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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : Another Post About “The Speech” » Another Post About “The Speech”

Another Post About “The Speech”

Tom - December 6, 2007

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.

23 Comments »

  1. I agree with your (Tom’s) assessment. I thought he played his Mormonism just right, and he was true to the Articles of Faith in the way he showed respect to other religions as well as to the separate provinces of church and state.

    I’m not sure how well this speech would play during a general election. But at this point in the campaign he said what he needed to say.

    I still think Romney is wrong, very wrong, on some major issues. He hasn’t convinced me to vote for him, but he did show me some things to like about him. I was truly impressed.

    Comment by gfe — December 6, 2007 @ 10:16 am

  2. I thought Romney’s statement that the oath of office would be his “highest obligation to god” was mildly shocking. I can’t help but think he’s either not being entirely honest, or else he has a much lesser regard for temple covenants than I ever did. (Of course, he’s saying this to counter recent comments that he would supposedly be bound to obey LDS leaders, due to his temple covenants.)

    I was perplexed with Romney’s claim “freedom requires religion, just as religion requires freedom.” I can not, for the life of me, see how “freedom requires religion” is a supportable statement. At best, it’s a mindless platitude, crafted to appeal to evangelical flag-wavers who deny the separation of church & state.

    Romney explicitly stated that no leaders of his church, or any other church, would ever exert influence on his decisions as a president. This is a rather bold promise, which I very much doubt any public official could fulfill. Are we truly to believe that no religious leaders will ever “exert influence” on a POTUS? I have a hard time believing this. I think Romney vastly overstated here. He should have said that no religious leader would have more influence on his official decisions than any other American. Besides, the statement as given effectively disenfranchises religious leaders from political discourse. BAD idea, whether one agrees with those leaders or not.

    Romney continued this statement, claiming that while religious leaders have authority in ecclesiastical matters, their authority ends where the affairs of the nation begin. I agree with that on its face, but I find myself wondering how many active LDS believe that to be the case?

    Comment by Nick Literski — December 6, 2007 @ 10:32 am

  3. I also agree with you, Tom. His speech rocked!

    Comment by Cheryl — December 6, 2007 @ 10:35 am

  4. I was perplexed with Romney’s claim “freedom requires religion, just as religion requires freedom.” I can not, for the life of me, see how “freedom requires religion” is a supportable statement. At best, it’s a mindless platitude, crafted to appeal to evangelical flag-wavers who deny the separation of church & state.

    I don\’t get how \”freedom requires religion\” either. I don\’t know if you\’re right that that\’s why he made the assertion, but again, I don\’t really get it.

    Romney continued this statement, claiming that while religious leaders have authority in ecclesiastical matters, their authority ends where the affairs of the nation begin. I agree with that on its face, but I find myself wondering how many active LDS believe that to be the case?

    I don\’t know for sure, but I bet President Hinckley would agree.

    You\’re analyzing pretty closely. The points you make are not without merit, but in the context of the campaign I don\’t think they matter much. Taking a step back and looking at it as a political speech I think it will serve him well.  I don\’t think anybody will read him as disenfranchising religious leaders.  People will get that he\’s saying that their religious authority won\’t hold sway in his decision making.

    Comment by Tom — December 6, 2007 @ 10:45 am

  5. One of the things that has troubled me about Romney’s campaign is how he seems to believe and promote the idea that the President should be a person of faith. While he didn’t utter those words today, he didn’t disavow it either. I don’t understand how you can ask for tolerance and yet fail to give to others because they’re not “mainstream”. A mormon should understand that. And yet he wants others to be accepting of him and tolerant of his religious differences.

    I think we should accept the differences of believers and non-believers alike. But I guess promoting that doesn’t get you very far in the Republican primaries.

    Comment by cj douglass — December 6, 2007 @ 11:19 am

  6. cj,
    As a political matter, I don’t think it’s necessary for Republican candidates to even acknowledge the existence of atheists and hardcore secularists. It does them no good to throw them a bone and it could hurt them, especially in the primaries. So it’s not a big deal in a political sense for Romney that he left them out. But I agree that it would be nice and appropriate to acknowledge the irreligious as part of America’s “symphony of faith”. I don’t know if his exclusion of them is conscious or if it’s just that they’re not much on his radar.

    Comment by Tom — December 6, 2007 @ 11:28 am

  7. Romney acknowledged Mormon differences without emphasizing them and (understandably) downplayed the role of theological and doctrinal differences in one’s evaluation of candidates while praising the role of faith and religion in America. Bennett may be right that any candidate could have said those things, but only Romney *had* to say them. If Bennett couldn’t figure out that is the salient observation to make and analyze, he ought to prepare better or take a vacation. So why didn’t Rudy make this speech? Or Mr. Baptist Minister Huckabee? Or Obama? Because they didn’t have to. Duh.

    Comment by Dave — December 6, 2007 @ 11:54 am

  8. 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.

    I always thought we were supposed to be a peculiar people.

    Comment by Bret — December 6, 2007 @ 8:43 pm

  9. It turns out not even Mormons want Mormons to be peculiar anymore.

    Comment by Manuel — December 6, 2007 @ 9:16 pm

  10. Oh, we want to be peculiar. We just don’t want to be the target of prejudicial irony.

    Comment by Cheryl — December 6, 2007 @ 10:53 pm

  11. But I agree that it would be nice and appropriate to acknowledge the irreligious as part of America’s “symphony of faith”.

    I’m not sure how the irreligious can be part of America’s symphony of faith when they’re not interested in entering the concert hall. :) I do think it would have been appropriate to acknowledge that religious freedom includes the right not to be religious. That would have been a nice touch. But in the grand scheme of things I don’t imagine it matters that much. Anyone who’s going to complain that a speech about the role of faith in America didn’t mention atheists is not going to be pacified by a mere footnote about their rights. So maybe it wasn’t worth it.

    I had been less than enthusiastic about Romney up to now–no offense to him, he just didn’t do it for me–but I was impressed with this speech. If it’s true that he wrote it himself with minimal meddling by his advisers, I think Romney needs to start “advising” himself.

    Comment by madhousewife — December 6, 2007 @ 11:28 pm

  12. This was a great article…

    Comment by Cheryl — December 7, 2007 @ 12:09 am

  13. News flash for Bill Bennett. Giuliani could not give a speech in which he pointed to his family as evidence of his values and morals. Nor could Hillary.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 7, 2007 @ 1:32 am

  14. News flash for Bill Bennett. Giuliani could not give a speech in which he pointed to his family as evidence of his values and morals. Nor could Hillary.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 7, 2007 @ 1:34 am

  15. Bret: I always thought we were supposed to be a peculiar people.

    Manuel: It turns out not even Mormons want Mormons to be peculiar anymore.

    Is peculiar the same as abnormal? Do you think that peculiar people in the sense that Paul was talking about can’t be considered normal Americans, that we can’t be fully integrated into the societies in which we live?

    What I mean by normal is that we’re not odd cultists. A Mormon engineer builds bridges just like non-mormon engineers. Mormon politicians serve their constituents just like non-Mormon politicians. I don’t think the admonition to be peculiarly Christlike is an admonition to be odd ducks.

    Besides, I’m talking about what we are, not what we should be. American Mormons are run-of-the-mill Americans. Hopefully we are unique and better than average in some ways, but whatever uniqueness we have does not make us odd.

    Comment by Tom — December 7, 2007 @ 5:26 am

  16. I don’t understand how you can ask for tolerance and yet fail to give to others because they’re not “mainstream”. A mormon should understand that. And yet he wants others to be accepting of him and tolerant of his religious differences.

    Bingo.

    But you guys are right that it’s good strategy for him to define the American political tradition In terms of a “symphony of faith” — in order to implicitly kick non-believers out the door of the concert hall of discussion. His Evangelical audience will surely be sympathetic to his message of “Don’t hate me, I hate those guys just as much as you do!!!”

    Comment by C. L. Hanson — December 7, 2007 @ 5:48 am

  17. Wait! You’re saying that atheists won’t vote for Mitt Romney? Well, duh! My step-FIL is an atheist, great guy, moral, upstanding citizen, but there’s no way he’d ever vote for Mitt. And it has NOTHING to do with religion or Romney’s speech yesterday.

    Show me an atheist who has been rooting for Romney’s win all along, and then we can talk about people getting offended.

    btw-
    The things he said about our country being founded on faith? True. The fact that he’s a faith-driven man? True. Why shouldn’t he talk about it? It’s important to the majority of the country. I’m not saying that we should ignore the minority (hey, I’m related to some pretty cool atheists!), but if he’s going to win the bid, and hopefully (for me!) win the presidency, then he needs to be upfront with himself and the country he may serve.

    madhousewife-
    He did write his own speech. No rumor! :)

    Comment by Cheryl — December 7, 2007 @ 8:22 am

  18. Show me an atheist who has been rooting for Romney’s win all along, and then we can talk about people getting offended.

    I didn’t say any atheists were planning to vote for him — I agreed with you guys that it is politically expedient for him to throw the non-Christians to the wolves.

    Comment by C. L. Hanson — December 7, 2007 @ 10:34 am

  19. CL-
    Hey, that’s not fair. He showed great respect to people of Jewish and Muslim faith.
    Yes, I guess it is true that he disregarded atheism, though. So strange to do that in a speech about Faith in God… hmmm…. ;)

    Comment by Cheryl — December 7, 2007 @ 12:23 pm

  20. [...] Times & Seasons provides a list of articles and Nine Moons some commentary. Andrew’s Miracle Drug is skeptical about Romney’s exclusion of skeptics while A Bird’s Eye View sees the speech as pluralistic. My favorites are the feminist Mormon housewives — who are Christian enough to wonder why the president should have to be Christian, and of course Snarkernacle, who cleverly warned us all to get our posts in early for “Romsday.” [...]

    Pingback by Romney Roundup | Main Street Plaza — December 7, 2007 @ 12:54 pm

  21. Tom,

    I know what you’re trying to say. I meant to put a >:p at the end of my comment:)

    I guess I’m just worried we members of the church (especially in the U.S.) worry more about finding a way to fit in without compromising our standards instead of seeking “first the kingdom of God” and worry about becoming more Christ-like and let things take care of themselves.

    Comment by Bret — December 7, 2007 @ 1:49 pm

  22. I read an article in the Salt Lake Tribune following Romney’s speech that struck a note of confirmation with me. Basically, the article pointed out that Romney clearly moved to the right in the Presidential race from his governorship in the left-leaning Massachusetts. He did this to appeal to the evangelicals that seem to control the Republican party. Unfortunately the evangelicals have rejected him because of Mormon theology, which they cannot reconcile. Thus the rise of Huckabee, who is a “true” Christian. Romney could have kept his more moderate Massachusetts political position and found wider appeal amongst those who aren’t put off by our “non-Christian religion”.

    Comment by Randall — December 14, 2007 @ 10:34 pm

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