Friday, December 07, 2007


Taking The Mitts Off

I don't know whether Mitt Romney hit a "home run" with his speech on faith. In fact, trying to use a baseball metaphor on a political speech about faith seems to me just wrong.

However, there are a few things that jump out.

1) It's interesting that "Catholic," "Christian," "Jew" and "Muslim" all appear more times than "Mormon" (which appears exactly once). Given the speech build-up, will that imbalance unwittingly draw more attention to the religious issue than away from it? Time will tell.

2) When an ardent social conservative like Ramesh Ponnuru observes: "It would have been nice if Romney, while making room for people of all faiths in this country, could have also made some room for people with none," that may foretell some problems down the road.

3) Given that the speech is a plea to ask voters to not to impose a religious -- and implicitly see his religion as being part of the broad faiths practiced by other Americans -- did Romney leave himself vulnerable with this line:

These American values, this great moral heritage, is shared and lived in my religion as it is in yours. I was taught in my home to honor God and love my neighbor. I saw my father march with Martin Luther King.
While Romney's father may have had the "American values" and "moral heritage" to march with MLK, was his Morman faith instrumental in that -- the same faith that taught until 1978 that blacks were such a lesser race that they couldn't be ordained as priests? The statement says wonders about George Romney's values, but actually draws uncomfortable attention to one not-too-long-gone aspect of the religion's tenets.

On the whole, however, I have to give Romney major credit for both the trappings of the speech (doing it at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library) and, more importantly, its broad substance. Over the last couple of weeks, there have been a number of moments on both sides where the campaign has veered into "silly season" territory. The Hillary-Obama "kindergarten" story is the most obvious example on the Democratic side and the how-low-can-you-dance go against illegal immigrants among Republicans.

For one day, the main discussion is on an a significant thoughtful speech by one of the contenders. People will differ about parts of the speech -- or whether he should have given it. But, the reality of the speech is that it has elevated the tone of the campaign -- and for one day at least, put Romney on a slightly higher plane than his competition.

That's not a bad thing.

UPDATE: Romney won over Pat Buchanan.

UPDATE II: This helps take a bit of bloom off the rose. Apparently, the non-mention of non-believers was not unintentional.

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