Cheat-Seeking Missles

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Romney Speech: No Converts

Mitt Romney gave a beautifully crafted speech today called "Faith in America" that was really about "The Mormon Faith in American Politics."

It was pretty much the best speech on the subject he could have given. There were quibbles, of course:
By insisting on faith - any faith - as the proper criterion for public office, Romney draws the line, oh-so-conveniently, so as to include Mormonism but exclude atheism and agnosticism. -- Andrew Sullivan
And there were broadsides:
Romney, though, had a perfect distraction for his doubters, the religious group Americans distrust more than Mormons: Muslims. ... No matter how much Republican voters may distrust members of Romney's faith, they hate someone else [Muslims] more. -- Mother Jones
But mostly, there were lovely turns of phrase:
Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone. ...

No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith. For if he becomes President he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths.
But it really all gets down to this: Those who are more concerned about a president's morality and character than the church he goes to didn't need to be moved, and those who cannot stomach a Mormon president cannot be moved. This speech was about getting it over with, and only about getting it over with. It was not about overcoming the doubts of those who hold Romney's religion against him.

And as a "getting it over with" speech, it was effective, as Romney said:
There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church's distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution.
Agreed ... with a bit of a groan, because if, as Romney suggested and I believe, secularism is a religion, then questions about the moral structure of a secularist candidate are out, too. Abortion? Public prayer? Faith-based initiatives? Can't answer; religious test.

Of course those are issues for the Democratic party, where they don't matter. There are, and will be, no meaningful Secularist GOP candidates any time soon.

Half a century ago, Kennedy made a similar speech that some credit with giving him the edge over Nixon. I disagree. His haircut, his wife, his personna -- they gave him the edge over Nixon, and none of those moved a single person unsettled about a Catholic in the White House.

God may smile on Romney and he may be our next president. But it will be his policies and his ability to communicate them effectively to those who don't have a Mormon hang-up that will get him votes.

Now that the speech has been given and the issue is done with, he can get along with that task.

Photo: NY Times

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