You no doubt know that Mitt Romney gave The Speech today. And no doubt this will be but one of many many many posts on The Speech. In fact, the speech hasn’t even been over for an hour yet and I’m sure you’re already sick of hearing about it. But I have posting powers and I’m going to use them. So here are my immediate thoughts:
On CNN Bill Bennett and one other radio talk show host criticized Romney for not talking specifically about Mormonism. Bennett said that it was a speech that could have been given by any of the major candidates. I agree. But isn’t that the whole point? Yes, Mormonism is different from other religions. It’s different from mainstream Christianity. But Romney made the case that those specific differences shouldn’t decide whom we vote for. So he didn’t talk about the specific differences. If he had talked about them he would have been undermining a large part of his message: that it is our shared morals and values that are important and not our differing tenets.
Some will no doubt say that Romney punted by portraying himself as just like everybody else. But again, that’s the point. And it’s the truth. Mormons for the most part are just like everybody else. Our faith is different and distinctive, yes. But we’re normal Americans. We’re normal business people, normal parents, normal scientists, and normal politicians.
For those afraid that Romney would whitewash Mormonism and portray it as just another Christian faith, I don’t think their fears were realized. He didn’t say our faith is just like all the others. He acknowledged that there are real differences. He described the diversity of American faith as a “symphony” of which Mormonism is one part, along with Catholicism, Islam, Protestantism, etc. But he also pointed to important ways that mainstream Christian values were part of his upbringing. No doubt some Evangelicals will see this as him dishonestly insinuating himself into the Christian tradition. But we are part of the Christian tradition. Christian, New Testament values are very much a part of Mormonism.
On MSNBC, Chris Matthews, Joe Scarborough, and Pat Buchanan all agreed that Romney hit a homerun. I definitely agree. And I have to say that this is one instance where his Mormonism helped him. No other candidate has had or will have an opportunity to deliver such a high profile speech before voting starts. And he got to deliver it at just the right time, too. He stepped into the spotlight and gave a very effective and very presidential speech. If he surges and wins the nomination, it will have started today.