Sunday, June 17, 2007



If you've been reading DWT with any kind of regularity, you may have come to the conclusion that none of the Republican front-runners-- and that most definitely includes lobbyist/actor Fred Thompson-- is even remotely fit to be president. I don't know if they'd be as bad as Bush but each is potentially even worse than Bush, as difficult as such a thing is to conceive. Who's the best? There is no best; they are all abysmal. Who's the worst? Well... that's a more interesting question. Maybe by the end of the year we'll be able to answer that. But I can tell you definitively right now: Mitt Romney is in the running.

I don't think I've ever heard a more appropriate appellation for a political candidate than the one earned by Romney: "Flip Flop Mitt." The man doesn't seem to have a core set of values beyond climbing the ladder of power, wealth and prestige. Our latest Flip Flop Mitt story was just Friday and, as far as I know, there have been no glaring new ones over the weekend, although last night I added a link to Joe Gandelman's Moderate Voice post on Romney's amorphous positions on stem cell research.

YouTube boasts a couple dozen Flip Flop Mitt videos, some of them quite clever, all of them far more revealing than comforting to Romney's well-heeled campaign. On MSNBC, right wing propagandist Tucker Carlson eviscerated Romney as a phony and a flip flopper on every issue he's ever dealt with. More recently Mike Wallace questioned his flip flopping record on Sixty Minutes, something that punctures his image as a decisive leader with a strong jaw. The jaw looks fine but Romney is the ultimate empty suit.

But to many who will decide the fate of the ten or eleven vanilla dwarves who are running for the nearly valueless Republican presidential nomination Romney's apparent dishonesty is inherent to hisvery belief system. Today's L.A. Times takes a stab at explaining why Romney's belief in Mormonism worries a key GOP voting bloc, the evangelicals. It goes beyond findings in national polls that show as many as one-third of voters less likely to support a Mormon candidate. "Doubts run especially deep among evangelicals, who may account for as many as half the votes cast in Republican primaries in the South."

Many Americans refuse to recognize Mormonism as a legitimate religion and even though Mormon neighbors may seem like nice enough folks there is a widespread feeling that Mormonism is a cult. Why it's less of a cult or less trustworthy than the evangelical churches that are now the bedrock of GOP politics in the South, is somewhat beyond me, but to the evangelicals who will be the decisive factor in picking the person who will defeated by Hillary Clinton in 2008 it all makes perfect sense.
Some evangelicals can articulate specific Mormon beliefs that disturb them-- for instance, the teaching that only married couples can achieve the most exalted realms of heaven.

Many others want to give Romney a chance; they like his conservative politics. Yet they feel uneasy about turning over the country to a man who has a radically different-- and in their view, heretical-- understanding of God.

This is not an arcane theological dispute; to some born-again Christians, it's at the very core of presidential leadership. If Romney does not understand what they take to be God's true nature, can he still receive divine guidance? If he doesn't accept the Trinity as they conceptualize it, can he still be filled with the strength of the Holy Spirit?

Some evangelicals answer "yes" to such questions: "Just because he's Mormon doesn't mean God can't bless the country through him," says Carissa James, 36, a pastor's wife in this suburban community of 50,000.

For those of us who wonder what kind of fucking idiots still support George Bush-- where exactly that consistent 28% comes from-- we just met one. And that one is indicative of millions more. You may laugh-- or even worry-- when Bush says God talks to him and tells him to bomb places. But to evangelicals it's no stranger than Carissa James reminding her husband to put some gas in the car. To these people it isn't so much about Romney flip flopping on issues so much that it's literally impossible to know where he stands on anything, as it is about "who he figures his savior is."

While rational people look at Mormonism and see it as another fairytale passing itself as a serious-- and very profitable-- social belief system, most Christians of the born again and fundamentalist flavor see it as heretical. Bill Keller, a demented Florida pastor/televangelist with a huge following of semi-psychotic GOP primary voters, recently sent out a mass e-mail comparing Romney to Satan and proclaiming that Mormons would "spend eternity in hell." Still, as the Times points out, loco Southern evangelicals have plenty in common with the whacko Mormons. "The strong stances [Romney] now takes against abortion and same-sex marriage resonate with voters here. His lifestyle, too, wins wide approval. In accordance with Mormon doctrine, Romney does not smoke or drink alcohol-- or even coffee-- and he gives 10% of his income to the church. He has been married to his high school sweetheart for 38 years."

Proving they're even crazier than the Mormons, the evangelicals say that Romney's anti-abortion stand (even if the latest flip flop is heartfelt and not political opportunism) isn't good enough for them because he doesn't call abortion "murder." And to the hard core Republican religionists, the world revolves around "Abortion = Murder."
After years as an abortion-rights supporter, Romney now opposes abortion and says he would like to protect life from conception onward. But he has declined to call abortion murder-- a hesitation that one of his opponents has tried to exploit. Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, who is Roman Catholic but has strong ties to evangelicals, sent out a news release this month with the heading: "Mitt Romney Doesn't Believe Abortion Is Murder."

Billy Graham's son Franklin, who runs the family Buy Bull business now, acknowledges that most Christians consider Mormonism a cult but he says that Romney is "a very nice man" and conservative and "in certain circumstances, I could vote for him." Not everyone in the flock is as open-minded-- nor have they all had dinner at Romney's home. An assiatant manager at a Buy Bull bookstore closes today's Times story: "If the candidates line up on policy, you go to the next line. If one's a Christian and one's Mitt Romney? I have a feeling I'd vote for the Christian."

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