Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

More on Romney’s Speech

Here is a link to John Podhoretz and--for the extreme pro-Romney analysis--here’s Hugh Hewitt. Hewitt also does us the favor of reprinting the speech within his comments so you can refer to it as you read his analysis. I read the speech and was able to catch about 5 minutes of it this morning as I chased the kids out the door for school. I thought it was only o.k. (though certainly too long winded) and I agree with Podhoretz in this assessment:

For those who don’t know Romney is a Mormon, well, they sure will now. For the next two or three days, it’s all anybody will know about him. Chances are it is the word that people will most associate with him from here on out. I don’t think that’s a good direction for a campaign that finds itself in the fight of its life in Iowa against the most explicitly Christian candidate in the field.
I stand by my earlier contention that Romney should have given this speech a very long time ago (as his wife argued) and that, had he done that, the question would have been off the table and not so prominent in the face of the Huckabee challenge. And while I sympathize with what Hewitt is trying to do with Romney (i.e., present Romney as a credible and electable alternative for conservatives to Giuliani), I think Hewitt’s comment that anyone who denies the magnificence of Romney’s speech is "not to be trusted as an analyst" is so over-the-top as to be unworthy of him. It was a well-intentioned and worthy effort, but I think it’s pretty clear that his efforts were better than Romney’s.

Discussions - 13 Comments

Pretty much dead on analysis Julie. It was (I read it) a good speech. The problem is very much one of timing. Done in the face of desperation, the speech looks very fake. As such, one begins to wonder that the long rumblings about faith, etc, are truly what Romney believes. The speech is very general and boilerplate-very conservative (in a not risky sense). That would have been fine 3 months ago. Today though, Romney needed to take a risk, to go for broke because he can't turn around a dying campaign with a few platitudes. He should have done something radical like link all conservative policies that he supports with his faith. Tax cuts-faith in liberty; life-faith in creation; Iran-faith in the good; small government-faith in individual Christians. He did not, and missed any small chance he may have had.

Two new polls are out today from South Carolina-Huckabee up 7 and 6. The news of the day is still very much Huckabee's rise to the top, or what is soon becoming news of him pulling away, I pray.

Julie, thanks, I don't have anything to add.

For those who say Romney's Mormonism doesn't or shouldn't matter, here is something to think about. How many evangelical Christian elected officials are there in Utah? I don't know. If someone does know for sure I would like to find out. My very strong hunch is not very many.

If there are any, I strongly suspect they represent areas heavily populated by military personnel near Hill AFB and maybe in some of the predominately tourist cities.

Thank the Lord for Wikipedia.

"About 80 percent of Utah's Legislature are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,[42] while they account for 61 percent of the population.[5]"

Reading between the lines, a large share of the non-Mormon 39% are kids. (Children of recent immigrants to the State I suspect.) So the voting age population that is Mormon is probably higher than 61 %. (Utah is actually less Mormon than I thought. The result of recent immigration and growth, I think.)

It would be nice to know what % of the non-Mormon office holders are evangelical or other conservative Christian denomination. I would be curious if there is actually a penalty against evangelicals and other conservatives because they believe Mormonism is heretical or if they are treated as co-social conservatives. How the faith of the elected official breaks down by the make up of the district, etc.

Better speech than I expected; quite good, in fact. I read it, which is how most folks who are interested will get it (though I intend to watch the video--all 20 minutes of it). Safe to say, he would not have delivered this speech if it were not for my man Huckabee's increasing popularity. The speech, in short, emphasized that what we have in common as a religious people is what should be the focus of any discussion of religion's role in political matters, implication being that the use of religion to divide citizens is un-American. Here's the play-by-play of the speech, introduced by former President George H.W. Bush:

Nice opening, where Romney highlighted Bush 41's experience as a pilot in WWII: facing "challenge and peril," Americans "rise to the occasion," and hence today's generation must do the same in the face of its own unique challenges, which he goes on to list ("violent Islam," China's economic juggernaut, and domestic problems of runaway govt spending, oil "overuse," and family "breakdown").

Theme of address was "our religious liberty" as a key to American greatness. Lots of references, good ones, to the founders on religion (more Adams than Jefferson), focusing on the connection between religion and morality, and hence the wisdom in cultivating this connection for a self-governing (read: self-controlled) people. Shades of Washington's Farewell Address, and didn't pull punches here: to wit, "Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people" (props to John Adams) and Romney's riff: "Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom." There's a topic for discussion, esp. as some have already noted that the non-believers amongst us found few bones thrown their way. Moving right along. . .

Jibe at Huckabee: "I do not define my candidacy by my religion." Goes on to say he will "put no doctrine of any church" above the "plain duties of the office," and cited Lincoln one time to extoll a "political religion" (borrowing AL's phrase) that "defend[s] the rule of law and the Constitution."

Going further than Lincoln did, Romney gave a quick answer to those he says keep asking him about his view of Jesus Christ: "the Son of God and the Savior of mankind," adding that his church's beliefs about Jesus "may not all be the same as those of other faiths" but we should not apply a religious test for federal office.

He then reached out to other denominations and religions by identifying "features" in their faith and practice "I wish were in my own." He closes this with a nice reference to the nation's "many houses of worship," with "their steeples, all pointing to heaven, reminding us of the source of life's blessings." An understated but beautiful witness to the Creator of us all. The grand point is that "we share a common creed of moral convictions," which Romney believes informed and should direct our common national course. Examples he gave were abolition, civil rights, and "the right to life itself."

Rejecting "the religion of secularism," which he associates wit those who would root out of the public square any reference to religion, he affirmed the historic practice of acknowledging we "are a nation 'Under God'" thru our currency, pledge, teaching of American history, and holiday expressions of religious faith. In a subtle allusion to Supreme Court adjudication, Romney declared, "Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our Constitution rests."

The key question he asks of any person of faith seeking political office? "does he share these American values: the equality of human kind, the obligation to serve one another, and a steadfast commitment to liberty"? These he calls "the great moral inheritance we hold in common"--not a bad turn of phrase. And human equality he rightly considers "the most revolutionary political proposition ever advanced." After gleaning from the Declaration of Independence that "liberty is a gift of God, not an indulgence of government," he reminds the world that "America took nothing from" the 20th Century's "terrible wars," either in "land" or "treasure" or "oath of fealty."

Romney closes his speech with a quick rehearsal of the rocky development of religious freedom in America, reminding those today who enjoy it, of the days when it was freedom for me but not for thee, citing the examples of Ann Hutchinson, Roger Williams, and Brigham Young (natch) as those who held "diverse beliefs" in the face of religious majorities who would not tolerate such religious differences (no elaboration, of course, of what those majorities might have found problematic in these diverse faiths: e.g., Young's polygamy). He laments the empty churches of Europe, remarking that the "establishment of state religions in Europe did no favor to Europe's churches." Worse, he says, "is the other extreme, the creed of conversion by conquest," adding that "theocratic tyranny" is the great danger confronting the civilized world today. He gives thanks that "we live in a land where reason and religion are friends and allies in the cause of liberty," and exhorts us to "welcome our nation's symphony of faith." His final citation is from the Continental Congress in 1774, where Sam Adams, amidst a diversity of religious denominations, "said he would hear a prayer from anyone of piety and good character, as long as they were a patriot." With God as "the author of liberty," Romney asks the nation to pray for the blessing of "'freedom's holy light,'" [from the fourth stanza of "America, My Country 'Tis of Thee"] and asks God to bless the U.S.A.

I watched the speech this morning. To me, the speech revealed a fundamental misunderstanding of the Constitution. Romney said that if he was evaluated by his Mormonism then that introduced a religious test. This, he said, was unconstitutional. However, Article VI obviously only refers to the government itself, not the standards individual voters might bring to the table. If Romney thinks restrictions set on the government apply to citizens, then he doesn't understand the document he claims to support! Did anyone else feel this i his speech? Am I misreading what he said? If he did mean that Article VI applied to voting citizens, what other restrictions do I as a voter need to observe in my decision making?

Julie really nails the problem with Romney's speech--the timing. How much better if it had come during the Summer!

Watch for Giuliani's support in the Upstate to fade while his strength in the low country holds firm. He has dropped like a rock in SC and may go even lower.

Who wants to bet it will be a brokered convention with no one going into it with sufficient votes to win on the first ballot?

Did Hewitt throw in mention of his book, and how it's at bookstores near you.

Julie, you're dead right, {you often are} that Romney should have delivered this type of speech back before the commencement of the campaign season. But you stretch the point when you suggest that the issue would have been "off the table." Just because Romney addressed the issue doesn't mean that discussion of that issue would end. It would only allow Romney to refer people back to his speech, but I don't think that alone would have held up. He needed to deliver several speeches like this, OR, ignore the issue altogether. When asked in a town hall gathering, of course answer the question, don't dodge it. But Romney shouldn't have gone out of his way to bring the issue up.

As for Hewitt, I'm not placing any trust in anything he has to offer about Romney, not until he discloses the full terms of his book deal, the terms of the contract, and any outside agreement not contained within the four corners of the contract. Hewitt is awfully keen on demanding full disclosure, it's incumbent upon him to provide similar disclosure about his dealings with Romney.

It's difficult not to suspect that Romney bought himself a radio host, especially when Hewitt refuses to disclose the terms of the deal.

Otherwise how account for Hewitt's enthusiasm for a very flawed candidate, who was on every side of every major issue under the sun.

Timing is a poli.sci. tactical matter, Julie. The essence of Romney's words are otherwise. I am very comfortable with the words and thoughts of the speech, and think well of him for giving it.

Troubling in this matter are 1)The religious ignorance of Americans, and 2) The use of "He's a Mormon!" by the esteemed MSM, which works with (1) to sway the public away from Romney, and by association, other Republicans.

And as for dogma, i.e., polygamy, that resembles other odd practices which at one time may have had some social utility, such as the Jewish no-no's to eating pork, or no milk with meat; and the Catholic ban on divorce. None of these are rationally defensible today, so none of these oddments matter to me in the slightest.

To the Huck fans, I say he reminds me of Jimmy Carter. He has that same mean streak laced with (some) ignorance and self-rectitude. Remember Carter's "great" works as governor and the MSM praise? Zero-based budgeting?

Lucas . . . Please post your very fine comments in the regular blog so all will get a chance to read them and comment. They're too good to be just a comment under my paltry offering.

3,4: Red, your questions are irrelevant. Romney isn't from Utah and can't be held responsible for its political culture. You sound like you're just Mormon-bashing. If you must do that, do it somewhere else. I and I'm sure others don't like the smell of it.

Actually, Red has a decent point about whether Mormons discriminate against evangelicals when they vote. I'm not sure it matters too much except to say that they are no more "tolerant" than we. However, there is not reason Madison would not have expected private citizens to faction over religious beliefs. The founders would be completely fine with individuals voting based on "religious discrimination," because that would make for good factions. What the founders did not endorse was a government that excluded different religions, for if the different factions were excluded, we would again move toward the tyranny of the majority.

David, what you can't stand the smell of is a conservative who refuses to slavishly endorse the liberal value of religious pluralism.

I am not Mormon bashing, whatever that means. I have said that I think Mormonism is theologically leagues away from orthodox Christianity. It can not rightly claim to be any sort of Christianity. But that is not my point. My point, a point that I have made several times, is that it is perfectly acceptable if Romney’s religion matters to evangelicals. I would be disappointed in them if it didn’t. There is no non-liberal reason why it should not matter.

Most of the Founders were likely Christian denominational pluralist, but they presupposed Christianity. Even the Deists among them did. All this religious pluralistic purism is modern liberal revisionism.

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