I haven’t written a “political” post in awhile, and recent events created a hard-to-resist setup. Last week, the Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, gave a speech that was billed as focusing on his Mormon faith but in reality just did its best to tout Romney as a Christian candidate. From my perspective, it came no where near to doing what President Kennedy’s speech did addressing questions about his Catholicism.
A few parts of Romney’s speech left me with raised eyebrows (ignoring agnostics and atheists springs to mind, along with associating religion and freedom and vice versa), but in general, I considered it a relatively harmless, definitely non-bold speech. However, the questions raised by the press and by other candidates about Romney’s faith have caught my attention, mainly because I believe religion should be the last concern when choosing a representative.
Frankly, I don’t care if said candidate worships bread if they have a coherent domestic policy and won’t bomb someone because she is having an off day. However, like the proverbial bad penny, we’ve allowed the debate to include religion as a legitimate topic for determining a candidate’s political viability. Most recently, Governor Huckabee, another Republican presidential candidate, got caught up in the following snafu:
Republican Mike Huckabee Wednesday personally apologized to rival Mitt Romney for comments he made in an upcoming New York Times Magazine article that appear to disparage the Mormon faith…In the article, a preview of which is posted on the New York Times Web site, the former Arkansas governor is quoted as asking, “Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?”
The remark came after New York Times reporter Zev Chafets asked Huckabee whether he thought Mormonism was a religion or a cult. Huckabee, a former Baptist minister, said he thought it was the former but conceded he doesn’t “know much about it.” The article is to appear in Sunday’s paper. (Link)
Here’s the word choice that sticks in my mind. Huckabee acknowledges that he “doesn’t know much” about Mormonism, but this lack of knowledge doesn’t keep him from speculating on a potential belief that, from his experience as a Baptist minister, he knows might encourage other non-Mormon, Christians to shy away from Romney. Huckabee’s apology to Romney seems to ring hollow based on his explanation for the chain of events:
Speaking with CNN Wednesday, Huckabee expressed disbelief that the comment has caused an uproar.
“We were having a conversation over several hours, the conversation was about religion and he was trying to press me on my thoughts of Mitt Romney’s religion, and I said ‘I don’t want to go there.'” Huckabee said.
“I really didn’t know. Well, he was telling me things about the Mormon faith, because he frankly is well-schooled on comparative religions. As a part of that conversation, I asked the question, because I had heard that, and I asked it, not to create something — I never thought it would make the story.”
Huckabee then reiterated a statement he’s made before, saying a candidate’s religion shouldn’t be an issue in a campaign. Here’s a crazy idea: if Huckabee believes a candidate’s religion shouldn’t be an issue in a campaign, why make any comment or ask any question at all about any other religion during an on-the-record interview?
In case anyone is wondering at this point, I’m neither a Romney fan nor a Huckabee hater. In fact, I’m sadly indifferent to the major candidates in both political parties. I actually admire the outlying candidates like Mike Gravel and Ron Paul because they appear to really answer the questions posed to them by reporters and at the debates, regardless of how “quirky” their opinions, a stark contrast to the responses of the race leaders; however, it doesn’t mean I agree with them.
To sidetrack for a bit, I believe that’s the big idea overlooked in politics. The language political candidates use anymore is so calculated. They’d rather you believed that they believe everything you believe. Heaven forbid there be disagreement between representatives and their constituents. We’ve been lulled into the false sense of believing that we should be in harmony with one another. Here’s a short history lesson: this country wouldn’t exist if there hadn’t been dissent between citizens and government representatives. You aren’t supposed to agree with your elected officials all the time, particularly if you can have a discussion about the areas of disagreement. For all you know, you might be wrong.
Back to the main topic…Huckabee could have ended the line of questioning about Romney with a simple statement: “Ask me all the questions you like about my beliefs, but I will neither comment nor discuss the beliefs of another candidate.” During the upcoming bloodbath that will represent what is supposedly a free and democratic process other countries should “look up to,” listen as carefully to what the candidates don’t say as to what they do say. Piqued your curiosity? If so, then listen to their apologies, because they all play by the modified rule that it’s better to ask forgiveness than show any modicum of common sense.