Thursday, December 06, 2007

The shadow candidate

Does every Massachusetts politician think he's the ghost of JFK? Is there something in the water in the Bay State? Willard Romney (and stop calling him Mitt, everyone) spoke directly to undecided Iowa Republicans today to put them at ease about his Mormon faith. Unfortunately for Willard, the rest of the country was watching when he said this:
We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It's as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America - the religion of secularism. They are wrong.
What utter hogwash. Willard Romney is selling two contradictory ideas in the same paragraph. First, that government should not interfere with religion, and vice versa. Then, in the next breath, that government should not be afraid to embrace religion.

Because that's what behind his sweeping generality about those who "seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God." What the hell is Willard talking about? The public airwaves are filled to the brim with God talk. Church groups are free to congregate on public lands for worship, baptism, or creation science scavenger hunts. Our coins bear the words "In God We Trust", despite apocryphal emails to the contrary. But the greatest testimony to Willard's mandacity is when our public domain news media give Romney a free pass out of respect for his religious faith. No lie is big enough that the media won't scurry for cover when uttered in the shadow of the cross.

John F. Kennedy famously spoke to an assembly of Texan religious leaders during the 1960 Presidential campaign, and it was JFK's memory that Willard Romney hoped to evoke in Thursday's speech, also in Texas. But when Kennedy spoke, he made it clear there were bigger issues at play than a candidate's choice of religious faith. Romney claims just the opposite, that a candidate's faith is important, but not which religion he belongs to. You can watch JFK's speech here:

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