Saturday, December 8, 2007

Mitt's big speech (yawn!)

By Rick Morris

The biggest political topics of the week have been the surge of Huck in Iowa and the Mitt Romney speech about religion in Texas. The two are, of course, joined at the hip, as the desperation of a sliding Romney campaign and fears from within the campaign that he is being maligned by bigots led to his decision to confront the "Mormon issue."

I have made my views on the subject perfectly clear on The FDH Lounge program previously. I think that religion is a perfectly valid subject on which to judge a candidate, as it frames the person's worldview in a way that nothing else does. I said on our most recent program that I want a candidate that comes from within the traditional Judeo-Christian framework that we have always had for the presidency, and in my estimation Romney does not. When questioned by my friend and colleague Burrell Jackson about the likes of a Joe Lieberman, I replied that I did of course see him as being within that tradition and I would not hesitate to vote for a Jewish individual for president -- just not him, as I don't agree with him on many policy issues. Is it too late to get a "Draft Dennis Prager" movement going? Eh, maybe for 2012.

I would not vote against Romney with the same relish that I would a satanist, atheist or agnostic, as I would reject those pathetically-oriented people with relish. I feel that the Mormon faith is misguided in several ways, but I believe most adherents of the religion to be good people trying their best to do what is right. But I do have many legitimate questions about the Mormon religion, some from relatively close range. The father of one of my closest friends was recently recruited by the church and I became aware of some disturbing policies and tendencies from the Mormon institution. Previously, I had known little about it and tended to regard its differences from traditional Christianity as quaint and unimportant. No more. I invite those who loosely throw around charges of religious bigotry to investigate this religion fully before they malign others.

And that is the very point of this issue. While there are certainly bigots in the world who discriminate on the basis of race or religion while knowing nothing (such as the Klansmen of the early 20th century who attacked my fellow Roman Catholics for reasons of complete ignorance), there are also a great many people who will use religion as a basis for forming legitimate opinions about one's fitness for office. While the likes of Hugh Hewitt will cross even further into the realm of self-parody than even I thought possible with hysterically orgasmic Romney praise about the speech, it cannot be judged as anything more than a mild success at the most under the circumstances. Hewitt's point about conservative opinion leaders saying nice things about Romney is an important one, as was his point about the admittedly dignified and eloquent nature of the effort, but it fails to take into account the fact that Romney's Mormonism is a non-negotiable issue for many of us.

Combined with his rampant flip-flopping on social issues, Romney is a tough, tough sell for the vast majority of the GOP electorate, to say nothing of the general election voters. And the very elitism of Hewitt's argument about how the Powers That Be like he, Rush Limbaugh, James Dobson and others are putting the seal of acceptance on Romney's backside misses the point in a completely hilarious way. There are a great many voters who feel as I do that the Conservative Establishment, as well as the Republican Establishment, is corrupt and not to be trusted given the policies they have either ignored or condoned over the last seven years. If the top-down model of royally anointing a candidate worked this time, like it usually has with disastrous results for the Republicans (think about it, really: aside from Reagan in '80, when has the GOP front-runner actually been the best candidate?), then Mike Huckabee wouldn't be turning the entire process upside-down at the moment. While I certainly have my problems with Huckabee on many issues, at least if he wins the nomination we can be freed from the oppressive grasp of the conservative "leaders" who have lost their way. What the United States needs most is for the conservative movement to purify and simplify, to get back to the roots of the Sharon Statement, and to cast off the leeches and Beltway sellouts who have led it down a primrose path.

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