Thursday, December 06, 2007

Massachusetts Candidates, Then and Now

Mark over at Cosmic Variance, in comparing John F. Kennedy (the 20th century's most prominent Catholic presidential candidate) and Mitt Romney (the 21st century's first Mormon candidate), unwittingly quotes a lie
“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute,” Kennedy told the Houston ministers, “where no Catholic prelate would tell the President — should he be Catholic — how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference … I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials.”

Kennedy was seeking to take his then-controversial faith off the table by embracing the constitutional and secular nature of the American republic, and by asking voters to judge him on his own words and deeds rather than as a representative of his church. If Romney were trying to accomplish something similar, one could only commend him. But his task is more perplexing and difficult than that.
No, he wasn't.

Kennedy was trying to allay the fears of a predominantly Protestant voting bloc. They worried that he would take his marching orders from a foreign ruler - the Pope - rather than the national interest. To put them at ease, Kennedy engaged in a neat bit of speechifying.

Whenever Romney discusses his Mormonism, he's committing the same prevarication that Kennedy did - standing out as the moral and Christly candidate because of his open religion, while painting himself as reasonable instead of extreme.

Mark seems to think that Romney is a significantly worse man than Kennedy was ("wipe away your tears as you realize how far backwards our politicians have moved"). He's not. Candidates for the most powerful office that the human species has yet enshrined have not become any more venal recently. All of them will trumpet the values most convenient to the current audience - their position on The War, the death penalty, stem cells, etc - and silence them as appropriate.


Post a Comment

<< Home