Let's just admit it now and get it out of the way: Romney looked strong in tonight's debate, and President Obama seemed as if he didn't want to offend anyone. Well, the Presidential race may have gotten a little more interesting - especially because the undecided voters (those who tend to have no idea what is going on in politics) may have been watching this evening. And if they tuned in to this debate without the back story... then maybe Romney came out ahead?
The next two debates will both cover foreign policy, and the final debate is focusing exclusively on this topic. And it is here that Romney may have found an opening: there is strong indication that the American officials at the Libyan consulate made several requests for extra security before the attack on September 11th that killed the US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans there. Additionally, the State Department is reversing its former statements that the attack on the consulate was a result of popular protests due to American-made anti-Muslim video, "The Innocence of Muslims;" the State Dept now confirms that this was actually a coordinated terrorist attack.
Romney is rumored to be planning a coordinated attack of his own on President Obama's foreign policy record in order to assert that Obama is weak on terrorists. This would be a much-needed boon after his "shoot-first-and-aim-later" statement on the evening of the attack in Benghazi and then his 47% comment that caused some Mormons to cringe. Romney will need to continue to boost his image after the debate this evening, and maybe this is it.
Yes, Romney needs to seize upon this Muslim Moment.
But I wonder what is really going on here. Maybe this is an area that Romney should avoid altogether. Seriously folks, this is the President that killed Osama bin Laden. I mean, is it possible that the only voters who might respond to the idea that President Obama is weak on Islamic terrorism are those who believe that Obama is himself a Muslim?
Of course, Obama supporters do not require convincing that the President is the man for the job; it's just like tonight's debate - if one already supports Obama, then Mitt Romney's red-bull-infused attack did nothing more than cause a slightly irritating rash on the proverbial backside of listener's intellect. (And poor poor Big Bird. As one tweet asked: "doesn't Big Bird live on the street?; Romney hates the homeless.")
Anyway, I am amazed by how many questions still abound about Obama's religiosity and faith, and many come from our fellow Mormon brothers and sisters. Interestingly enough, some of these same Mormons also question the faith and commitment of us here at Mormons for Obama, as evidenced by the constant trickle of hate mail we receive. (One would assume that since we Mormons are often challenged regarding our Christianity, we would be careful not to level the same charges at someone else.) Alas, this is not so.
We recently received a comment that expressed a considerable amount of disdain for President Obama and our support for him. The commenter disparaged Obama as a "lover of Islam," and went on to say that she would not allow him to watch over her dog, "less (sic) alone my grandchildren." (To which I ask, did Obama even ask to babysit her grandchildren?) But she does have a point about Obama watching her dog, although I would add that both Romney and Obama carry baggage in this department; Romney's baggage is on the roof of his car, while Obama's is on his plate.
In the end I deleted the comment, seeing that it did not follow our guidelines of civil discourse. Obviously, this begs the question as to why I would review its content here - giving it more prominence than what it possibly deserves.
Well, first I wish to correct the assertion that Obama is a Muslim. Clearly, this woman, like many others, believes every anti-Obama email forward she receives in her inbox (which, I will add, is producing another convert to Mormons for Obama. Read this hilarious piece by Mark Saal.) She also must have arrived late to the town hall where John McCain rebuked a woman (and a member of the Blood gang?) for saying something similar. If Obama says he is Christian, why would it behoove us Latter-day Saints to question this?
But this leads to an even a more important aspect of this whole debate: it does not matter whether our President is Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, or even a Mormon. In fact, I would vote for Obama even if he was Muslim, and I am pleased that Minnesota elected our first Muslim congressman, Keith Ellison. We are a country of many cultures, ethnic groups, and religious affiliations. If I feel I cannot trust a Muslim to properly represent my views and interests on a national or local level, then why should we expect an American Muslim, Buddhist, or Jew to accept a Christian president?
Many people became very upset when a mosque was proposed at a site near Ground Zero. This hostility seemed to imply that all Muslims are somehow responsible for the events of 9/11. However, this public battle failed to acknowledge or demostrate the proper respect for the lives of the many innocent American Muslims who were lost in the World Trade Center attacks. Of course, my argument is not new.
Regardless, many people continue to assert that Islam is a violent faith; however, I caution that we don't need to look too far to find violence in Christianity - and I am not just speaking of the Holy Wars: bombings of abortion clinics, Jones, Koresh, Northern Ireland, and Mountain Meadows, all happened under the banner of heaven.
I don't know everything about Islam, but I am unconvinced that Muslim Americans are somehow less American than Christians, or that consequently, a Muslim is somehow less qualified to be President of the United States. The Christian Right often states that America was founded on Christian principles, but one only need to watch the season finale of Sorkin's The Newsroom to know that this is not exactly true. Maggie spent all evening to find the supporting quotations from our founding fathers - but it took me 30 seconds: Top 5 Myths About America. (Will MacAvoy, hire me please? --and where were you tonight? The tired Jim Leher could've used your crib notes.) See this article on Wikipedia as well, because Wikipedia is always correct.
But I will quote one of our founding fathers here:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people who declared that their "legislature" should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.
And by the way Fox Newsies, the Pledge of Allegiance had its famous line, "one nation under God," added to it in 1954 by our other founding father, President Eisenhower. See this article.
In the end, I believe that Obama is adept at handling our troubles in the Middle East. Romney might possibly attempt to seize upon this anti-Muslim Moment and use it (as Bush the W. did before him) to stoke fear in the more bigoted hearts of America. But as this article explains, it is high time we separated church and hate. Obama has demonstrated how to do this; far from being the great apologizer as Romney accuses him of being, President Obama has exhibited true Christianity time and time again. As Eric R. pointed out in his post:
(B)eyond the common sense reasons to be culturally sensitive to the Muslim faith..., there is another reason, an even better reason, for being thoughtful. That reason, of course, is because it is the right thing to do. Rather than subscribing to Krauthamer’s ‘only do good unto others when they have done good unto you’ worldview, I am more inclined to go with another philosophy, something more like ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’
So Romney can debate on and on and on; some may listen and believe. However, a quick tongue and a smart retort in tonight's contest doesn't obscure the fact that President Obama understands this country (beyond its capitalistic leanings) and its extremely important place in the world at large. And yes - even the Muslim world. Once again, I affirm my support for the President in 2012.
Romney won Michigan and Arizona, and Washington's Republican caucuses liked him too; now he has to make it through Super Tuesday - the real test of sorts.
And seriously, I'd be somewhat offended if Mitt Romney lost the Republican Presidential nomination to the likes of Rick Santorum. I realize this is a strange thing to voice on a website entitled "Mormons for Obama," or when I have no plans to vote for Romney, or when I really don't even like that Romney is in the presidential contest altogether. However, as a Latter-day Saint, I can't help but wonder if much of the dislike of Romney can be attributed to his Mormonism more than to his flip-flopping. Clearly all the fervor in the news media over Mormonism this past week (the baptism for the dead letter read in church, racist remarks by my former mission president, Randy Bott,) would be much quieted or even nonexistent if Romney wasn't in the race.
And according to polls, many potential voters reported an unwillingness to vote for a Mormon for president (and this was before all the recent media scrutiny). Admittedly, many of these are liberals, but a large number of these folks are also from the far right. See one poll here. And a more recent article reported much of the same thing:
This is when I get offended, although that might be too strong of a word. As a Mormon Democrat, I consider Rick Santorum to be pretty "out there." His comments on everything from contraceptives to African-Americans does not move us forward, and I am half a key stroke away from calling him crazy, (but that is against our own submission rules for this website.) I am frustrated with "the us vs. them" mentality that exists in Congress currently, and I feel inclined to put a larger portion of the blame on the far right of the Republican Party. So when someone like Santorum starts getting votes, and he appears to be extremely partisan and divisive, I have to sit back and wonder: why isn't Romney good enough for the Republicans? Is he really so bad that they want a Santorum to represent them in the 2012 election?
Republicans have demanded an "anybody-but-Mitt" alternative since the beginning - before the creation of the world. They flirted with everyone from Herman Cain (!?!) to Rick Perry (!?!) to Michelle Bachman (!?!) The list is reminiscent of a casting call for a Christopher Guest film. (Imagine Rick Santorum holding a Shih Tzu, and you'll get the idea.) And so Santorum gets their votes because he is the last man standing, and a Mormon in the White House is not an acceptable proposition. (Click on the picture to the right to purchase Hugh Hewitt's book.)
I guess I'm revealing my victim-mentality here. These potentially imagined slights and the real historical persecutions such as Carthage, Haun's Mill, and the forced exodus west, are indeed "stamped into the Latter-day Saints' collective memory," as Jon Krakauer pointed out in his not-so-unbiased account of Mormonism, Under the Banner of Heaven, A Story of Violent Faith. But for me personally, after living in the South during my formative years, I experienced a certain amount of discrimination from other Christians. (Additionally, a Big Gulp flying at me from a car window while pedaling a missionary bicycle down the streets of Modesto CA also comes to mind.)
Unfortunately, discrimination based on religious affiliation is one of the last acceptable forms of prejudice. I've seen it from both sides in regard to Mormonism, (meaning that conservatives and liberals discriminate against Mormons for very different reasons.) In the end, I am more comfortable with the dislike of my faith that I feel from the Christian Right than what I experience from the Progressive Left.
Let me explain: In the Southern Bible belt, Mormons are perceived as weird, cultish and believing in "another Jesus." While I was in Sunday School learning about the Army of Helaman or watching LDS films like "I'll Build You a Rainbow," the Baptists and Methodists were showing their children "The God Makers," a film that informs young minds that Mormons believe in a very badly animated Jesus. And the following Monday, these same little children would go to school and inform me that I was brainwashed and that I worship Joseph Smith. However, the accusation that Mormons aren't Christian is easy for me to deal with. ("Blessed are they which are persecuted for my righteousness' sake...") In fact, this is what Mormons have experienced all along. But now that I live in the Pacific Northwest, I find opposition to my faith based on completely different reasons: the dislike of Mormons is due to the perceived intolerance of blacks, women, and sexual minorities. Ultimately, I find it easier to be portrayed as a religion that believes in another Jesus than a religion that oppresses others.
But back to my point, (because I'm not planning on moving back home just so I can be discriminated against differently): I don't believe that the far right of the Republican party should cast too many stones at us Mormons or our faith; one or two small pebbles might suffice. For indeed, we do proselytize to other Christian denominations, and we do believe that God has a body. But in the end, we are believers. And for every God Makers movie about us, there is a Jesus Camp about you. So give us Romney this time, and maybe next time you can have your Michelle Bachman.
But just so I'm perfectly clear: in the end it really doesn't matter. I am voting for Obama, and you might consider doing the same.
And so it continues...
As if it wasn't bad enough that Rick Santorum decided to criticize Obama's faith, Mitt Romney decided he needed to do the same thing yesterday. My guess is that Romney saw Santorum's tactics as the straight and narrow path toward better poll numbers, and he demonstrated this today when he parroted Santorum at a campaign rally, claiming that Obama has "fought against religion" and has a "secular" agenda. See the article here:
The Christian Right is at the heart of Romney's free-fall in the polls. They don't like him because he's a flip-flopper; they don't like him because he's Mormon. And Santorum seems at least smart enough to capitalize on this weakness. He is the last standing alternative to Mitt Romney, and so he says what the Evangelicals want to hear; his comments about Obama's "phony theology" and his stand against prenatal screenings are just empty rhetoric meant to woo the Christian Right of the Republican party. He knows that Arizona and Michigan are week away, next is Washington, and Super Tuesday is afterwards, (we so excited) and he has a chance to win big.
I thought Romney wouldn't go this route considering that Mormons are told that they aren't Christian all the time. But this isn't the first time Santorum has done this. He claims that if you are a liberal, you can't be 'religious' and you certainly aren't Christian. (See link below where in 2008 Santorum claimed that there is no such thing as a liberal Christian). So Sorry Eric, you do not exist.
Both Romney and Santorum are on a roll (holy rollers). They've found a cadence for the religious campaign stumping, and they can only go down from here. The Crusades 2.0 are just beginning.
Here are Santorum's latest comments on Monday as reported on MSNBC's The Last Word:
"I don't know if you've been listening to the president, the secretary of state, and other members of the cabinet, when they talk about freedom of religion... They don't say that anymore. They talk about freedom of worship; well, you folks all know there's a big difference between freedom of worship and freedom of religion. Think about what I just said. We have leaders of this country who are now narrowing the view of what religious liberty is in the first amendment."
What does this even mean? Never mind that President Obama just talked about the importance of protecting "religious liberty" on February 10th at a news conference. Regardless, it seems that using the term "freedom of worship" broadens the view of religious liberty. Many people lead spiritual lives but are not connected to a specific religious institution. Many people follow a moral or value-system but are not believers in a God. So what of them? Shouldn't their right to worship be valued, protected, and recognized?
I think Joseph Smith said it best, and Romney and Santorum might learn something here:
Articles of Faith 1:11 - We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
Amen to that.
Santorum just told a crowd of tea party people in an Ohio hotel that Obama's agenda was based on "some phony theology," and that it was "not a theology based on the Bible." I suppose Santorum is the new prophet of the people as Romney's poll numbers fall faster than Adam and Eve after... well, the Fall.
Rick Santorum: Obama Agenda Not 'Based On Bible'
So this is where I am puzzled. Everyone seems so afraid that Mitt Romney is attached by invisible puppet strings to the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City or that he'll center his presidency on the Book of Mormon, but yet we have Santorum indirectly proclaiming that he hopes to run America based on his mangled interpretation of a two-thousand-year-old document?
It isn't as if I don't want a moral president, but I just can't understand why it is so important that the president is some certain type of Christian. I am not comforted by the idea that a president would rely too completely on his own interpretation of God and His Holy Word to make decisions that might affect me. I think they tried that in the dark ages. Additionally, I object to one candidate accusing another of not being Christian enough or that a candidate would peddle his holiness and supposed religiosity to garner votes.
The separation of church and state is a good thing. In fact, I do not agree with the conservatives who call for prayer in school. I grew up with prayer in school; we all said grace, (as it was called in the South where I'm from,) before heading to the cafeteria for lunch. It went something like this:
God is great; God is Good
and we thank Him for our food
And then the Catholics would cross themselves, and I'd feel confused. I wasn't taught to pray that way; I was taught to say, "Dear Heavenly Father," and "In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen," and most always, "We ask Thee to bless the Prophet." I suppose that if I found the daily prayer-chanting in school isolating and confusing, a Buddhist or Muslim or Jew might find it even more so. But maybe we don't care about them; maybe this country is for Christians only, everyone else be damned.
And by the way, this goes for us Mormons too: for those of you voting for tea party candidates, just remember that they most certainly believe that you belong to a cult and that you also adhere to a "phony theology," but they'll still take your vote and your campaign donations anyway.
So onto my final point here, a point that I have made previously: I am not interested in the religion of my president. Although my faith guides choices in my life and who I vote for, I am not more likely to vote for a Mormon than a Catholic president. Additionally, some right-wingers seem hell-bent on calling President Obama out as a Muslim (or even an atheist.) But I wonder what's the big deal? I wouldn't have a problem voting for a Muslim, just like many Muslims don't take issue voting for a Christian. (Besides, am I supposed to be worried that a Muslim president would wear an explosive vest to the State of the Union address?) I would be just as likely to vote for a Buddhist, a Jew, a Jain, or even a Christian for that matter, so long as their political beliefs coincided with mine and with my faith.
So Santorum: I am not voting for the next Preacher of the United States of America, so hush up about your religion and your Bible, and run for president already.