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?
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.