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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

THE MORMON QUESTION

I finally got around to watching Mitt Romney's speech on religion in American life. This was billed as Romney's "JFK moment," where he reassured the country (or, in this case, conservative Christians) that he was fit to be president despite the fact that he's not a mainline protestant or a mason or whatever.

Watching the speech, I found myself a little annoyed that he had to give it at all. He actually has a pretty decent resume for the job. He has executive experience, he's turned around failing organizations, he knows French (in a Republican primary, that may actually be a liability). Why should people care all that much about the finer points of his religious beliefs? As far as I'm concerned, a candidate can think he's the reincarnation of the sun god just so long as he uses effective management techniques, doesn't get us into frivolous wars, and doesn't tap my phone without a warrant.

But for an embarrassing number of Americans, this really does matter. About 25 to 30 percent of Americans routinely say they wouldn't vote for a Mormon for president under any circumstances. A few weeks ago, I was watching videotape of a focus group on C-SPAN (yes, my life really is that empty) and I was stunned some of the things I heard. One woman claimed she won't vote for Romney because a friend gave her a copy of the Book of Mormon and the spirit told her not to read it.

Say what? You decided not to read a book, so someone who did read it shouldn't be president? That may actually be a worse decision making process than flipping a coin. But I digress.

I was somewhat impressed by Thursday's speech, more so for the delivery than the content. He looked and sounded presidential. And, as always, he had fabulous hair.

The rhetoric was a little more weak. Calls for religious tolerance were welcome, and the story about Sam Adam's call to prayer during the first constitutional congress was inspiring. But it fell apart when Romney made some clearly untrue statements (freedom needs religion and religion needs freedom? history says otherwise) and didn't seem to have much tolerance for non-believers.

When I wrote about Mitt last June, I said people shouldn't vote for him based on his views on "enhanced interrogation" and GITMO detentions. I wrote this despite the fact that I'm Mormon and, like every minority or sub-group in America, I'd like to see one of my own in the White House some day.

After seeing the Thursday speech, I'm left with the same conclusions. I wish it were otherwise.

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1 Comments:

At 8:35 am, Blogger thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

For a country so hell-bent on the separation of church and state, we sure do put a lot of weight on a politician's religious beliefs. I don't get it.

 

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