After twelve months of denying that his religion was a campaign issue, Willard Mitt Romney had a revelation: it was now time to talk frankly about his Mormon faith. This keen insight certainly had nothing to do with Mike Huckabee taking over first place in the Iowa Presidential preference polls, nor Huck’s rhetorical question: "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?"
For a long time, Mitt and the media knew that 17 to 24 percent of Americans (both Republican and Democrat) would never vote for a Mormon. Only after the former Baptist minister flipped the Iowa standings (from 27-18 for Romney to 39-23 for Huckabee in one month) did the former Massachusetts governor decide it was time for “The Kennedy Speech.” The media salivated and heralded the event for days, in anticipation of an electoral “save” equivalent to Mitt’s rescue of the 1999 Salt Lake City Olympics.
The speech was ‘Breaking News” all day Monday, carried live by several national television networks. The blogosphere was immediately unimpressed, disappointed and bored. What about the “Magic Underwear”? Where was the eloquent defense of his heartfelt religious principles, crudely labeled a cult by his opponents? What about that magic stone in the hat? Would South Park remain the only source for a casual review of the Book of Mormon?The Speech
After a kind introduction by past President George H.W. Bush, there was little to be learned about Mormonism from the man who wants to move into the Oval Office. Instead of religion, Mitt talked about religious liberty. Not the “absolute separation” of church and state that Catholic John Kennedy and the Founding Fathers advocated, but the freedom to chose any religion (except radical Islam), as long as you prayed for President Romney. Agnostics and atheists don’t pray, so they can vote for somebody else, because “freedom requires religion.”
It was reassuring to hear that “no authorities of my church … will ever exert influence on presidential decisions,” but that isn’t the point. The question left hanging was what influence Romney’s own beliefs will exert on his decisions, if he were to become President. On that point, he attempted to find common ground with Christians on “great moral principles” like the abolition of slavery, voting rights, and … oh, yeah … the life of the unborn. On that issue, some “Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs,” like being pro-choice for one campaign and pro-life for the next. Maybe that was some other candidate?
Romney undoubtedly earned a good portion of his enormous wealth, but there’s something incongruous about his proclamation of the “equality of human kind, the obligation to serve one another.” He had to take the silver spoon out of his mouth to quote John Adams’ view that we’re “thrown into the world all equal and alike.” I’m sure that Romney contributes generously to charities, but the issue is whether his ideals will motivate him to use government to impose this charitable obligation on every taxpayer. Apparently so, given his obligatory health care insurance program in Massachusetts, which is not far removed from the plans of several Democratic opponents.
If the faithful want a religious worldwide crusade, Mitt is happy to oblige. He probably didn’t win any new supporters by condemning “radical Islam,” but he put it in an odd context, calling theocratic tyranny the “greater danger,” as though he were prepared to fight religious tyranny everywhere ... except here. No, we need God on our coins and in the pledge, prayer in schools, and religious displays on public property. That’s not theocracy ... unless someone should utter a prayer to some foreign Abrahamic God, like Allah.
The only thing evident from his “Faith Speech” is that Mitt sorely wants to be the number one buddy and favored candidate of all voting theists: “any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me.” That’s not likely to happen, with a Baptist preacher making the same appeal.Sadly, he overlooked the obligatory Presidential speech closing refrain: “God Bless America!” Instead, he called on his audience to join him, “And together, let us pray that this land may always be blessed, ‘with freedom’s holy light.’” But, by that time, he didn’t have a prayer.