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."

  • Style, Substance and Jokes That Are Not Funny

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:03 pm, October 17th 2012     &mdash      11 Comments »

    We said in our post-debate analysis both in the immediate aftermath and this morning that while the optics were much improved for Obama from the first debate (not a very high bar mind you) that on the substance of the debate any claims of winning on his part stood on very shaky ground.  But as I consider the debate further, I am not so sure even the optics are what that good for Obama past the first blush.

    Consider what Obama strategy was last night.  He was not arguing, he was asserting a version of reality.  Moreover, he filibustered and appealed to Crowley to attempt to have the last word.  Strategically he seemed to think that if he had the last word his version of reality would carry the day.  That is an effort to win on style points while clearly losing the race, as we have asserted multiple times now.  It is an attempt to trump truth with technique.

    But more, it is just childish.  The last word in an argument may be the last word, but that does not mean it is the right or the winning word.  Fortunately parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and voters that used to be children will recognize Obama’s efforts for just how childish they are.

    And speaking of childish – what passes for humor amongst the left often falls into the same category.  That became most evident today as the “funny” picture shown here circulated amongst the left on Facebook.  I have not made up my mind yet as to whether the picture rises to the level of offensive religious attack, but I am quite sure there is nothing funny about it.  For starters the whole “binder” thing is just ridiculous.  The statement has to be taken so far out of context for there to be anything wrong with what Romney said that anyone that watched the debate is left scratching their head and wondering what all the fuss is about.  But then this is the president that claimed he named Benghazi as terrorism the day after the attack – utterly out of context.

    Secondly, Mormonism’s polygamous past is simply not the stuff of jokes.  Regardless of your agreements or disagreements it is of enormous historical consequence both positively and negatively.  The settlement of the American West would have been dramatically different without it, and much of that difference would not be for the better.  It is something for people to understand and it is too complex to be understood with flippancy.  This is a a major misfire.

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    Romney Defends His Faith – Crowley Defends Obama (UPDATED)

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 09:56 pm, October 16th 2012     &mdash      6 Comments »

    Romney was unflappable.  In my book that equals a win.  There are many disagreeing out there – I don’t get it.  I will admit, the optics of this debate did not favor Romney nearly so much as the last one, but people are going to have to think about this one and when they do, it will become clear that Romney won.

    Romney’s take down of the Obama lack-of-a-record and failure to live up to his ’08 campaign rhetoric was devastating – DEVASTATING!  That single couple of minutes by Romney decides the debate heavily in his favor.

    Obama also spent a lot of time hiding in Crowley’s skirt.  If he wasn’t whining about time (which he got more of), he was pleading with Crowley to change the subject – just like he did last time.  Can you say, “No Mas?”  And Crowley seemed very happy to have him there.  No place was this more evident than the Libya exchange.  Said Jim Geraghty:

    However, by telling the audience – to applause! – that Obama did refer to the murders as a terror attack, Candy Crowley is responsible for one of the most egregious misjudgments of any moderator in the history of presidential debates.

    Post debate, Crowley “corrected” herself.  However, as a commenter on the post just linked said:

    60M people watched her say Romney was wrong and 500K will watch her correct her mistake. That of course is why she made her “mistake”.

    What this debate does to the race is an open question.  I think that it will aid Romney because he was unflappable and people will like that.  But undoubtedly history will remember this debate for this misjudgement (he said kindly) on Crowley’s part.  Until tonight Crowley had a reputation as the most impartial of the CNN people.  Tonight she greatly hastened the end of that network.  She’ll keep her job because the yabo’s that run CNN probably like what she did, but as of now her reputation is blown.

    But for purposes of this blog, Romney’s shining moment was here:

    QUESTION: Hi, Governor. I think this is a tough question. To each of you. What do you believe is the biggest misperception that the American people have about you as a man and a candidate? Using specific examples, can you take this opportunity to debunk that misperception and set us straight?

    ROMNEY: Thank you, and that’s an opportunity for me, and I appreciate it.

    [...]

    My — my passion probably flows from the fact that I believe in God. And I believe we’re all children of the same God. I believe we have a responsibility to care for one another. I — I served as a missionary for my church. I served as a pastor in my congregation for about 10 years. I’ve sat across the table from people who were out of work and worked with them to try and find new work or to help them through tough times.

    Romney here makes plain that even if some cannot find it to share faith with him, he most certainly shares faith with them.  This was absolutely the pitch perfect way to address the misperception about his faith without getting into the tall grass of theology and Mormon history.  I also know that this was directly from Romney’s heart and completely unfiltered.  I know these comments spoke to my Mormon friends that want so much to simply be accepted in the community of faith, even if there particular faith is a little different.  I am sure there will be the hardcore numbskulls out there that will get all exorcised about how Mormons worship a “different god.”  All I can say is such people seek to divide the nation when unity is most necessary.

    Mitt Romney seeks to unite this nation under a belief in the divine and the higher accountability that brings to all of us.  Well said, Gov, Romney!

    The Next Morning

    Last night at debates end, I tweeted what has become my most quoted and retweeted blurb ever:

    Bad Q set, D+ moderation, Obama awake and still Romney wins #hewitt #tcot #debate

    The resonance of that tweet caught me off guard – I spent the overnight thinking about it.  I think it summed up what the morning reactions are saying.  The WSJ:

    President Obama bounced off the canvas with a more spirited debate at Hofstra University on Tuesday night, as everyone expected he would. He was animated and on the attack. The question we kept asking as the evening wore on, however, is what does he want to do for the next four years?

    Victor Davis Hanson:

    Obama did not forfeit the debate as last time, and took his cue from Joe Biden in interrupting and muttering while Romney spoke, so his energy made it an entertaining night. Nevertheless, the same theme as in Denver emerged — Romney more often providing specific proposals and detailed critiques, and Obama preferring more often emoting and running more on hypotheticals, as if he were not an incumbent with a depressing record that he is obligated to defend.

    John O’Sullivan:

    Whether or not you call this a draw or a win for either candidate depends, I think, on whether you score the debate question by question or by a general impression at its close. If you score it question by question, I don’t see how you can reach any conclusion other than a win for Romney. He answered almost all the questions well, some brilliantly….

    In other words, Obama had nothing but bluster.  Obama’s argument last night, if you can even say his interrupting, harrumphing, counter-punching amounted to such, was, “Give me four more years to keep doing what I am doing.”  He was in complete denial that what he is doing is failing.  It was the same old “Blame Bush, even God could not have pulled out of this mess,” that we have heard pretty much since the man took office.

    Obama is big on talking the typical rhetoric , “I believe in free enterprise,”  “I believe in freedom of religion,” – however, he always follows by a “but….”  He did it in the debate last night.  I know the American people do not want more of same, and I am fairly certain they are not buying his “I believe, but…” rhetoric.  Stylistically Obama improved last night, but substantively he was shooting blanks.  The American people will know that instinctively.  That works when you have no record, but this guy has a pretty bad one.

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    If It Is Going To Happen, It Will Be Tonight

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:12 am, October 16th 2012     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    The townhall format to be used tonight is a fascinating one.  One the one hand, it is when the politician most directly interacts with the people.  Townhalls carry with them a risk; however.  Probably the most remembered townhall question of all time was at a Bill Clinton event on MTV and the question was “Boxers or briefs?”  And thus the era of the rock star president was born.  My point is that at a townhall, people are able to get up and ask questions that make their personal agenda, for at least a moment, national issues.

    I have been in townhall settings with Gov. Romney and watched him listen diligently and carefully to people that had personal tales of grief and sorrow and offer comfort.  I have also seen people get up and ask the most ridiculous questions – ones that make “B or b?” look almost relevant.  A good man like Romney cannot be simply dismissive, but he must move on.

    The point is that a townhall is much shakier ground than a normally moderated debate, where even if the press is grossly biased, they are predictable.  In a format like tonight, the candidates must rely on the moderator and the staff to sort the questiones and their questions into something reasonable.  But that also gives the moderator and staff an opportunity to allow in questions that might otherwise never see the light of day.

    And hence, if we are going to see the Mormon card played in a debate, tonight is the night.  The question is currently delegitimized sufficiently that should a moderator ask it, Romney could be dismissive – but not so from a participant in a townhall.  Romney also cannot afford to simply turn such a question into an attack on Jeremiah Wright, then he will be accused to dodging the question altogether.  And if the question gets in tonight, by virtue of its presence in the debate even if momentary, the floodgates are opened for the issue everywhere.

    Watch closely tonight it is going to be interesting.  People are just dying to play the card if they can find a “legitimate” means to do so.  In Canada they are trying to play it while poking fun at religious people generally.  And the Daily Beast is accusing Romney’s father of lying in support of his Mormon missionary work.  In the meantime, a man that has tried to ride herd on the Godblogosphere for a long time now, correcting even minute points of doctrinal deviance with all the subtlety of a nuclear weapon has decided to vote for Romney.

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    When Churlish Met Composed – Poorly Moderated (UPDATED with a cartoon no less)

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:29 am, October 12th 2012     &mdash      3 Comments »

    A lot of the big name punditry is trying to portray last night as “a substantive tie, a stylistic disaster. “  I have a very different view.  Who could hear what was being said substantively?  I could not get past Biden’s smirking rudeness – particularly since he was dismissive of Ryan even before Ryan said anything really.  Biden’s performance reminded me, BTW, of one of the reasons Romney looked so good last week.  Romney could have been completely dismissive of the ill-prepared and inept Obama last week, but he instead treated the president with respect and human dignity.  Biden treated Ryan like something to be wiped off his shoe – you do not need to do that if you are winning.

    Generally debates are a blank page onto which the punditry and commentariat can spin their spin and the tale of “who won” is determined not in the debate itself, but in the aftermarket.  That’s part of what made last week’s Romney/Obama affair so stunning – it was not debatable who “won.”  This one is more subject to debate – but Biden’s manner tells the tale – Ryan won.  But more importantly, the American people lost last night – it was just hard to watch.  Biden was so clearly rude, and the moderator had so little control, that it was the kind of thing that the undecided voter was going to turn off and go elsewhere for information.

    Ryan comported himself extraordinarily well, particularly considering what he was faced with.  However, I think few of the independent, undecided voters would have hung around long enough, or those that did fought hard enough to get through the noise, to notice that.  It was just ugly thanks to Joe Biden and his antics.

    Moderator Martha Radditz was clearly in the tank for Obama/Biden, but even that was overshadowed by what a poor job she did moderating.  She clearly does not know the difference between moderating a debate and conducting an interview.  At times it seemed as if she wanted to debate the candidates more than they wanted to debate each other – and usually it was Ryan when Biden was being particularly ineffective.

    But most extraordinary to me was her blatant attempt to draft her personal agenda onto the debate.  Nowhere was that more clear than in her religion/abortion question:

    RADDATZ: I want to move on, and I want to return home for these last few questions. This debate is, indeed, historic. We have two Catholic candidates, first time, on a stage such as this. And I would like to ask you both to tell me what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion.

    Please talk about how you came to that decision. Talk about how your religion played a part in that. And, please, this is such an emotional issue for so many people in this country…

    Would it not have been sufficient to simply discuss abortion?  Was it really necessary to craft the question in terms of the Catholicism of the candidates?  Does not the fact that both men are Catholic mean that their religious affiliation was entirely irrelevant to the question at hand?  In putting the question this way it appears to me that Radditz was trying to do two things.

    Firstly, she was trying to paint the church as the bad actor int he abortion debate.  In this effort she was ably assisted by Biden who said, “But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the — the congressman. I — I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that — women they can’t control their body”  Now this comes right after Biden has declared that he personally holds with the Catholic teaching that life begin at conception.  I find Biden’s answer baffling becasue if you personally hold the Catholic teaching, then you must believe abortion is a form of murder and we clearly restrict murder in this nation.  We impose our views of murder on all sorts of people that believe otherwise everyday.  This stance is nonsensical.  All it does is paint the Roman Catholic church as some sort of social bully.

    But the other thing that Radditz was doing with this question was setting the table for a discussion of the religious affiliation of the presidential candidates.  Given this precedent, moderators of the next two debates can try and pursue similar questions with Romney and Obama.   Radditz may not have rung the Mormon bell, but she sure made sure the remaining moderators had the bell rope firmly in hand.  (Fortunately Jeremiah Wright makes it dangerous to go ahead and ring the bell – but future moderators may find it irresistible.)

    The only good thing that came out of this exchange was that Ryan was able to bring up the HHS ruling and Biden’s utter failure to address the charge and simply dismiss it rang particularly hollow.  All Biden did was parse semantics and he did so in a way that wasparticularly more annoying than he was for the entire rest of the debate.   Big fail for Biden on this one.

    Meanwhile, on the religious identity front in the election generally some bad thongs are happening.  For whatever reason, the left continues to find the Mormon sacred garments fascinating.  Now they are selling replicas.  I would very much like to get snide about this – it’s just ridiculous.  However, I respect my Mormon friends too much.  Adding my snide would only demean their faith and I do not wish to do that.

    But there are also some very good things happening:

    The Rev. Billy Graham prayed with Romney and offered support during a visit Thursday while Romney stumped in North Carolina. Graham lives in western North Carolina.

    [...]

    In a statement released Thursday night, Graham said that he knew Romney’s father, whom he considered a friend. He also said he’s followed Romney’s career, but has been most impressed by his “values and strong moral convictions.

    “I appreciate his faithful commitment to his impressive family, particularly his wife Ann of 43 years and his five married sons.

    “It was a privilege to pray with Governor Romney—for his family and our country.

    Billy Graham, despite his current age and lack of public availabilities,  DEFINES Evangelicalism.  After such a statement, any Evangelical that would oppose Mitt Romney on religious grounds has left the Evangelical fold.  It does not get any simpler than that.  Rev. Graham has held his fire for a long time.  We know here as we have been trying to talk to him for about six years.  This statement is definitive, and it is as close to a candidate endorsement as Billy Graham has put out since he was burned by Richard Nixon.

    Furthermore, any member of the press, punditry, or left wing bizarre-o-sphere that tries to paint a problem between Evangelicals and Romney because of Romney’s Mormonism can safely be completely ignored.  They simply don’t get it.  With this statement, the issue on the right has gone off-the-table.

    The issue on the left; however, is still in the bullpen and I do think Martha Radditz has it warming up.

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    One Picture, A Thousand Words – And The Most Underappreciated Romney Bit Of The Night

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 09:25 am, October 4th 2012     &mdash      3 Comments »

    Courtesy Powerline:

    I think Romney’s best statement of the night came near the end – consider (I am adding some highlights):

    The role of government: Look behind us. The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The role of government is to promote and protect the principles of those documents.

    First, life and liberty. We have a responsibility to protect the lives and liberties of our people, and that means a military second to none. I do not believe in cutting our military. I believe in maintaining the strength of America’s military.

    Second, in that line that says we are endowed by our creator with our rights, I believe we must maintain our commitment to religious tolerance and freedom in this country. That statement also says that we are endowed by our creator with the right to pursue happiness as we choose. I interpret that as, one, making sure that those people who are less fortunate and can’t care for themselves are cared by — by one another.

    We’re a nation that believes that we’re all children of the same god and we care for those that have difficulties, those that are elderly and have problems and challenges, those that are disabled. We care for them. And we — we look for discovery and innovation, all these things desired out of the American heart to provide the pursuit of happiness for our citizens.

    But we also believe in maintaining for individuals the right to pursue their dreams and not to have the government substitute itself for the rights of free individuals. And what we’re seeing right now is, in my view, a — a trickle-down government approach, which has government thinking it can do a better job than free people pursuing their dreams. And it’s not working.

    The only domestic vulnerability Obama has that Romney did not hit hard last night was the HHS ruling and Obama’s egregious disregard for religious freedom in our nation – at least Catholic religious freedom.  Obama seems to have a great deal of regard for Islamic religious freedom, even if its expression includes the murder of our ambassadors.  But in this statement, Romney did allude to to religious freedom.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next debates.  Perhaps Ryan, being Catholic himself, is the one to hit this hard?  Maybe it is best brought up in the foreign policy context where the contrast I just drew will be most apparent?  I’m not sure.

    But this I do know – I was glad to hear Romney hit this note.  It is a clear signal to all Americans that he will support the bedrock principles that have made this nation great.

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    If Romney Did That To Obama, WHAT! Is Ryan Going To Do To Biden?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:37 am, October 4th 2012     &mdash      4 Comments »

    No one thinks Obama came close to winning last night not Bill Maher, not Michael Moore – the snap polling data showed Romney winning by 67%:

    “No presidential candidate has topped 60% in that question since it was first asked in 1984,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

    OUCH!  Diehards are going to try and soft-sell it (“Reprieve” for Romney my eye.)  Mike Allen called it a “grand slam.” It’s universal – Romney beat the snot out of Obama last night.

    There are two ways to look at last night.  One is the “The Emperor Has No Clothes” view.  This debate format and this Republican candidate were the perfect combination to reveal Obama for what he is – “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”  As Scott Johnson said on Powerline:

    Barack Obama is a big-time bs artist. At least since his law school days he has risen in great part through his perception that the people around him want to like him and see him succeed. He is a big faker who has never been pushed or exposed.

    Until now.  In this analysis, last night essentially ended the campaign. Once the emperor has been revealed in his nudity no amount of clothing can restore his former status.  It may take awhile for this to all sink in, but it’s over.

    The other analysis is also one that Scott Johnson well summarized in the same post:

    Watching the debate, I thought of Apollo Creed’s trainer in Rocky, when Creed is shocked by the pummeling he is taking in the championship match that Creed has blown off. The trainer says to Creed: “He doesn’t know it’s a damn show! He thinks it’s a damn fight!”

    I hope the Rocky analogy is limited; Creed recovered. Rocky went on to lose the fight on points to Creed.

    Obama lost last night, but he is a competitive guy who has his Chicago cornermen and the refs working overtime to make him a winner.

    There are a couple of difference though.  Creed was a great fighter made silly by his press. Obama did not have the tools to begin with (as Johnson pointed out earlier.)  The other difference takes a bit more explaining.  Jim Geraghty went on at length yesterday about “The Post Cold-War Celebrity President.”

    One of my recurring one-liners is that voters shouldn’t decide their president based upon which guy the Black-Eyed Peas are singing about. This is less about that particular group than the phenomenon of which candidate is deemed more “cool,” and which political figure inspires the most admiration from our national arbiters of “cool,” i.e., movie stars, musicians, and . . . er, professional athletes.

    Our nation has always had a bit of a schizophrenic view of its head of state.  In serious times, we want serious people, but when things are copacetic, we get strange and tend to view the presidency more like the British Royals than an actual functioning office.   I think it is related to the same attitudes that always cause us to spin down the military way too far when we think we do not need them.  But just like when they push our backs to the wall we have and can again build the greatest fighting force the world has ever known, so too we have great presidents come seemingly out of the woodwork when we need one.

    To any but the completely blinded – we need one and he rose to the top last night.

    This does not mean that we let up in the campaign.  It takes a lot of buzz to make sure everyone sees that the emperor is well and truly naked, but the dam is now broken and people are going to listen.  What happens now is that the silliness gets sidelined and the issues start to really matter.  In just the last 24 hours, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune and Real Clear Politics have carried articles saying “the Mormon thing does not matter.”  Die hard Evangelical outlets like the Christian Post are saying things like “Mormons may be strange, but come on the choice is obvious.)  In point of fact, the Mormon issue which really has been a sideshow all along, as gotten so sidelined, that our compatriots the Frenches at Evangelicals for Mitt have been able to have a little fun with it.

    Stories are even starting to appear that say what many of us have known for a long time – “Romney is really a nice, regular guy.”

    Romney won the debate last night, and he turned the tide in his favor.  But the election is still weeks away.  Stay busy, work hard, and be confident.  Oh, but do take a minute to laugh at the Tweet of the night.

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