an investigation of Romney’s reasons for NOT delivering his Kennedy-Mormon speech, as articulated only 10 days ago
“Mitt Romney will deliver a speech entitled ‘Faith in America,’ addressing his Mormon religion, on Thursday at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Tex,” writes Michael Luo for the NYT blog, The Caucus, in a post titled Romney to Address His Mormonism
His campaign is describing the address as an opportunity for Mr. Romney to “share his views on religious liberty, the grand tradition religious tolerance has played in the progress of our nation and how the governor’s own faith would inform his presidency if he were elected.”
Mr. Romney personally made the decision to give the speech last week, feeling it was the right moment to do so, his advisers said. After he decided he would make it, the campaign consulted with former President Bush’s library, which invited him to deliver it there … etc.
“The venue is not a surprise”—writes Mark Halperin in a The Page post titled More on Romney Religion Speech—“since Romney has given a previous major address (on defense policy) at the Bush library, and the two families are very close. And Texas, of course, was also the venue for John F. Kennedy’s famous speech on religion in 1960 — the one to which this event will be endlessly compared” … etc.
Only days earlier Romney had said this:
“I have some folks who think I should do it soon, some say later, some say never, some say right away,” Romney said. “I’ll make the decision. But there’s no particular urgency because I’m making progress in the states where I’m campaigning,” or so says his imperious and aloof excellency, Willard Milton Romney himself as reported by Glen Johnson in an AP release titled Romney’s advisors’ say on speech.
Eye of eyeon08.com issues this rejoinder:
Well. There’s urgency now. Romney is now clearly in 2nd in Iowa. There is now clear evidence that Romney’s religion is hurting him in Iowa, something that we predicted early on based on the strange makeup of the caucus electorate … etc.
Just as an exercise, let us review Romney’s reasons for not delivering “the speech,” as argued by Romney himself, not 10 days ago, in a Human Events interview mis-titled Romney’s 4 Wedge Issues:
... Tom Winter (TW): … last week [Romney] told a columnist Larry Kudlow that the recent telephone push-polling in Iowa that negatively referred to your Mormon religion was ‘un-American.’ For months, we’ve heard about a speech that’s already written, a Kennedy-like speech, about your religious beliefs, that you’re just waiting for the right time to deliver. In view of this, and Christopher Hitchens remarks today that you’re religion is fair game in this campaign, do you think it’s now time to deliver this speech?
ROMNEY: I don’t have anything new on this at this stage. There is no speech written. I get lots of suggestions. I have several people –
TW: There is no speech written?
ROMNEY: There is no speech written. Not by me. And the speech that will be given is a speech I will write. And I do have people who propose speeches to me. Sometimes people give me ideas, “Why don’t you say this? Why don’t you say that?” It’s a decision I will make. I have some of my colleagues who think it’s a terrific idea. I have others who think it’s a terrible idea. And a lot of people in between. I listen to people’s perceptions, and I will weigh that in my own analysis and my own decision-making. But I have not made a decision at this point about whether and when to give such a speech.
This was Romney’s line up until a few days ago. As we described it elsewhere:
… Romney ha[d] concluded [at the time] hat to allow the issue to remain suspended in the twilight of an eternal filibuster—to feign a divided mind or a divided camp—is more useful to his candidacy than to decide the issue one way or the other …
Back to Human Events:
TW: You don’t think it could become too late, it you let this boil over and become an issue? I mean the idea of the speech was, as Kennedy did, you would put an end to this kind of discussion.
ROMNEY: You know, in the case of Senator Kennedy — and later President Kennedy — as you point out, he made the speech, I think it was in September prior to the November election. And so, if I were to do so now, I would be nine or ten months before he did.
Romney has seriously misread the historical moment. Sen. Kennedy did not face a fully realized and conscious-of-itself Evangelical movement in the Democratic primaries running up to 1960. The Evangelical movement did not exist in 1960. The Evangelical movement may trace its pedigree to the Great Awakening or to the Apostles and martyrs of the primitive church, or to the talmid of Yochanan, the Rabbi Yeshua himself, but it emerges as a political force in the US only in the mid-to-late 70s, yet another realization—and splintering off—of baby-boomer moral-spiritual consciousness. Romney’s own father did not face a fully realized Evangelical movement—Gov. George Romney (may his name be for a blessing) never confronted the same questions about his Mormon confession.
Romney, however, does face a fully realized Evangelical movement. On this basis the NRO’s Yuval Levin argues that Romney must deliver not the Kennedy speech, but its opposite:
… “Kennedy’s speech was very much a general election move (it was delivered in September, less than two months before the election), and its purpose was roughly the opposite of that which Romney is seeking. Kennedy’s speech was a case for a strict separation of church and state — he promised essentially to keep his religion out of his politics entirely. Romney seems to have a more complicated challenge: he needs to persuade people who believe a man’s religious convictions do and should make a difference in the sort of leadership he offers that his convictions are like their convictions” … etc.
Back to Human events:
[Romney:] It’s just something which, you know, I have to take a look at. I do get the chance, of course, to take a look at a number of people’s articles about this. There’s a whole book written about it. By Hugh Hewitt, saying, “Don’t dare give such a speech. You can’t possibly satisfy the critics.” And of course no one could compare with the landmark address that was given by Senator Kennedy, so, it’s not something that I’m ready to announce any change on …
Yet Romney has announced a change, a change in the form of a complete reversal, and within only 10 days of it being “not something that [Romney is] ready to announce any change on.” Romney himself has set himself up such that the timing of his speech can only be read as a desperate hedge against collapsing poll numbers.
For more on this theme:
how Romney botched the Mormon-Kennedy-speech issue by setting up impossible expectations, by consistently failing to identify opportunity and seize the initiative, and by allowing others to frame the debate