I wonder if our old friend Ronald Reagan could rise in this party, this environment. Not a regular churchgoer, said he experienced God riding his horse at the ranch, divorced, relaxed about the faiths of his friends and aides, or about its absence. He was a believing Christian, but he spent his adulthood in relativist Hollywood, and had a father who belonged to what some saw, and even see, as the Catholic cult. I'm just not sure he'd be pure enough to make it in this party. I'm not sure he'd be considered good enough.
Sadly, Noonan is probably right. While not quite Barry "Kick Falwell Right in the Ass" Goldwater, Reagan would likely strike those propelling Huckleberry Huckabee to the top of polls in Iowa and New Hampshire as too inattentive to "religious issues." As Lou Cannon argued in the second volume of his peerless Reagan biography, as president he devoted little energy to "what was often called 'his social agenda.'" Cannon, who covered Reagan since his days as governor of California, concluded that "Some of the items on this agenda, like the call for a constitutional amendment to restore prayer in schools, were never more than throwaway lines intended to comfort the Religious Right or some other element of the conservative constituency."
On Romney's "I am Mormon, hear me roar" stump speech, in which he claimed, among other absurdities, that one could not be truly free absent religion, comes a good point from Charles, Hammer of the Krauts, in the Washington Post:
"Freedom requires religion," Romney declared, "just as religion requires freedom." But this is nonsense–as Romney then proceeded to demonstrate in that very same speech. He spoke of the empty cathedrals in Europe. He's right about that: Postwar Europe has experienced the most precipitous decline in religious belief in the history of the West. Yet Europe is one of the freest precincts on the planet. It is an open, vibrant, tolerant community of more than two dozen disparate nations living in a pan-continental harmony and freedom unseen in all previous European history.
From our June issue, Daniel McCarthy reviews John Patrick Diggins mildly revisionist take on the Gipper.