First things first. Mitt Romney's speech does not "shake me to my core", "offend me" or anything else. Why? Because I could give a fuck what he, his fellow Mormons, or the Evangelical religionists he was bonding with think about me or anyone else on the outs with the church. They can all kiss my ass.
What pisses me off is the impact all of this plays in politics and even more, the treatment Romney is getting for making this speech—before, during, and especially after. Comparisons to Kennedy's speech are a natural storyline for the somnambulant media—and fully intended by Romney and his handlers, evident by his choice of location, words, and even posing for photos (see above). But that comparison could not be more misrepresentative of the two speeches and what they really meant.
Widely hyped as the next great Kennedyesque political speech of our time, Romney's ‘Faith in America’ Address was given all the coverage and trappings of the fucking State of the Union for chrissakes. His choice of venue (George H.W. Bush's Presidential Library) even allows him to make it from behind the Seal of the President of the United States.
It was treated as a courageous act that Romney confront this "issue." A "risky move that might backfire" on him. I suppose it would have been if he actually mentioned the word "Morman" more than once, or confronted his accusers. Instead, it was not a defense of Mormanism, nor a reminder that religion should hold no place in politics—it was a straight-up Evangelical asskissfest, complete with all the codewords and targetting of a strawman common enemy. It should have taken place at Liberty University and been shown on the 700 Club, not given all-day, top-story coverage everywhere from CNN to NPR.
While both Kennedy and Romney faced similar questions about their faith from a close-minded, religionist minority of the the country, what they did about it couldn't be more different: Kennedy strode into the lion's den and told them what was what. By contrast, Romney slithered in and tried to wedge himself into the pew with the very people who publicly doubt his qualifications and question the validity of his faith.
I'm back. Where was I? Oh yeah, blowing the bullshit that this was akin to Kennedy's speech out of the water...
Here's Kennedy's speech boiled down:
Yeah, I'm Catholic. What of it? That's between me and my God and none of your fucking business and has nothing to do with being President, got it? And howdya like these apples?...The separation of church and state is absolute. And I mean fucking worlds apart with a goddamn asteroid belt between them. The government giving nothing to any church or religious school, and taking no direction back. If you don't like it...fuck the hell off.
Don't believe me? Watch it for yourself. The only difference between my paraphrasing and what Kennedy says is my lack of Boston accent, and his lack of expletives (though, I think he does mumble "motherfuckers" at the end there, you just don't hear it due to poor audio quality...).
You can read the entire speech here. It's worth reading simply as a contrast to the politics of today.
In stark contrast, here is Romney:
I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind, and I love him as much as you! The founding fathers did too! This country is all about religion, and without it, we're nothing. God save us from the marauding secularists who seek to destroy us and what we love. And don't forget those crazy Moslems! They'll cut your throat while praising Allah...Forget about that Morman stuff, I'm just like you! Did I mention I love Jesus as much as you? Good. Will (God) you (Jesus) vote (Creator) for (Liberty) me (religion) now (prayer)?
Erase all the codewords and boil it down, and that's really all it was. A big "Can't we religious folks put aside our teeny, tiny differences and fend off those godless athiests?"
If you won't vote for Obama because he's black, you are a racist. If you won't vote for Hillary because she's a woman, you're sexist. And if you won't vote for Mitt Romney because he's Morman, it's the same fucking thing, there just really isn't a word for it. But rather than confront this, Romney panders to it. He tries to assure these religious bigots to be comfortable with him because he's just like them.
He's not calling for religious tolerance. He's asking Evangelicals to be tolerant of him so they can all get together and be intolerant of the non-religious. Hence stoking the old "creeping secularism" common enemy.
Romney takes the basic framework of JFK's speech—a list of problems faced by the nation, a claim of independence from influence, and that he is running on the issues only—but he fills all the gaps with bullshit. Romney throws in a passing reference to a "separation of church and state"—but then immediately undermines it.
"I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute--where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishoners for whom to vote--where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference--and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him...
...Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end--where all men and all churches are treated as equal--where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice." [emphasis mine]
Now, in defense of Romney, he's really just saying what he needs to, in order to out-God the guy who just blew by him in the standings (ordained minister Hucksterbee) in a last-ditch lunge at the GOP nomination before the primaries kick off. He's not really talking to anybody BUT the worst element of the electorate. In fact, if he actually tried anything close to what JFK said about separating church and state, he'd've been booed off the stage, but he should hardly get credit for doing anything other than pandering. Oh, I guess I'll give him credit for misrepresenting the Founding Fathers, our history as a nation...and the Constitution.
Here's his swipe at keeping church and state separate:
"We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong.
Kennedy's whole damn speech is about keeping religion out of state affairs, while the Mittster can't go a breath without taking it back. Oh, and I don't know what the fuck a "religion of secularism" is aside from an oxymoron. Ask Bill O'Reilly...
Some more of Romney's bullshit:
"We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders – in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places. Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our Constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from 'the God who gave us liberty.'
Pure crap. First, all this "God on the currency and in the Pledge" crap is from the McCarthyite 1950s, not the Founding Fathers. It doesn't belong there, but I know of no serious assault on it. As for the nativity scenes crap, drive down any street and private yards and churches have more than got that covered. For a town to erect one in the public square is unnecessary and crosses Kennedy's (and my) line.
Oh, and last I checked, judges and all other public servants take an oath to uphold the law and the Constitution—nothing else. And certainly not any "faith."
So here's Mitt's big statement. This actually comes very early in the speech:
"Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.
The history of mankind all across the globe, begs to differ with that one, asshole. Even now, I know plenty of religious countries I'd hardly call free. And linking the two is the part that pisses me off the most. Here is where he makes clear that being beholden to God somehow makes one "free" (not sure how that makes sense) and that the non-religious don't have a place in Romney's vision of America.
Fuck you, Mitt. The theocratic fantasy country you're talking about isn't the one I live in, or that the Founding Fathers established. If you want to be President of that country, take the bigoted jackasses you're appealing to and start your own. I think there's a plot of land down in Guyana that's perfect.
Romney's complete speech. Have your airsick (or punching) bag close by.
Christopher Hitchen's obliteration of Romney. Don't miss it. Money quote:
[...] According to the admittedly very contradictory scriptures of the New Testament, Jesus of Nazareth warned his disciples and followers that they should expect to be ridiculed and mocked for their faith. After all, how likely was it that God had decided to reveal himself to only a few illiterate peasants in a barbarous backwater? Those who elected to believe this stuff were quite rightly told to expect a hard time, and the expression "fool for God" or "fool for Christ" has been with us ever since. That concept has some dignity and nobility. Entirely lacking in dignity or nobility (or average integrity) is the well-heeled son of a gold-plated church who wants to assume the pained look of martyrdom only when he is asked if he actually believes what he says. A long time ago, Romney took the decision to be a fool for Joseph Smith, a convicted fraud and serial practitioner of statutory rape who at times made war on the United States and whose cult has been made to amend itself several times in order to be considered American at all. We do not require pious lectures on the American founding from such a man, and we are still waiting for some straight answers from him.
Maureen Dowd with a rare column worth reading... And even David Brooks, while trying to be enthusiastic, sees through Mitt's crap... Mild-mannered Kevin Drum blows a gasket... Toast tees off... Ezra thinks it was terrible, but calls it pure pander, perfectly played... Yglesias exposes Mitt's misrepresentation of Mormanism... and Digby, as usual, is excellent, and icludes several good links.