That's all the political world is talking about today: Mitt Romney's ballyhooed (for months and months) Speech on religion. The excerpts released so far are grimly fascinating. Romney's religion problem is often compared to John F. Kennedy's address to the Southern Baptists, of course, and this Big Speech is compared to Kennedy's soaring 1960 speech. But Romney, unlike Kennedy, is trying to play along with the litmus tests of the self-appointed Christian leaders of the GOP. So he doesn't argue, as Kennedy did, that "the separation of church and state is absolute." Quite the opposite.
There are some who may feel that religion is not a matter to be seriously considered in the context of the weighty threats that face us. If so, they are at odds with the nation's founders, for they, when our nation faced its greatest peril, sought the blessings of the Creator. And further, they discovered the essential connection between the survival of a free land and the protection of religious freedom. In John Adam's words: 'We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion… Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people.
Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.
Let's see more of the speech, I guess, but it sure seems like Romney refuses to challenge the premises of political anti-Mormonism. He makes a thin argument that a Mormon can holy-roll just as good as a Methodist like George W. Bush. It's not what he said to, say, gay voters in 1994 and 2002, but he's found his pander and he's stickin to it.
Ross Douthat really nails the politics of this:
Instead of making the conversation about issues where Huckabee is vulnerable and Romney isn't, the Romney campaign has guaranteed that for the next two weeks at least and probably beyond, the media conversation will be about, well, Mormonism. If there were more time before the actual voting begins, that might not be the worst thing in the world; they could get the wave of coverage out of the way, inoculate themselves to some extent, and then shift gears and start hammering Huckabee on taxes and immigration and so forth. But there isn't time: Christmas is coming, there's a very narrow window in which to define Mike Huckabee as a Mexican-loving crypto-liberal, and the Romney campaign has just ensured that everyone will be talking about the Urim and the Thummim instead of the Arkansas gas tax.
I think I know why he's not attacking Huckabee right now, though: A sense of entitlement. From the rollout of the Hugh Hewitt book on, I've got the sense that the citizens of Romneyland think their candidate deserves to president and that the only thing stopping a grateful nation from handing him the keys is the Mormonism. It's presumptuous and it'll probably knock him out of the race in February.