You probably heard about Romney’s speech about faith in the public square today. It was good, and it reaffirmed my support for him as the best man to lead our country. I was pleased to hear something so authentic in a political race, despite that pundits are crawling all over themselves to say just the opposite.

For months people have been saying that Romney has an authenticity problem. They’ve been saying they don’t really know what he believes because he’s always being so robotic and methodically careful about his answers. I don’t recall reading a single article about Romney (and I’ve read hundreds) that just accepts as a starting point that he may actually be honestly explaining his views on good governance and the rationale for his record over his political career. Rather, every move is interpreted as some clever (or sneaky for the more cynical crowd) way to pander.

Well, looking at Romney’s site is like reading a friend’s blog. He seems as real and genuine as any political candidate I’ve ever followed. He seems like he could have been my next door neighbor. For that matter, I know a couple people who really have been his next door neighbor and/or good friends.

I know there’s a lot of calculating going on in a political campaign. But, I also believe Romney is as authentic as they come–full of character, ethics, integrity, faith, and a willingness to work. And, to boot, he’s the most capable leader. I suppose that’s why I support him despite that not all of his policy is my absolute first choice.

I can think of plenty of things to say about my own authenticity, but I’ll save that for another day. For now, I just want to say: Go Romney!

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  1. avatar

    -L-, I watched Romney give this speech live in the lunch room at our law firm, where we have a TV that is usually tuned to CNN.

    I have to say I came away thinking, this will probably go down in history as one of those great, defining political speeches. I too thought, no one could listen to this speech — certainly no Mormon could listen to this speech — and think any more that Romney was running away from or trying to distance himself from his religious heritage. And yet, at the same time, he defined this marvelous, grand vision of American tolerance and religious pluralism. It was quite electrifying, I must admit.

    I still don’t plan on voting for him. I do however plan to use this speech in the class I’m teaching in the spring on American religious history. It was quite an amazing speech from the viewpoint of American “civil religion,” and from the viewpoint of American religious history.

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    Except that Romney relied more on the myths of American religious history rather than actual history.

    Also, the country that he describes isn’t particularly pleasant for the nonreligious.

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    Myths? You wanna clarify? There was nothing mythic about his speech. He may have shared views and experiences that present the vision he sees, but that doesn’t make what he said “myth.” I thought his speech was fantastic, and inspirational. He didn’t mention those who are atheist or agnostic, and they are as much apart of the fabric of America as are the religious. I wish he would have been a bit more inclusive. But I fully agree with everything he shared about this nation being founded “under God”—something ardent secularists would like to stripped from the American experience.

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    I’ll admit that I still don’t get exactly what he meant by “freedom requires religion”. I think he is inclusive of secularists as contributing to society, despite that he didn’t get into it. It was, after all, a speech about how faith can inform public policy. Perhaps he considered it to be well understood that secularists have a right not to have a faith, but that the ideal of people of faith being allowed to express it has been under attack and needed more emphasis.

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    Just thought I’d interject to express my support for Giuliani.

    I just had to say this since the two main posters on this blog are avid Romney supporters. I wouldn’t want visitors thinking ALL of us are so taken by him. :-)

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    Sorry, O-Mo, this blog is limited to Romney supporters. Come back when you’ve matured a bit.

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    Myths? You wanna clarify?


    Rhetorically, Romney fully buys the myth that the Founders were all God-fearing Christians who sought to establish a Christian nation. They did no such thing. While many were men of faith, it wasn’t the kind of full-throated evangelicism that the political right often suggests. Many of them were deists, and many of them were low churchmen who saw religion as anathema to rational politcs.

    I wish he would have been a bit more inclusive. But I fully agree with everything he shared about this nation being founded ?under God??something ardent secularists would like to stripped from the American experience.

    Except that part about “under God” and “In God We Trust” — which Romney linked to the Founders — has nothing to do with the founding of the Republic. “In God We Trust” became an informal motto during the trauma of the Civil War and an official motto in the 1950s at the height of the McCarthy Red Scare. “Under God” was added in the 50s as well, a clear attempt to draw a distinction between us and the godless Soviet atheists.

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    Clairification — “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in the 1950s.

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    I?ll admit that I still don?t get exactly what he meant by ?freedom requires religion?.

    What’s to get? It was a mindless platitude, offered to an audience he fully counted on not to examine it to critically.

    I think he is inclusive of secularists as contributing to society, despite that he didn?t get into it.

    That’s a charitable read. He was quite dismissive, and borderline hostile, toward secularism.

    It was, after all, a speech about how faith can inform public policy. Perhaps he considered it to be well understood that secularists have a right not to have a faith, but that the ideal of people of faith being allowed to express it has been under attack and needed more emphasis.

    How has faith been under attack? How are people of faith not being allowed to express it?

    I’d suggest that ESPECIALLY in the Republican Party, the emphasis ought to be going in the other direction. Republicans have essentially instituted a religious test — a trend not particularly helpful to LDS candidates, I might add. (Something Mitt seems to be discovering, at least if you look at his poll numbers and the ongoing prejudice against LDS candidates nationally.)

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    Some of us are democrats not all are Romney fans.

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    Yeah, that goes without saying. It’s precisely because there are so many un-fans out there that I had to put in my plug.

    Yes, Chris, my read was a charitable one, and that’s the point of the post: there are precious few people willing to do any such thing. Mean-spirited cynicism rules the day. I don’t think Romney’s address was intended to be divisive or combative towards secularists in the least, only to defend the place of faith in public policy. It’s something we’ve discussed before. And, whether the founding fathers believed one thing or the other or intended one thing or another is a matter of controversy, not just “myth”. As for people of faith not being allowed to express it, there have been multiple times in my life when my rights to express my faith have been limited. My friends in the marching band in high school were not allowed to pray together prior to a competition. And of course you are aware of public displays of faith being interpreted as an endorsement of a religion rather than merely an expression of faith. These are the things that are not easy to find agreement on, and Romney’s speech was a refreshing point of view.

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    Mean-spirited cynicism rules the day.

    It’s interesting to me that criticism of Romney’s speech is viewed as cynical, but his naked pandering to the Christian Right isn’t.

    And, whether the founding fathers believed one thing or the other or intended one thing or another is a matter of controversy, not just ?myth?.

    No, it really isn’t a matter of controversy, though some would like to make it such. The religious, philosophical and political views of the Founders are quite clearly established.

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    “It?s interesting to me that criticism of Romney?s speech is viewed as cynical, but his naked pandering to the Christian Right isn?t.”

    Trying to get the Christian right to recognize all that they have in common with Romney can be called “campaigning” just as easily as “pandering” to those who aren’t trying to forward an agenda of their own. But there are precious few of those, it appears, hence the post. The attacks on Romney’s authenticity extend far beyond this one speech. There are virtually no online news sources I’ve seen that give him the least bit of starting credibility, instead quoting all the skepticism that has been reported and perpetuated throughout the campaign from the start. Not once have I read anyone consider that he might actually have held honest views conceding the value of a woman’s right to choose and then he may actually have evolved in the direction of life when confronted with legislation as governor, as he says. No, it’s an automatic calculated political maneuver rather than a show of integrity and adherence to principle and conscience.

    “No it really isn’t a matter of controversy…” is exactly the way Romney presented his view, only in the other direction. The fact that you reject his view seems to support the notion that it’s a controversy just as much as his rejecting the secularist view. I realize it’s a tidy political play to just be dismissive to those with whom you disagree, but it’s not the kind of logical fallacy I swallow.

    I don’t see much benefit in bickering about your purported “myths”. My point is that I believe Romney says what he actually believes, rather than making things up to try to look good.

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    Mitt has a clear track record. He has changed his views over the course of his political career a number of times. Which in and of itself is fine, and I wish more politicians were able to change their views without being labeled a flip flopper. We all change our minds in life as we get new information or as circumstances change. What’s troubling about Mitt’s evolution is how nicely it tracks to the political constituencies he’s trying to impress.

    Skepticism of his conversion on these issues is not cynicism. It’s completely understandable, whether you are a skeptic that he is now courting on the right or a skeptic that he has abandoned on the left..

    ?No it really isn?t a matter of controversy?? is exactly the way Romney presented his view, only in the other direction.

    But here’s the thing, L. Mitt’s history is bad. You like to draw from your medical training in these discussions to point out when people are relying on bad science. And that’s a good thing. When I say it isn’t a matter of controversy, I’m actually attempting to remove his historical references out of their current explicit political context and from his very clear political agenda. History relys on facts just as science does, and the facts don’t square with Mitt’s version of American history. History is open to interpretation, of course. I wouldn’t deny that. But there is little debate among serious historians about the political and religious views of the Founders, or what the language they used meant in the political milieu in which they operated.

    I realize that our relationship, whatever it might be in the online world, has deteriorated to the point where we each seem to instinctively take the view opposite of the other. That’s unfortunate, and I think you are making assumptions about my views about the role of religion and faith in public life that you probably shouldn’t.

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    I’m not sure what you think I’ve assumed about your views, but feel free to correct me.

    Saying there is little debate among serious historians is analogous to all the times I’ve heard appeals to medical scientists–in a manner that is completely inappropriate. It’s common (and commonly pointed out by me) for people to appeal to authority as the final word on the topic, but that can only legitimately take you so far in an argument. I believe you when you say that academia takes a particular slant on the topic. But I also know there are many both in and out of academia who disagree. I’m observing a controversy that’s actually there rather than accepting that it’s not a controversy because only one side is credible. Really, though, it’s not a topic I have a great interest in (or knowledge about) which is why I’m not making any strong statements about what is factual, only that it’s not appropriate to disparage Romney as disingenuous merely for coming down on a different side of the issue.

    As for Romney’s evolving views, I am fully aware of the timing and how it so troubles people. So, given a politician with changing views with convenient timing, it’s understandable to be suspicious, yes. But I think Romney’s integrity and leadership over a lifetime of public and private service are swept clean away without a second thought in order to take the more cynical view. That’s not justified. But somehow it’s pervasive. It’s a telling thing about journalism, I suppose. The golden rule is completely suspended whenever someone runs for political office. People feel justified in concluding the worst whenever given the slightest option.

    As for me, I’ve followed Romney’s campaign with what might be considered a little bit of an obsession. I was very tentative at first, but I’ve become increasingly impressed over time. Every time I read more, though, I see how the circumstances aren’t completely reported, and the uncharitable views perpetuate like a growing snowball. Not that such a phenom is limited to Romney. The same is true to a lesser extent for all the candidates, and that’s the nature of politics. But, as I said, I think he’s the best person to lead the country and I wish him all the luck and fairness he needs to show people how authentic he has been and continues to be.

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    I am not a Romney supporter (though I am not a detractor either), but I mourn the increasing cynicism that infects our politics. Cynicism is an expensive form of armor. We put it on because we are afraid of the pain that comes when other people hurt and disappoint us. But in preventing this hurt, it also makes us immune to experiencing sincerity and genuine feeling, whether in ourselves or others.

    It is best, for our own mental health if nothing else, to assume that people mean what they say and say what they mean. But I think the facts bear me out. If you ignored all the press spin and horserace coverage, the Bush/Gore race of 2001 was one of the most substantive and issues-based elections I’ve seen. But I wondered if the reason I thought that was because, for the first time, I was able to bypass the cynical media filters and just watch and read what the candidates were saying and doing firsthand, thanks to the Internet. Despite not keeping all of the promises they may have made on the campaign trail, I think the essential characteristics and governing styles of both Bush and Clinton were evident from how they conducted their campaigns, what they said and what they did, and how they accomplished it. I don’t think you can claim that there was a “bait-and-switch” in either respect. In both cases we knew what we were getting, and anyone who complains otherwise wasn’t paying much attention. Our politicians do end up revealing enough about themselves on the campaign for us to make informed judgments, even if that may be unintentional. I say this as someone who finds quite a bit to admire in Romney, yes, but also in Hillary and Obama and Thompson and Giuliani and McCain. There are also troubling aspects in each of them as well. And some sharp-eyed readers will note I have conspicuously left a few candidates off my bipartisan list.

    My advice to those picking a candidate is to pay close attention to what each candidate says, and does. Do your best to ignore the spin, back-room intrigues, and manufactured reactions and controversies around him or her. I think if you do that you will get plenty of glimpses of the real Mitt, the real Hillary, and so on.

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    In a telephone interview with Romney on Friday evening, I asked him why he had, to many ears, seemed to fail to reach out to those of no religious belief: “I was struck that you did not explicitly extend the definition of religious liberty to those who believe nothing at all ?”

    “I don’t think I defined religious liberty,” Romney replied. “I think it spoke for itself ? but of course it includes all, all forms of personal conviction.”

    “Or the lack thereof?”

    “Yeah, the lack ?” He paused. “But?well, the people who don’t have a particular faith have a personal conviction. I said all forms of personal conviction. And personal conviction includes a sense of right and wrong and any host of beliefs someone might have. Obviously in this nation our religious liberty includes the ability to believe or not believe.”

    From Newsweek.

    I realize this will be dismissed as contrived, as is nearly everything he says, but I believe him.

    I find quite a bit to admire in Hillary, Obama, Giuliani, and McCain as well. Thompson, Huckabee, and Edwards, not so much. I’ve often been the kind of guy who is excited about lots of options when everybody else is angrily shaking their fist screaming that they hate them all. :-) At the end of the day, I support Romney because he’s the most capable and hardest working candidate up there. There are plenty of ways I could be persuaded to go elsewhere for my favorite policies.

  19. avatar

    sorry, guys, but neither the speech nor romney himself will be no more than a footnote in the history books. i think–i hope–that mormonism can do better than this.

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    FWIW, I find myself liking Mitt sometimes. Well, not really. His approach on some social issues really rankles and, as I have said before, his shifting positions really trouble me. . BUT — whenever I listen to him, I can’t help but think that he would be effective. I certainly think we would be a better president than the current occupant of the Oval Office (and I do not mean that to be damning with faint praise).

    I came into this campaign an Edwards man, but I’ve grown tired of him and am pretty firmly in Hillary’s camp. I want to like Obama, but he just doesn’t do it for me.

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    Since those responding are listing their favorite candidates, here are a few related questions for those who are following the campaign closely.

    Among the most serious contenders in both parties, which candidate(s) seem to have the best understanding of SGA from a MOHO perspective? In other words, are there any candidates who seem to understand, as our Church leaders do, that there is a difference between homosexuality and homosexual behavior? Huckabee, for example, made a very negative comment recently toward “homosexuality” and did not make that important distinction.

    Is the attitude on “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” in the military, helpful in this regard? A discussion I heard today on KSL was stressing that eliminating this policy would be positive because then discharge decisions would not be based on one’s attractions but on actual behavior if there was misbehavior by a military person. I have the impression that all the Democratic candidates want to do away with “Don’t ask, Don’t tell,” but none of the Republicans do. Is that correct? In short, does anyone here feel that a MOHO who has same sex attractions but is not acting on them, is unfit to serve in the military and should be discharged?

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    I fully intended to support Mitt but I see him as pandering. I would love to see the republican party get back to it’s centrist roots and I thought he was the great hope but he has become so evangelical. Seems he is trying to crawl into bed with folks that hate Mormons. John Kerry all over again.