Posts Tagged ‘mormon’

“DES MOINES, Iowa – More than a few politicos have viewed Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith as a political liability detracting from his fight for the Republican presidential nomination,” writes Dave Levinthal of the Dallas Morning News in a burst of reportage titled Mormons could play role in Romney win

But if Mr. Romney wins today’s Iowa caucuses, he may have members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to thank.

Iowa’s Mormon population is small – more than 22,500 members of all ages, according to church statistics. But they are notably politically active, and many are backing Mr. Romney. That is potentially significant with the tight race in Iowa, as polls indicate Mr. Romney effectively running even with Mike Huckabee for the lead.

A swing of just a couple of thousand votes could determine who places first …


Team Romney’s Iowa expectations ruse, the Mormon “orange plan”

yours &c.
dr. g.d.


“Mitt Romney, the Mormon who has seen his White House hopes fade in recent weeks, will stake his political future on a John F. Kennedy-style speech tackling the issue of his faith,” write Tom Baldwin and Tim Reid in a release titled Mitt Romney gambles on JFK moment to stay in the battle to be president

The Republican presidental candidate acknowledged tacitly yesterday that the speech had become necessary because of fears about his religion among evangelical voters in the crucial early state of Iowa.

A weekend survey of Iowan voters, who kick off the nominating process on January 3, suggested that Mike Huckabee, who portrayed himself as an “authentic” Christian conservative, had surged five points ahead of Mr Romney in the Republican race … etc., etc.


Note the grim hyperbole. Romney “will stake his political future on a John F. Kennedy-style speech tackling the issue of his faith?”—way to set up impossible expectations. Note also the tone of abject desperation. Note that the notion that Romney’s JFK speech is a knee-jerk reaction—almost a pain-response—to Team Romney’s Agony-in-Iowa, has become the consensus opinion.

Has anyone ever so disastrously mis-managed a message in advance of its delivery? We mean, ever?

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“Wisely, in his speech Romney will not seek to explain any Mormon doctrine which, for instance, according to some, places the Garden of Eden somewhere in Missouri,” writes Andrew Malcolm for the LA Times blog, Top of the Ticket, in a post titled What Mitt Romney will say about faith

Just as in his 1960 speech to Baptist ministers confronting the Roman Catholic issue (also in Texas), John F. Kennedy did not seek to explain how his wife Jackie was descended from a rib of Adam’s and what in the world Noah did with all that manure on the Ark. Kennedy had one advantage going for him: about 28% of the country’s population then was Roman Catholic. Today, about 2% is Mormon …

… Romney’s longest campaign discussion of faith, which aides point to as a model for Thursday’s speech, came earlier this fall when the candidate told CBS’s Bob Schieffer:

“What I can tell you is that the values of my faith are founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and the same kind of philosophy that`s associated with other Christian faiths and the Jewish faith and others is very much consistent with ours. The view that there is a God that created us, that all the children on Earth are of the same, if you will, divine origin, that the loss of one life anywhere is the loss of a fellow son or daughter of God, that liberty is a gift of God. These fundamental principles are the same faith to faith.”

Romney said he wasn’t asking people to vote for his church but to look at the candidate and his conservative values. “By and large,” he said, “people will make their decision not based on where you go to church but instead based upon your values, your vision for the country and your ability to actually help the country at a time of great need.”

Romney added:

“I accept the teachings of our church, and I do my best to live by those teachings. It hasn`t made me perfect. I`m far from that. But I`m probably a better person than I would have been and my kids are better than they would have been without faith. And you know, I don`t try and be critical of other people`s faith. Actually, I`m of the view that religious individuals have an enormous advantage in stability in their life. And I respect the work that`s being done by ministers of all faith. I think it draws people closer to God and makes us better people” …

Comment: What Romney proposes to say is reasonable but unremarkable. And he has said it before. So how is “the speech” supposed to save Romney’s candidacy? But this is not the question that interests us.

Here is the question that interests us: Why are Grrr-Romney’s “aids” leaking the technical specifications of the Romney inoculation script in advance of its delivery?

Answer: Because Romney has completely lost control of the message. Hence the frantic transmissions of Romney’s B-string flaks to every journalist who will listen. Hence their willingness to reveal specifics of the speech at the risk undermining the impact of the speech’s actual delivery.

Here is the problem for Romney: When Romney first began to emit his great noise about his great speech on his great faith he granted tacit permission to every voice in the media to begin urgently inquiring into the Mormon issue, and to speculate on the question of why Romney’s Mormon confession could be a problem. This line of questioning inevitably leads to a discussion of the Mormon confession itself. Here is but one example:

“BOSTON (Reuters) – From baptism of the dead to a ban on coffee, Mormonism’s doctrines are alien to many Americans and that is unlikely to change when Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney gives a long-awaited speech on his faith this week, religious scholars say,” or so writes the curious Jason Szep in a Reuters release titled Romney to walk fine line in Mormon speech

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the sect based in Salt Lake City, Utah, is formally known, is the fourth-largest U.S. religion and one of the richest, with 12.9 million members globally and an estimated $5 billion in annual revenue. More than half live outside the United States ….

… It bans alcohol, tobacco, tea and coffee. It maintains there is no eternal hell, the dead can be baptized and that God speaks through living apostles and prophets such as the church’s current president, Gordon Hinckley … etc., etc.

Memo to the geniuses at Team Romney’s posh waterfront headquarters: with crack communicators like you, Romney doesn’t need rival candidates to bring him down.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“Contrary to advice from David Brody, Romney seems not keen at all about describing with any specificity — even any generality — his faith,” reasons Jennifer Rubin in an AmSpec blog post titled Re: Romney’s Speech

This I think is perfectly appropriate under most circumstances but neatly highlights the dilemma he faces. If: 1) he says his faith informs who he is and all he does and 2) his faith is not one most are familiar with (and some are downright uncomfortable with) can he simultaneously say ‘but I’m not going to tell you anything about my faith’? Well sure he can say it, but with such an approach whose minds will he put at ease?” …

Also, Romney’s reversal on the speech issue has accomplished precisely the opposite of what he wanted to accomplish: he has drawn attention to the Mormon tradition, and is rapidly becoming “the Mormon candidate”:

… Given four days to mull this over the press has begun to discuss, even if Romney won’t, the ways in which Mormonism “diverges from conventional Christianity” and the differences between Romney’s and JFK’s situation ( “Kennedy could take for granted that Americans understood Catholicism, whereas few understand Mormonism. And Roman Catholics make up a large portion of the population.”) Perhaps a Sunday announcement for a Tuesday speech would have cut short some of this …. etc.

Well done, Team Romney. Your “speech” has now failed at every single task that was set for it—e.g. to inoculate your candidate against the Mormon issue, to articulate how Romney’s faith informs Romney’s conduct, to provide a rationale for Evangelicals to support Romney—in advance of it ever being delivered.

In the long and boring history of rhetoric, this has to be a first.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

P.S. Way to not control a message, Team Romney!

“After months of debate within his campaign organization, Mitt Romney has decided to give a speech addressing his Mormon faith, a potentially pivotal step that reflects the surging candidacy of Mike Huckabee, the former Baptist preacher who has been promoting himself explicitly as a Christian leader,” writes the Globe Staff’s Michael Levenson in an article titled Pressed, Romney to speak on his Mormonism; Will ‘share views on religious liberty’ as a Baptist rival leaps ahead in Iowa

NOTA: Levenson’s very headline links Team Romney’s Agony-in-Iowa to Romney’s sudden conversion on the issue of a Mormon-Kennedy speech. Yet further evidence of the disastrous timing of Romney’s speech—Romney’s decision is depicted as a concession, as an act of weakness or desperation.

Kevin Madden, a Romney spokesman, said yesterday that Romney would give the speech titled “Faith in America” on Thursday at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas.

“This speech is an opportunity for Governor 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,” Madden said in a statement. “Governor Romney understands that faith is an important issue to many Americans, and he personally feels this moment is the right moment for him to share his views with the nation.”

The problem for Romney is this: how can he “share … how the governor’s own faith would inform his presidency if he were elected” without endorsing the Mormon confession?—without drawing attention to the Mormon confession?—recall: Kennedy in 1960 argued that his confession would not inform his presidency—Romney must somehow argue the precise opposite. What was it Marx said about history repeating itself? First as tragedy, the second time as farce … Romney would be the farce.

The biggest historical precedent for Romney’s decision is the speech that John F. Kennedy delivered before the Greater Houston Ministerial Association during the 1960 presidential campaign. Kennedy sought in the speech to allay concerns among voters about his Catholicism.

NOTA: Romney has encouraged and Levenson endorses the link between Kennedy’s speech and Romney’s—once again, as in Iowa, as in New Hampshire, Romney and his crack staff have set up impossible-to-meet expectations for the hapless candidate. This is a pattern for Romney: he sets himself up not just to fail, but to fail spectacularly.

… Clayton M. Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor and Romney supporter who holds a leadership position in the Mormon Church, saw the decision as a sign that Romney is making a serious bid to become the first Mormon president.

“I’m delighted that he’s decided to do it,” Christensen said. “It really is a great church, and the more people can understand what it is and what it does, the more I think they’ll trust that he acts in the best interests of the country” … etc.

Christensen unwittingly articulates Romney’s peril: to argue that the Mormon confession is “a great church, and the more people can understand what it is and what it does, the more I think they’ll trust that [Romney] acts in the best interests of the country” would be death for the Romney candidacy—Romney would truly become the Mormon candidate whose task it is to draw the Mormon confession into the mainstream not of US public life,  because lots of Mormons already serve the public good in public life and public service with merit and distinction, but rather into the mainstream of the Evangelical movement, which is the audience Romney wants to address. Only this would be patently ridiculous—the primary process is neither the time nor the place for such a dialog.

Wolfe states the case more elegantly than we do:

… Wolfe said Kennedy’s approach would not be a strong model for Romney because many Republican voters, particularly Christian conservatives, bristle at the notion of separation of church and state and want religion to be a guiding principle for the next president.

“Kennedy’s speech was actually an antireligion speech; it was a don’t pay-any-attention-to-my-Catholicism speech,” Wolfe said. “In the 2007 Republican Party you can’t do that, because it’s a party that essentially has a religious test for the nomination” …

… Wolfe said the theological differences could put Romney in an awkward position.

“If he says something about Mormonism as his actual religion, it’s not going to please evangelicals too much,” Wolfe said. “But if he gives the kind of Jesus-is-my-personal-savior speech, evangelicals won’t buy it and he’s going to alienate his own Mormon friends.”

Wolfe said the wisest approach might be to explain the differences and similarities between Mormonism and mainline Christianity.

“If I were in his shoes, I would take a more honest approach and say this what I am, this is what Mormons believe, this is why we’re Christians,” Wolfe said. “He can’t deny who he is” … etc.

Yes. And an honest exposition of the distinctions between Romney’s confession and what Evangelicals consider to be normative may have been effective last summer or even as late as the ill-starred Value Voter’s Summit. Now, however, whatever Romney does, whatever Romney says, will appear as desperation in the very teeth of crashing poll numbers.

Kairos, Romney. Timing. It’s all about timing. See:

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

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA — — Facing fresh polls showing their leads in Iowa disappearing, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican Mitt Romney rolled out new campaign tactics Sunday in an aggressive push to regain lost momentum,” writes LA Times staffers Peter “bury the lead” Nicholas assisted by Peter “Clueless” Wallsten in an LA Times article titled Romney, Clinton shake up tactics; As they slide in polls, he plans to speak on his religion, while she draws pointed differences with rival Obama

… Romney announced that he would deliver a speech Thursday on religion, a subject that he has been reluctant to touch despite growing signs that voters are leery of putting a Mormon in the White House. As recently as last week, Romney’s eldest son, Tagg, said in an interview that he was beseeching his father to give such a speech but had yet to persuade him …

NOTA: the elderly Nicholas and his ambitious young intern, Wallsten, link “the speech” to Team Romney’s agony in Iowa, a trope that has emerged as the consensus. Yet further testimony to Romney’s disastrous timing.

… that Romney and Clinton would shake up the playbook with the caucus just a month away underscores the worry in both camps.

“It’s really without precedent,” said Gordon Fischer, a former chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party. Fischer, who is backing Obama, said: “They’re both very, very concerned. They were the front-runners who are no longer front-runners” …

The 2 Peters conclude on this theme:

Romney’s challenge with evangelicals was evident last week when he appeared flummoxed by a question during the CNN-YouTube candidates debate about whether he believed the Bible was true. He seemed to rely on legalisms to work through an issue that he knew to be sensitive. “You know — yes, I believe it’s the word of God, the Bible is the word of God. . . . I mean, I might interpret the word differently than you interpret the word,” he said.

Former White House official Kuo saw Romney’s response as a missed opportunity.

“He easily could have taken that question and in some ways put the faith issue to rest,” Kuo said. “And instead he just added fuel to the fire” … etc.

Kuo’s argument anticipates Brody’s

Brody: Romney’s answer to bible question “problematic”

Kuo’s theme of missed opportunity anticipates our own analysis

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

yours &c.
dr. g.d.