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

Posts tagged ‘Mitt Romney’

Updated election predictions: Obama still winning

Last spring I predicted that Barack Obama would pull out a narrow victory over Mitt Romney in the Presidential election.  The polls have consistently shown Obama leading by a slim margin.  Obviously I have great psychic powers and am able to predict the future.

Or not.  As it happens, I predicted that Obama would win by “between one and two percentage points”.  Most recent polls show him with a much larger margin, possibly as much as nine percentage points.  One thing is for sure: the dude is gonna’ win.

I could give you a state-by-state analysis of the polls to show that statistically, it’s nearly certain that Obama will win the electoral college.  Better statisticians than I have already done that, however, and in any case it’s not necessary.  Everyone seems aware that Romney is circling the drain.  Or, if I may shift metaphors, Tim Pawlenty is the latest rat to get off this particular sinking ship.  It’s impossible to imagine Romney winning this election because he’s such a lousy candidate.  We might as well start writing the obituaries now.  Or better yet, let’s just offer the Republicans some advice for 2016.

  • Find a candidate who is not a Mormon.
  • Find a candidate who did not amass a huge fortune by destroying American companies, short-changing investors, and sending jobs overseas.
  • Find a candidate who’s willing to offer actual economic and foreign policies, rather than dodging every question with vague promises.
  • Find a candidate who can actually articulate conservative ideas and the case for those ideas.
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Who’s gonna win

After a bruising and amusing primary season, the Republicans have finally chosen Mitt Romney as their presidential candidate.  That leaves us with the following matchup: Obama vs. Romney.

In 1945, most professional baseball players were in the military, and the World Series featured a mediocre matchup of the Cubs and the Tigers.  Sportswriter Walter Brown said, “I don’t think either of them can win.”  This race can’t help but remind me of that comment.  These candidates are so weak that it’s hard to imagine either emerging victorious.

One thing is clear at least.  Neither major party has much trust in their candidates ability to rally the crowds, motivate his supporters, and cruise to victory.  Both sides clearly believe that the only way to win is to play dirty, and the below-the-belt hits have already begun.  With the existence of Superpacs , there will be a lot more money in this race than any previous one, and thus a lot more advertisements.  Those of you with televisions–I have none–may wish to preemptively take a sledgehammer and break your screens now, rather than risk letting all that bile spill into your living room.

Lastly, even in the ’45 series, somebody did manage to win.  (It was the Tigers.)  So I suppose one of these two guys will stumble into the White House next January, and I might as well give my prediction.  Here it is: Obama wins by between one and two percent.  You heard it here first.

A Tale of Two Presidential Candidates

So the Iowa Caucuses have come and gone.  Mitt Romney has cruised to victory by the whomping total of eight votes, while Ron Paul sank to third place.  Coming in second was Rick Santorum, who I haven’t written about and actually know very little about.  If he manages to win some primaries, I may have to start paying attention to him.  Ron Paul is a loony, as I’ve pointed out before, so I imagine Romney will win.  Then again I’ve predicted victories for both Chris Christie and Newt Gingrich during this election cycle, and you can see how well those turned out.  Perhaps I’d do better to stay out of the prediction game.

Instead I’ll focus on a curious instance of hypocricy involving Mr. Paul and Mr. Romney.  It’s no secret that Paul published a string of racist newsletters during the 80’s and 90’s and that he’s know claiming that he had no relationship to them, even thought they have his name in large type across the top, even though he owned the company that published them, even though he puts his signature on this piece of paper:

Most people agree that it was atrocious for Ron Paul to write and do these things, and that the excuses he’s served up to justify it are rather thin.

Now let’s look at Mitt Romney.  He also has a long history of association with a racist organization, namely the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, hereinafter the LDS Church.  While everyone knows that this organization once promotoed polygamy and that they wear funny underwear, fewer people are aware of their racist history.  First they banned blacks from the priesthood until 1978 and only changed that policy when it became clear they’d lose their tax-exempt status if they didn’t.  Second, their leaders have a history of saying things like this:

The reason that one would lose his blessings by marrying a Negro is due to the restriction placed upon them. “No person having the least particle of Negro blood can hold the Priesthood” (Brigham Young). It does not matter if they are one-sixth Negro or one-hundred and sixth, the curse of no Priesthood is the same. … The Lord segregated the people both as to blood and place of residence. At least in the cases of the Lamanites and the Negro we have the definite word of the Lord Himself that he placed a dark skin upon them as a curse — as a punishment and as a sign to all others. He forbade intermarriage with them under threat of extension of the curse. – Apostle Mark Peterson

I think I have read enough to give you an idea of what the Negro is after. He is not just seeking the opportunity of sitting down in a cafe where white people eat. He isn’t just trying to ride on the same streetcar or the same Pullman car with white people. It isn’t that he just desires to go to the same theater as the white people. From this, and other interviews I have read, it appears that the Negro seeks absorption with the white race. He will not be satisfied until he achieves it by intermarriage. That is his objective and we must face it. We must not allow our feelings to carry us away, nor must we feel so sorry for Negroes that we will open our arms and embrace them with everything we have.  – Apostle Mark Peterson

Negroes … are merely the unfortunate group that has been selected by professional Communist agitators to be used as the primary source of cannon fodder. Not one in a thousand Americans — black or white — really understands the full implications of today’s civil rights agitation. The planning, direction, and leadership come from the Communists, and most of those are white men who fully intend to destroy America by spilling Negro blood, rather than their own.  – LDS President Ezra Taft Benson

Yet while everyone agrees that it was wrong for Paul to hobnot with racists, not everyone agrees that it was wrong for Romeny to do so.  In fact, the majority opinion among the chattering classes seems to be that even mentioning Romney’s Mormonism is a type of bigotry.

Chesterton on Mormonism

With the topic of Mitt Romney’s Mormonism erupting on my blog and elsewhere, it seemed worthwhile to ask G. K. Chesterton whether he had any thoughts on the topic.  He did, not surprisingly.  (Is there any topic on which Chesterton didn’t have thoughts?)  Here they are.

THERE is inevitably something comic (comic in the broad and vulgar style which all men ought to appreciate in its place) about the panic aroused by the presence of the Mormons and their supposed polygamous campaign in this country.

It calls up the absurd image of an enormous omnibus, packed inside with captive English ladies, with an Elder on the box, controlling his horses with the same patriarchal gravity as his wives, and another Elder as conductor calling out “Higher up,” with an exalted and allegorical intonation. And there is something highly fantastic to the ordinary healthy mind in the idea of any precaution being proposed; in the idea of locking the Duchess in the boudoir and the governess in the nursery, lest they should make a dash for Utah, and become the ninety-third Mrs. Abraham Nye, or the hundredth Mrs. Hiram Boke.

But these frankly vulgar jokes, like most vulgar jokes, cover a popular prejudice which is but the bristly hide of a living principle. Elder Ward, recently speaking at Nottingham, strongly protested against these rumours, and asserted absolutely that polygamy had never been practised with the consent of the Mormon Church since 1890. I think it only just that this disclaimer should be circulated; but though it is most probably sincere, I do not find it very soothing. The year 1890 is not very long ago, and a society that could have practised so recently a custom so alien to Christendom must surely have a moral attitude which might be repellent to use in many other respects. Moreover, the phrase about the consent of the Church (if correctly reported) has a little the air of an official repudiating responsibility for unofficial excesses. It sounds almost as if Mr. Abraham Nye might, on his own account, come into church with a hundred and fourteen wives, but people were supposed not to notice them. It might amount to little more than this, that the Chief Elder may allow the hundred and fourteen wives to walk down the street like a girls’ school, but he is not officially expected to take off his hat to each of them in turn. Seriously speaking, however, I have little doubt that Elder Ward speaks the substantial truth, and that polygamy is dying, or has died, among the Mormons. My reason for thinking this is simple; it is that polygamy always tends to die out. Even in the east I believe that, counting heads, it is by this time the exception rather than the rule. Like slavery, it is always being started, because of its obvious conveniences. It has only one small inconvenience, which is that it is intolerable.

Our real error in such a case is that we do not know or care about the creed itself, from which a people’s customs, good or bad, will necessarily flow. We talk much about “respecting” this or that person’s religion; but the way to respect a religion is to treat it as a religion: to ask what are its tenets and what are their consequences. But modern tolerance is deafer than intolerance. The old religious authorities, at least, defined a heresy before they condemned it, and read a book before they burned it. But we are always saying to a Mormon or a Moslem–”Never mind about your religion, come to my arms.” To which he naturally replies–”But I do mind about my religion, and I advise you to mind your eye.”

About half the history now taught in schools and colleges is made windy and barren by this narrow notion of leaving out the theological theories. The wars and Parliaments of the Puritans made absolutely no sense if we leave out the fact that Calvinism appeared to them to be the absolute metaphysical truth, unanswerable, unreplaceable, and the only thing worth having in the world. The Crusades and dynastic quarrels of the Norman and Angevin Kings make absolutely no sense if we leave out the fact that these men (with all their vices) were enthusiastic for the doctrine, discipline, and endowment of Catholicism. Yet I have read a history of the Puritans by a modern Nonconformist in which the name of Calvin was not even mentioned, which is like writing a history of the Jews without mentioning either Abraham or Moses. And I have never read any popular or educational history of England that gave the slightest hint of the motives in the human mind that covered England with abbeys and Palestine with banners. Historians seem to have completely forgotten the two facts– first, that men act from ideas; and second, that it might, therefore, be as well to discover which ideas. The medievals did not believe primarily in “chivalry,” but in Catholicism, as producing chivalry among other things. The Puritans did not believe primarily in “righteousness,” but in Calvinism, as producing righteousness among other things. It was the creed that held the coarse or cunning men of the world at both epochs. William the Conqueror was in some ways a cynical and brutal soldier, but he did attach importance to the fact that the Church upheld his enterprise; that Harold had sworn falsely on the bones of saints, and that the banner above his own lances had been blessed by the Pope. Cromwell was in some ways a cynical and brutal soldier; but he did attach importance to the fact that he had gained assurance from on high in the Calvinistic scheme; that the Bible seemed to support him– in short, the most important moment in his own life, for him, was not when Charles I lost his head, but when Oliver Cromwell did not lose his soul. If you leave these things out of the story, you are leaving out the story itself. If William Rufus was only a red-haired man who liked hunting, why did he force Anselm’s head under a mitre, instead of forcing his head under a headsman’s axe? If John Bunyan only cared for “righteousness,” why was he in terror of being damned, when he knew he was rationally righteous? We shall never make anything of moral and religious movements in history until we begin to look at their theory as well as their practice. For their practice (as in the case of the Mormons) is often so unfamiliar and frantic that it is quite unintelligible without their theory.

I have not the space, even if I had the knowledge, to describe the fundamental theories of Mormonism about the universe. But they are extraordinarily interesting; and a proper understanding of them would certainly enable us to see daylight through the more perplexing or menacing customs of this community; and therefore to judge how far polygamy was in their scheme a permanent and self-renewing principle or (as is quite probably) a personal and unscrupulous accident. The basic Mormon belief is one that comes out of the morning of the earth, from the most primitive and even infantile attitude. Their chief dogma is that God is material, not that He was materialized once, as all Christians believe; nor that He is materialized specially, as all Catholics believe; but that He was materially embodied from all time; that He has a local habitation as well as a name. Under the influence of this barbaric but violently vivid conception, these people crossed a great desert with their guns and oxen, patiently, persistently, and courageously, as if they were following a vast and visible giant who was striding across the plains. In other words this strange sect, by soaking itself solely in the Hebrew Scriptures, had really managed to reproduce the atmosphere of those Scriptures as they are felt by Hebrews rather than by Christians. A number of dull, earnest, ignorant, black-coated men with chimney-pot hats, chin beards or mutton-chop whiskers, managed to reproduce in their own souls the richness and the peril of an ancient Oriental experience. If we think from this end we may possibly guess how it was that they added polygamy.

– G. K. Chesterton, The Uses of Diversity

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.

The end of terrorism

No, unfortunately I am not writings about terrorism ending.  Our friends in the mountainous regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan have not spontaneously had an attack of conscience and decided to stop blowing up schools and cars.  Rather I am writing about the end of terrorism as a rhetorical device in America.

Strange as it may seem, people used to not care about terrorism.  For instance, on Oct. 23, 1983, Islamic Jihad blew up a Marine Barracks in Lebanon.  Rather than starting a war over this, President Reagan simply pulled American troops out of Lebanon.  In the 90’s, terrorists struck targets including U.S. embassies, warships, and the World Trade Center, which was bombedon Feb. 26, 1993.  The public was not aroused, and when President Clinton launched missiles at Al Queda camps in 1998, his enemies responded by implying that he was only trying to distract attention from the Lewinsky sex scandal.

That all changed, and of course it’s not hard to pinpoint the date of the change: September 11, 2001.  From that day forward terrorism was the rhetorical device of choice for both parties, but most particularly the Republicans.  The party line was that we were in a war for the future of civilization.  Based on this, the Republicans justified invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, massive military build-up, the Department of Homeland Security (which they had opposed when the Democrats called for it in the 90’s), attacks on Constitutional rights, and so forth.  Even irrelevant things like agriculture subsidies were put forward on the basis of protecting us from terrorism.

Perhaps must notably, Repubs used the threat of terrorism to keep their own people in line.  Repubs were strong on terrorism while Dems were weak, the theory went, so you had to vote Pub even if President Bush and Congress were spending trillions, regulating business, and generally violating conservative principles right and left.  This political rhetoric worked pretty well for a couple election cycles.  Even in 2008, the Republican Presidential candidates were trying to one-up each other by vowing to torture suspects the most mercilessly, double the size of Guatanamo, and so forth.

What a difference three and a half years makes!  Today, as the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attack approaches, not a single Republican anywhere is focused  on terrorism.  Even though some of the candidates today are the same people who were mouthing off about it in 2008, they’ve changed their tune.  Terrorism is rather like disco music or Friendster; it still exists, but the cultural mainstream no longer cares about it.

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