October 29, 2007
You’ve stayed at a Marriott hotel, right? Any Marriott—Courtyard, Residence, whichever. Did you notice anything…well, weird, even bizarre, about the rooms, the lobby, the room service—anything?
Well then, what about the Philadelphia Eagles? They’ve had a few good seasons, sure, followed by some rough ones. Well, when you watch them, don’t they seem kind of…I don’t know exactly…but—different than other teams?
You’ve never noticed anything strange about them?
Well this one you must have picked up on: Brent Scowcroft, the first President Bush’s national security advisor, and an opponent of the war in Iraq. When you look back at his term in the White House, or you follow his views on foreign policy ever since, don’t you see kind of a weird pattern, a pattern that’s different from the other establishment wise men?
What? You don’t see anything out of whack about any of these organizations or people?
Then what worries people about the prospect that the next president might be Mitt Romney, a Mormon?
That’s what all these people have in common: the Marriott family, Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid, and Brent Scowcroft and Mitt Romney. They’re all Mormons.
And they all run their enterprises in ways that appear indistinguishable from other hoteliers, football coaches and foreign policy advisors.
So what is it about Mitt Romney being a Mormon that is making so many people—or anybody, for that matter? Why did 48% of registered voters interviewed in a Newsweek poll say that America is not ready to elect a Mormon president? Why did 25% tell the same poll that they would not vote for a Mormon for president? What are they worried about?
That isn’t a rhetorical question. I’m baffled.
A lot of commentators say Romney should give a speech like the one John F. Kennedy gave in 1960 to reassure Protestant ministers nervous about electing the first Catholic president.
But what would Romney reassure them of?
The ministers Kennedy spoke to had specific—although baseless—reservations about the prospect of a Catholic president. Seizing on the authority of the pope, they worried that Kennedy might be subject to orders from Rome. Kennedy set them straight. “Whatever issue may come before me as President,” he told the ministers, “on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject–I will make my decision in accordance…with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates.”
What misconception could Romney correct? That he might push to legalize polygamy? That he might issue an executive order requiring everybody to work as hard and be as thrifty as so many Mormons? Or do Mormon religious beliefs strike other Christians as over the top? Does the Mormons’ founding narrative, that the Book of Mormon was translated from golden-looking plates that were buried near the founder’s house seem outlandish to adherents of a religion that believes that the Ten Commandments were written by God on stone and that Jesus died being crucified but was resurrected three days later?
So what’s the problem? Not for those who know the fine points of Mormon and mainstream Christian theology and believe they see doctrinal conflicts.
But for voters in general. For the 48% of registered voters think that America is not ready to elect a Mormon president. Or the 25% who said that they themselves would not vote for a Mormon? What are they worried about?
If you know, enlighten me.