announce that he is going to announce the suspension of his campaign.  One is tempted to declare Gingrich the ultimate vanity candidate; however, on the heels of his pre-announcement, former candidate and Gingrich endorser Rick Perry endorsed Mitt Romney.  That’s just a pathetic plea for attention.  Does Perry honestly think that having endorsed an opponent when he withdrew from the race, and then acting this fickle publicly Romney can ever trust him deeply?  Should Perry get behind Romney?  Of course, but he should do so quietly, this is just a blatant plea for attention.

    In Mike Allen and Evan Thomas’ ebook, “Inside The Circus,” on the primary campaign just concluding, they contend that Perry was talked into running by consultants.  They make a similar claim about Jon Huntsman.  There is a real problem when people run for president so consultants can have work.

    Worse yet are the forces consultants play upon to make such things happen.  Rick Perry was positioned as the anti-Romney and there was a strong anti-Mormon bias implicit in the positioning.  That bias is wrong, but somehow understandable when it is based in the faith of those that hold it.  But when it is promoted simply so consultants can make a buck it moves from wrong to truly evil.

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    What “Distance”?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 01:00 pm, April 25th 2012     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Mitt Romney had a very good day yesterday, capturing five primaries.  Not a shock really, but important and notable nonetheless.

    In the wake, Ross Douthat writes on “Playing The Mormon Card:”

    But it will be difficult for the White House to exploit these suspicions directly. If it seems like prominent Democrats are playing the religion card, then the Romney camp will have a chance to re-run the Jeffress controversy and paint its opponents as bigots. There’s also the awkward matter of President Obama’s own religious background: The White House probably would rather not do anything that might revive the 2008 debate over the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

    This explains why the White House was so quick to distance itself from Brian Schweitzer, the governor of Montana, when he raised the fact that Romney’s great-grandfather practiced polygamy. And it explains why the dog whistles that some conservatives have detected coming from the White House – an Obama spokesman contrasting Romney’s “faith” with the president’s “Christianity,” the repeated references to Romney’s “weirdness” from unnamed administration officials – have been pitched too faintly to be heard by most voters.

    Lowell pointed out the same thing yesterday, once again putting A6 before the MSM – when will they learn?  In his piece, Lowell reminded us of DNC Chairman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’ flat out denial of the religion card in the wake of Lawrence O’Donnell’s ugliness.  But I wonder how much distance they are really developing here.

    Last Friday we reported on CNN guy Martin Bashir pronouncing Mitt Romney condemned to hell based on Bashir’s reading of the Book of Mormon.  So who appeared on Bashir’s show over the weekend?  Why the DNC’s own Debbie Wasserman-Schultz!

    That’s right! – the woman who swore that neither the party nor the Obama campaign would ever play the religion card lent the credibility of the entire Democrat National Committee to a media outlet that played it in a particularly nasty fashion, and just a day or so after they did it.  Did she challenge Bashir?  Did she take him out behind the woodshed?  Did she call him on his playing of the religion card at all?  Of course not, she had bigger fish to fry like the contention that electing Romney would place women’s rights “in jeopardy” – and of course there is no dog-whistle there.

    This entire thing is insulting, but the most insulting aspect of all is that they think they can engage in this kind of forked-tongue double-talk and no one will notice.  The distance between the Democrat party/Obama campaign and the religion card is thinner than the card itself.

    Lowell adds . . .

    I think The Question is simply baked into the cake of this year’s election.  With every bite, we’ll detect a little religious flavor, faint though it may be.  That’s the reality.  The key to avoiding damage to the Republic will be to avoid allowing Romney’s faith (or Obama’s) to become a divisive distraction from the real issues – the economy, mainly, and national defense.  The Democrats would like nothing more than to see Mormonism become a huge distraction, even if the president’s Jeremiah Wright history comes back into focus.  The goal would be entirely cynical: to make Romney seem “weird” and to exploit the general public’s unfamiliarity with Mormonism.

    For example, Bryan Schweitzer is still in the news, explaining his “polygamy commune” comment.  His explanations are laughable, of course, but we are still hearing about the subject.  As Dean Pagani observed, “as a result of Schweitzer’s comments there’s now a link you can be led to if you search for the words ‘Romney and polygamy’ together.”  Rather than be angry about this tactic, those of us who support the principles underlying Article VI need to keep pounding away at it.  The more the electorate realizes what the Democrats are trying to do, the less successful the tactic will be.

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    Drip, drip, drip…and before you know it, you’ve got a meme

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 12:13 pm, April 24th 2012     &mdash      5 Comments »

    A few weeks ago Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz responded to the idea that in the presidential campaign Democrats will use religion against Mitt Romney:

    “That suggestion is utter nonsense. Let’s remember that President Obama has had so many things hurled at him – birth certificate questions, whether he is or is not a Christian,” Wasserman Schultz continued. “For them to suggest that religion will be injected [into the election] by President Obama and the Democratic Party, I mean, I think they need to take a look inward at the accusations that their party and their supporters have hurled before they take that step.”

    Well, when it comes to injecting religion into the campaign, there is more than one way to skin a Mormon– I mean, a cat.  In today’s digital world it’s pretty easy to do, without dirtying the Obama campaign’s hands at all.  Here are some examples.

    “Whoops, I Did It Again”

    At Governors Journal, Dean Pagani offers an interesting analysis and summation of the Brian Schweitzer story, which John wrote about last week here. Readers will recall that Schweitzer, the Democratic Governor of Montana, said Mitt Romney’s family roots were in “a polygamy commune in Mexico.” Pagani:

    Politicians subtlety tossing out ideas with or without making a direct charge is nothing new. It happens every day in big and small campaigns across the country. What is slightly new is how it impacts the flow of information on the Internet. If there wasn’t before; as a result of Schweitzer’s comments there’s now a link you can be led to if you search for the words “Romney and polygamy” together. A link that suggests polygamy is just one generation removed from Romney himself.

    It has been reliably reported that one of the strategies of the Obama campaign is to create a narrative that Romney is just plain weird. A charge has been made that his wife has “never worked a day in her life” and now a suggestion has been made that his family lived in a “polygamy commune.”

    In each case the response from the Obama campaign has been the same; repeat the charge while renouncing it. In the face of a growing pattern, it’s becoming more difficult to give Democrats the benefit of the doubt when they mis-speak about their probable opponent.

    (Emphasis added.)  Pagani does seem to be on to something. So far we’ve seen the same pattern at least three times:

    • On MSNBC, Lawrence O’Donnell makes a blistering attack on Romney and his Mormon faith. The digital communications world (blogosphere, Twitterverse, Facebook) explodes over O’Donnell’s remarks; the MSM dutifully reports on the story (except Meet the Press’s David Gregory, who wanted to pretend the story didn’t exist); Debbie Wasserman Schultz tells a national TV audience that such attacks are unacceptable and the Democrats won’t use religion against Romney.
    • Hilary Rosen, a Democratic operative with close ties to the White House (visiting there over 30 times during the Obama Administration, including 5 meetings in which the president himself was present), says Ann Romney has “never worked a day in her life.” The same pattern unfolds, except David Axelrod and eventually President Obama himself both come out and says the candidate’s families are out of bounds.
    • Brian Schweitzer runs his “polygamy commune” schtick.

    Do you see how this works?  Let someone else make the outrageous statement, then distance yourself from it.  No denunciation, mind you; a mere disavowal will do.  Meanwhile, the meme develops.  How many people who heard about the above three statements actually took the time to investigate whether O’Donnell’s anti-Mormon screed was accurate (it wasn’t); or that Hilary Rosen’s attack on Mrs. Romney was not a fair representation of Ann’s life or of Mormon family life generally; or that one has to go back to Mitt  Romney’s great-great grandfather to find a polygamist?

    Meanwhile, some Democrats are worried about their own Anti-Mormon Problem

    So far only Peter Beinart has raised that daring (for a left-liberal) idea, but that’s a good start.  Beinart, who has shown a willingness to engage with conservatives, thinks that “Democrats Have Bigger Anti-Mormon Problem in Election Than GOP Has.”  The whole thing is well worth reading;  Key excerpts:

    Despite the media’s obsession with the alleged anti-Mormonism of evangelical Christians, the party with the larger anti-Mormon problem is the Democrats. According to Gallup, while only 18 percent of Republicans said they would oppose a Mormon candidate, among Democrats the figure was 27 percent. As if on cue, Montana’s Democratic governor, Brian Schweitzer, last week volunteered that women would not back Romney because his father was “born on a polygamy commune in Mexico.”

    To its credit, the Obama campaign repudiated Schweitzer’s statement. But between now and Election Day, anti-Mormonism is going to be the Democratic Party’s constant temptation for one simple reason: there are votes in it….

    One reason Democrats may be more anti-Mormon than Republicans is that Democrats, on average, are more secular. Devout Protestants, Catholics, and Jews may be more tolerant of Mormonism because they understand from firsthand experience the comfort and strength that religious commitment brings. Many secular Democrats, by contrast, may start with the assumption that religious orthodoxy produces irrationality and intolerance…. Democrats may exhibit greater suspicion of Mormonism, in other words, because they exhibit greater suspicion of all organized religion. It’s just that anti-Mormonism is still socially acceptable enough to confess to a pollster.

    The second way in which Democrats justify their anti-Mormonism is via the LDS Church’s own flirtation with bigotry…. It wouldn’t be surprising, therefore, if one reason Democrats are more anti-Mormon than Republicans is because African-Americans, gays, and lesbians are more anti-Mormon. But using the church’s historic (and even present-day) intolerance to justify intolerance toward its members is idiotic. LDS is hardly the only faith with a history of antiblack racism, and individual Mormons should be held no more responsible for the LDS Church’s antigay views than individual Catholics should be held responsible for the Vatican’s….

    It’s important that Barack Obama wins this election, but for the country’s sake, it’s important that Mormonism not lose.

    Joanna Brooks, a left-of-center Mormon writer, disagrees in Why Peter Beinart is Wrong on Democrats and Anti-Mormonism.  We’ll leave it to you to decide who’s right.  I think Brooks is too willing to give liberals a pass for insisting that Romney’s religion be explored for hints as to how his church’s teachings might influence his policy positions.  I’ll go along with that analysis as soon as someone can show me any historical precedent for a U.S. presidential candidate being required to address the connection between his religious faith and his policy positions.

    The Dog-Whistle Problem

    Jonah Goldberg notes yet another way in which the drip-drip-drip of the “Mormon meme” development can be accomplished.  On Special Report last night (video and story here), a “Democrat strategist” named Ryan Clayton said:

    I don’t think people should be attacking Mitt Romney for his faith, just like they shouldn’t be attacking President Obama for his Christianity. You know, faith and politics, if you mix it together, becomes kind of a tinder box and can explode in your face.

    Jonah notes:

    I’m not saying that was Clayton’s intent [to comment on whether or not Mormonism is Christian] or that he doesn’t have the right to say it if it was, but you can see in the outlines of this formulation a way for Democrats to dogwhistle Romney’s Mormonism relentlessly. “I for one will not attack anyone’s religion, be they devout Christian or whatever the Hell Mitt Romney is.” I expect to hear more of it, a lot more of it.

    So do we.  Everyone needs to watch this.  We must avoid crying “bigotry” where there is none, but people of good will need to speak up when the anti-Mormon game is being played, however subtly.  We want Mitt Romney to win the presidency, but to paraphrase Beinart, when it comes to the spirit of Article VI of the Constitution, it’s even more important that the country not lose.

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    When Subtlety Left The Building (and Grace, and Good Humor, and Wit)

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:28 am, April 24th 2012     &mdash      2 Comments »

    I am by academic training a scientist and vocationally I do a lot of engineering.  That means that rhetorically I am inclined to be a blunt instrument.  No, I think that is putting it too softly.  By predilection, I am more like the guy in this wrestling video:

    And yet, even I am struck at how naked and aggressive are the attacks now flowing Romney’s way from the left.  Yesterday we dismissed Tim Egan’s NYTimes piece on Romney’s lack of vice as “silly.”  And yet Martin Bashir found it so convincing he doubled down!  Can anything besides naked aggression account for advancing something that the author at least partially had his tongue-in-his-cheek when he wrote and using it as serious attack?

    And remember a couple of weeks ago when we dealt with Salon’s Alex Pareene’s defense of Lawrence O’Donnell as making a joke?  Well, Mr. Pareene has  new ebook out and Salon has an exceprt:

    Mitt Romney is weird. When the Obama reelection campaign early in the cycle made the mistake of indicating that its strategy would be to imply that Mitt Romney is weird by repeatedly telling Politico that it planned on calling Mitt Romney weird, Romney’s camp countered by causing a brief and not particularly sincere media brouhaha over whether “weird” is code for “Mormon.” Plenty of Americans think Mormons are weird, yes, but in this case, the simple fact is Mitt Romney is weird, entirely apart from his religion.

    And now the sledgehammer is a howitzer!  Not to mention that opening by saying, “It’s not about religion,” is tantamount to an admission that it is about religion.  Not because I agree with it, but because it is a lesson in how to message this kind of stuff, a link to this Atlantic piece is in order.  “Romney’s ‘Leave it to Beaver’ in the ‘Gossip Girl’ age,” yada, yada, yada, but at least it manages to level the “weird” charge with some humor and style.

    And then, because they are having a hard time getting the “Mormons are racist; therefore Romney is racist” thing to stick (Gee, I wonder why?  Maybe a lack of reality?) some guy at HuffPo decides to “prove” Mormons have an Indian problem.  The quoting of sacred texts of any faith and using it for “gotcha” is old, tired and pointless.  The Bible says God created the Earth in six days and yet I am NOT a young earth creationist.  Go figure.

    Concerning the weekend dust-up at Liberty University.  When Liberty took down the Facebook announcement, the griping went away.  What is amazing is that CNN’s follow-up piece on that does not charge censorship.  What do we learn?  Mostly that CNN is lazy trying to turn Facebook comments into a story.  “You’re stupid” – “Nu-uh, you are” does not constitute debate.

    One other mis-messaging comes in this interview with Ross Douthat on his new book which is in the pile but I have not gotten to yet.  In a classic “theology first” approach Douthat proclaims both Romney and Obama as “heretics,” but then goes on to talk about how clearly preferable Romney is to people of faith.  Once the label “heretic” is applied I think people might just stop listening.  If one wants Romney to win, which I assume to be the case if he is preferable, then a much softer descriptor might be in order, or maybe bury the thought way down from the lede.

    There was a great transcript of a Pew event on Mormons and Civic Life.  It’s long and it’s smart and it is the first really serious thing we have linked to today (save of course the self referential links scattered throughout ;-) )  Sadly few will read it through.

    And finally. Michael Medved gets it right:

    Before Rick Santorum suspended his presidential campaign, exit polls from his landslide victory in the Louisiana primary showed that a stunning 73% of Republican voters insisted that it “matters that a candidate shares my religious beliefs” — expressing the conviction that it’s appropriate to judge a prospective president based on his theological orientation. Only 12% took the position that it matters “not at all” if a candidate’s religious outlook differed from their own.

    There’s an obvious irony to this situation: Many of those same social conservatives who claim to revere the plain text of the Constitution seem determined to ignore its prohibition on religious tests for federal office.

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