Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Mitt plays dodge 'em

Chris Bundgaard and A.C. Kleinheider teamed up for a great interview with Mitt Romney at the Vanderbilt Marriott. With due credit to Kleinheider and Bundgaard, I am reposting that interview here with my thoughts.

Part I

Part II

I agree with Kleinheider that Romney, while sounding very conservative, ducks the hard questions. He really ignored the question about how he might persuade someone who is conservative but opposed to the war to support him. That is, of course, an especially important question in light of Jimmy Duncan's endorsement of Romney. Duncan is not only the senior Republican in Tennessee's Congressional delegation, he is by far and away the leader among respected anti-war conservatives.

So what did Romney say to Duncan to convince him? It might be in Romney's best interest to share that information, because in doing so he may convince other conservative bona fides like myself. Mitt Romney does not say, but gives a response of artful dodging.

My wife tried to caution me last night to give Romney a bit of leeway "just maybe, just maybe his conversion to the pro-life cause is sincere," she said. After all, we are trying to win hearts and minds, and she said we do not do a very good job of it if we were to fail to accept the legitimacy of someone's change of heart if they really do mean it. She went on to admit, however, that she is not exceptionally thrilled by the notion of a Mormon running the country.

Since we are Catholics, it bears noting that there were a whole lot of people who were not thrilled by the idea of a Catholic running the country in 1960. Religious bigotry came out at its worst in that election. There was even a group that issued what they called "Kennedy quarters," 25 cent-pieces where George Washington's head had been painted red to look like a Cardinal's regitta, the implication being that the Church was going to be running the country.

In spite of Kennedy doing everything he could to distance himself from the Church and its teachings, Catholics turned out in droves for John F. Kennedy. Many believed that it was their chance to finally prove that they had arrived and were part of the American social and political landscape after years of being seen as not truly "American." Nuns and priests would tell Catholic school children to tell their parents to vote for Kennedy. Despite Kennedy's assertions to the contrary, many orthodox Catholics believed a Catholic President would transform the laws of the Church into the laws of the Land.

I was once told by my late priest that the worst thing that ever happened to the Catholic Church in America was the Presidency of John F. Kennedy, because it taught Catholics (mistakenly) that you could openly defy Church teaching and still get Church backing-it ruined the Church's moral authority.

A similar phenomenon is happening with Mitt Romney. Mormons are lining up in droves to support the decendant of an original apostle of their faith. I am not on the ground out West, but I would bet that there are many conservative Mormons backing Mitt Romney there who believe that the religious ideas of Mormonism will have an impact on government if Romney is elected. Romney, however, is setting himself up to become the Mormon version of JFK, and that is not a good thing at all if Mormons care about the moral authority of their church.

Mr. Romney has the potential to be extremely dangerous on so many levels.



At Wednesday, March 07, 2007 4:04:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Mormon community is very far from united either in voting Republican, or for any particular Republican candidate. I have heard wildly divergent opinions from Mormon friends about prospective candidates.

For example, some very prominent Mormons are supporting other candidates, such as the Governor of Utah, Jon Huntsman, supporting John McCain.

I have also heard some trepidation from some Mormons about the idea of Romney becoming President. In fact, I suspect there are more than a few Mormons who would rather not have their religion scrutinized or have coins with cardinal hats painted on them and such ridicule.

Having said that, Romney is a very popular figure in UT where he is rightly perceived as having brought credibility and legitimacy back to the Olympics after some scandal and where he has a lot of friend and family connections. It would not be surprising that he would have good success fundraising there and that many people would want to support him. His name recognition is extraordinarily high there and in MA, and is very low elsewhere.

I don't particularly think it will be bad for the Mormons is Romney becomes President. Perhaps some people who hate conservative policies will also dislike the Mormons to the extent that they believe his policy positions are the same as the church. I suspect those people already don't like Mormons though.

In fact, I think that the people who most dread the idea of having a Mormon President are the same people who see red over having a Christian President like George W. Bush.


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