Mitt Romney Was a Wannabe President, Dum Dum Dum Dum Dum


Slate's Jacob Weisberg, writing about Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, says a few things about his religion that have gone unspoken elsewhere.

There are millions of religious Americans who would never vote for an atheist for president, because they believe that faith is necessary to lead the country. Others, myself included, would not, under most imaginable circumstances, vote for a fanatic or fundamentalist—a Hassidic Jew who regards Rabbi Menachem Schneerson as the Messiah, a Christian literalist who thinks that the Earth is less than 7,000 years old, or a Scientologist who thinks it is haunted by the souls of space aliens sent by the evil lord Xenu. Such views are disqualifying because they're dogmatic, irrational, and absurd. By holding them, someone indicates a basic failure to think for himself or see the world as it is. By the same token, I wouldn't vote for someone who truly believed in the founding whoppers of Mormonism.

Is that religious bigotry? Well, by definition, I suppose including a candidate's religion in your calculus of whether or not to give him a vote is bigotry. Millons of Americans do it. I'm sure that back in 2000, a sizable number of Jews turned their noses up at Dick Cheney and George Bush for the chance to elect Vice President Joe Lieberman. And is distrusting Romney because of his Mormonism the same as voting against JFK because he took the Eucharist? Not really. Substantial numbers of voters opposed JFK (and for the same reason Al Smith) for fear he would integrate the Vatican into government decisions. No one thinks Romney will do something similar. They just think Mormonism is irrational and creepy. That's their right. Jonah Goldberg's hope that Americans love to vote for "inclusion" and Romney's Mormonism will produce favorable storylines is fruitless; the media enjoys reporting on insurgent black, female and Hispanic candidates, not on members of conservative religious faiths.

Also, kudos to Weisberg to knocking down the meme that Romney is the first serious Mormon candidate for president. Not only did the (less than serious) Orrin Hatch run in 2000, the very credible Mo Udall ran in 1976, and might have beaten Jimmy Carter for the nomination had Birch Bayh or Frank Church dropped out and endorsed him. There's no real evidence that Romney is a more promising candidate than Udall was. Udall just looked tall and goofy, while Romney looks like a Ken doll sculpted out of ham.