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bye bye mitt February 7, 2008

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, news, politics, religion.
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photo by flickr user Joe Crimmings Photography used under a creative commons license

you will not be missed.

hendrik hertzberg in the new yorker last month:

And the dogmas of Mitt Romney’s sect are breathtaking. They include these: that in 1827 a young man named Joseph Smith dug up a set of golden plates covered with indecipherable writing; that, with the help of a pair of magic spectacles, he “translated” the plates from an otherwise unknown language (Reformed Egyptian) into an Olde English that reads like an unfunny parody of the King James Bible; that the Garden of Eden is in Missouri; that American Indians descend from Hebrew immigrants; that Jesus reappeared in pre-Columbian America and converted so many people that the result was a series of archeologically unconfirmable wars in which millions died; that while polygamy had divine approval for most of the nineteenth century, God changed his mind in 1890, just in time for Utah to be allowed into the Union; and that God waited until 1978 to reveal that it was O.K. for blacks to be fully paid-up members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

One might ask, What of it? Plenty of religions have curious doctrines. (Several, for example, hold that on Sundays millions of people drink blood and eat flesh.) The Framers knew this was dangerous territory, which was one reason they tried to rule it out of political bounds. And Romney himself warned, in a speech, titled “Faith in America,” that he delivered on December 6th, “There are some who would have a Presidential candidate describe and explain his church’s distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited.”

The weasel word here is “distinctive.” Romney had no problem describing his church’s not-so-distinctive doctrines. “There is one fundamental question,” he continued, as if he were speaking on tax cuts, “about which I often am asked. What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Saviour of mankind.” (But please don’t ask about Jesus’ post-Resurrection travel schedule.) The candidate went on to patronize rival religions, administering quick head pats to Catholicism (“I love the profound ceremony of the Catholic Mass”), evangelicalism (for the “approachability” of its version of God), Pentecostalism (“tenderness of spirit”), Lutheranism (“confident independence”), Judaism (“ancient traditions”), and Islam (“frequent prayer”—a bit feeble, that).

Missing from this litany, of course, was something to the effect of “I appreciate the deep commitment to reason of the agnostics and atheists.” Indeed, the only “religion” that Romney had anything rude to say about was “the religion of secularism.” He pointed scornfully at the “empty” cathedrals of Europe as evidence of “societies just too busy or too ‘enlightened’ to venture inside and kneel in prayer,” adding a little later that “any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty” has “a friend and ally in me.” Take that, NATO. On your knees.

Secularism is not a religion. And it is not true that “freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom,” as Romney maintained. What freedom, including religious freedom, requires is, precisely, secularism—which is to say, state neutrality in matters of religion. (Nor does religion require freedom, as the European past and the Middle Eastern present demonstrate; religions, plural, do, however.) “Americans do not respect believers of convenience,” Romney thundered in his “faith” speech. “Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world.” These were strange observations, coming as they did from a man whose campaign has consisted largely of jettisoning the beliefs he found convenient as a Massachusetts politician but finds highly inconvenient now that he stands to gain the Republican nomination for President. But then those were merely political beliefs.

Touch gloves, Mitt and Mike. And perhaps, if God interests Himself in the minutiae of earthly politics, He’ll arrange a double knockout.

the huckabee factor December 17, 2007

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, econ, news, politics, religion.
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nytimes magazine:

But things have changed since then. Huckabee says he believes that the next president of the United States will have to lead Western civilization in a worldwide conflict with radical Islam. For a man with that kind of ambition, he has not been particularly well briefed. On Dec. 4, for instance, he was asked about the National Intelligence Estimate released the day before, which found that Iran had suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003. Huckabee said that he hadn’t seen it, though it had been the top news story in the country, maybe the world, for the previous 24 hours.

At lunch, when I asked him who influences his thinking on foreign affairs, he mentioned Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist, and Frank Gaffney, a neoconservative and the founder of a research group called the Center for Security Policy. This is like taking travel advice from Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, but the governor seemed unaware of the incongruity. When I pressed him, he mentioned he had once ”visited” with Richard Haass, the middle-of-the-road president of the Council on Foreign Relations. Huckabee has no military experience beyond commanding the Arkansas National Guard, but he doesn’t see this as an insuperable problem. ”What you do,” he explained, ”is surround yourself with the best possible advice.” The only name he mentioned was Representative Duncan Hunter of California. ”Duncan is extraordinarily well qualified to be secretary of Defense,” he said.

Huckabee does not have an impressive grasp of its details. When I suggested, for example, that consumers might evade the tax simply by acquiring goods and services for cash on the black market, he seemed genuinely surprised. 

As a premillennialist evangelical, Huckabee also has no problem with enforcing the law, at the border or anywhere else. ”A person with a biblical worldview of human nature says humans are by nature selfish,” he has written. ”We are not basically good; rather, we are basically self-centered. . . . Only two things will change this behavior: either our nature will be changed by a supernatural experience with God through Christ, or we will fear the consequences of not doing the right thing.”

 

oh quotable racism… December 10, 2007

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, comedy, econ, immigration, iraq war, news, politics, race.
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new yorker piece about the republican party’s resurgent brand of anti-immigrant rhetoric and grandstanding…

return of the nativist“:

Dean Allen, a plump and friendly fellow sporting an American-flag tie, told me that he runs something called Spirit of Liberty; he’s also helping Witherspoon’s campaign. “Some of these people may be coming in here to get jobs washing dishes, but some of them are coming in here to hijack airplanes,” he explained. “If you’re down there trying to look at the people coming across the border, maybe a lot of them are just motivated by economics, and they want a job washing dishes or cutting grass. But I can’t tell Jose Cuervo from the Al Qaeda operatives by looking at them, because they cut their beard off. It’s like trying to get fly manure out of pepper without your glasses on, you know? I mean, not a racist thing, but they’re all brown with black hair and they don’t speak English and I don’t speak Arabic or Spanish, so if they don’t belong here and they don’t come here legally, I want to know who’s here.” He echoed McCain’s observation that the anti-immigrant feeling is strongest in states with new Hispanic populations. “The illegal Hispanic population, it’s definitely growing,” he said. “I can tell you just from how many you see when you walk in Wal-Mart, and you drive down the street and you see buildings now with writing in Spanish that says ‘tienda,’ which is Mexican for ‘store.’ You didn’t see that even a year or two ago.”