"Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly." – G. K. Chesterton

Archive for December, 2011

Mitt Romney

Amazingly enough, it now seems that either Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee for President.  The idea that Gingrich could win almost 15 years after he resigned from the House in disgrace boggles the mind.  As for Mitt Romney, he’s got no end of problems.  One of those problems is that he’s a Mormon.

This fact has sparked a deal of controversy, dealing less with whether it’s appropriate for a Mormon to be President than with whether it’s appropriate to ask whether it’s appropriate for a Mormon to be President.  Some popular opinion-makers have suggested that it’s not okay to even ask questions about Romney’s religion.  The typical argument goes like this.  Mitt Romney is running for President.  We should judge him by qualities that will affect his performance in that job.  His religious beliefs won’t affect anything he does as President.  Thus we shouldn’t even ask him anything about his religious beliefs.

If you objected to third sentence in that four-sentence argument, then you think about this much as I do.  It’s absurd to suggest that personal religious beliefs don’t affect anyone’s readiness to be President.  Personal religious beliefs are the most important thing to look at when judging someone’s readiness to be President.

Of course it’s important to know where a candidate stands on political issues.  We have many means to find that out, at least for a presidential candidate.  We have campaign speeches, debates, interviews,  books the candidate authored, past political record, and so forth.  While it’s good to peruse such things, they don’t tell us everything.  They are inadequate for two particular reasons.

First, we don’t know what issues a President will have to focus on while in office.  During the 2000 campaign, nobody knew that the winner would have to determine the nation’s response to the biggest terrorist attack in history.  Likewise, no one knows today what major events will occur between 2012 and 2016, and therefore we can’t ask a candidate how he’ll respond to those events.

Second, it’s possible for a candidate to lie.  I know this may be shocking to some, but politicians have been known to say things which aren’t actually true.

So when judging a candidate for office, we need to plunge deeper than merely what they say about political issues.  The best way to do that is to plumb their personal beliefs.  “Personal beliefs” are many in number, but religious beliefs or the absense thereof are certainly primary among them.  And there is no dividing line that separates religious beliefs from important beliefs.  That idea springs from the assumption that religion is trivial, an assumption which does not stand up to scrutiny.

In fact a person’s religion generally shapes that person’s politics.  It is true now and always has been.  My religion determines my values: what I call right and wrong, what I call important and unimportant.  To pretend otherwise is rank foolishness.

So what about Mitt Romney and Mormonism?  I’ve already made plain my feelings about the Mormon religion in this post.  If Mitt Romney truly believes all that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints teaches, then he believes an enormous amount of nutty stuff, which should certainly color our judgment of his readiness for high office.  If he claims to be a Mormon but doesn’t believe that stuff, that also should color our judgment of his readiness for high office.  But, in addition to the silly stuff, there’s also the bad stuff.  For instance, there’s the fact that the LDS Church taught for over a century that black people were morally inferior and banned them from the priesthood based on this.  They reversed course on this issue in 1978, suspiciously close after they learned that they’d lose their tax-exempt status if they didn’t start admitting blacks.  Mitt Romeny claims to be a lifelong Mormon.  How did he feel about this prior to 1977?  We deserve to know.

Newt Gingrich, eh?

When I was a child of roughly twelve years, a funny thing happened.  A man named Newt became the Speaker of the House and the second most powerful person in the world.  This was funny because, when I heard the word ‘newt’, I though of something like this:

However, the new Speaker of the House of Representatives did not look like that.  Instead, he looked more like this:

While the amphibian newts were chiefly notable for laying eggs and leaving a trail of slime wherever they went, the new Newt seemed more inclined towards things like cutting money to disabled children, saying that women can’t fight in the military because they get infections, bringing back orphanages, and getting slightly corrupt book deals from Rupert Murdoch.  I was just beginning to be aware of politics at that point, and over the next four years I watched this Newt lose a showdown with President Clinton over the federal budget, fail to pass a balanced budget amendment, call Hillary Clinton “bitch”, say that Bill Clinton was unfit to govern owning to commiting adultery, commit adultery, and finally resign in disgrace.  Like most people, I heartily approved of the final item on this list.  I did not want to see Newt Gingrich continuing as a powerful politician.

It did not occur to me that thirteen years later, the same Newt Gingrich would be the front-runner for the Republican nomination.  Yet here he is, opening up a 30-point lead of Mitt Romney in Florida, according to the latest polls.  It seems a safe bet that either one or the other of these guys will be the Republican nominee, and the nominee will have a good chance at being the next President.  I say that as long as the GOP is reviving politicians from the 90’s, they should dig up Steve Forbes and have him run for President.  He was highly amusing.

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