Monday, November 19, 2007

If Clinton Were A Mormon....

....his name would be Mitt....

Alright, that's a little TOO harsh. Okay, a lot. First of all, the notion of Bill Clinton becoming a Mormon is roughly akin to Courtney Love joining a convent. I don't think Mr. Bill would do that even if the Osmond brothers did have any hot-looking daughters and he grew a ZZ Top beard to make himself look like Joseph Smith.

Secondly, Mitt Romney isn't a liar, pathological or otherwise. Even the "flip-flopper" meme is, at the very least, substantially overblown, though with just enough substance at the core to keep that liability viable.

Besides, even the abstraction of Sick Willie carrying around the Extra Testament probably qualifies as an anti-Mormon slur. And the ex-Massachusetts governor is dealing with an abundance of that sort of thing as it is:

[Robert] Redford may be staying out of the presidential race, but he makes some highly provocative comments about Republican Mitt Romney, based on his many years among the Mormons of Utah.

"They are very adept at not being fazed and speaking fluently and gracefully. Why? Because every single male who's a Mormon goes on a mission for two years when they're 19 or 20," he says. "They learn how to deflect blows and stay on message. No wonder Utah is the place that all these Republican senators go. It's perfect. So when you see Mitt Romney, he's already been practicing how to deflect blows and stay on message. But it's plastic."
Okay, so there's no slur here per se; it's more the overall sneering tone that grates on the nerves of the reader, both against Mormons and, of course, against Republicans. As though all Republicans are Mormons at heart, and every Mormon heart is, ipso facto, deceitful. Which, ironically, is the trait people like Sundance celebrate in their hero Bill Clinton. I guess it's okay for a pol to be "plastic" if you can hang out with him at Martha's Vineyard and pile into his limo to go cruising for babes. An exquisite example of "socialist morality," regardless of whether double-R's brain has become too substance-addled to realize it.

But that's the sort of thing you'd expect to hear out of a Hollywoodie's mouth. Mormon-bashing anti-Romney push-polling in Iowa, on the other hand, is a different story, and it's got Plasticman pissed:

In the strongest possible terms, Mitt Romney told [Larry Kudlow] in an interview Friday that the push-polling attacks in Iowa on his Mormon faith are un-American.

“This is the week of Thanksgiving,” an emotional Romney said. “This is a time when we are going to be sitting down with our families and celebrating the founding of a country, which was established in part recognizing our tolerance for religions. People came here to seek religious freedom. And on this week of all weeks for a campaign, or supporters of a campaign, to be launching attacks on another candidate because of his religion — it’s as un-American as I can imagine. And I think it’s very, very disappointing.”
Nobody seems to know which GOP campaign, if any, is behind this push-polling, though it also praises a certain Arizona "maverick" senator. Personally I find it inconceivable that McCain would be chowder-headed enough to attack Romney's religion so surreptitiously; he didn't sneak around to take shots at religious conservatives eight years ago - he let Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell have it right between the eyes and then hung their figuratively bullet-riddled corpses around George W. Bush's neck. Thus, the perps could be Rockefeller blueblood 'Pubbies sympathetic to "Sailor," or they could even be Dems trying to stir up the proverbial shit on the other side of the fence.

If so, one would think they'd remember how hugely indulgence in religious bigotry backfired on McCain in 2000. I doubt it would garner any more success in derailing Governor Romney, who is a distant second to Rudy Giuliani nationally in any case.

Unless, of course, the one ultimately behind these vile attacks on Mitt Romney's faith is....Mitt Romney himself. Now that really would be Clintonian.

It would also be prohibitively difficult to keep quiet for very long, I'm guessing, which would make such diabolical propaganda genius impractical. Also unnecessary - in Iowa, at least, where Romney is already up by double-digits. But you have to admit, the Mittster would look a lot more sympathetic before the voters as a heroic figurative martyr battling the religious persecution of his political enemies. And it would crowd out the "flip-flopper" meme, which could only help Romney as well.

But he's no Clinton-magnitude PR genius, by any stretch; if he was, why would he have his newly minted evangelical endorser smearing the National Right To Life Committee for its endorsement of Fred Thompson?:

Paul M. Weyrich, president of the Free Congress Foundation, said the endorsement "makes no sense," and speculated that it had been motivated by money.

"I think in all probability the Thompson people were engaged with the National Right to Life people in financial dealing," said Mr. Weyrich, who has endorsed former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination.

"In the past, the Republican Party has funded National Right to Life, and while the committee can raise money on its own, it needs funding" from outside sources.
So according to Paul Weyrich, NRTL didn't endorse FDT because of his long-term, proven record of commitment to and support of the pro-life cause, but because they're just a bunch of greedy bastards. Charming.

Did Romney put Weyrich up to this completely unsubstantiated charge, or was the latter freelancing? Beats me. But Mitt will get connected to it either way, and is obligated to disavow his endorser's accusation if he does not, in fact, agree with it.

Something Romney would be well advised to do, since it opens him up to the very unflattering contrast (courtesy of his good, close, personal friend Ready Freddie) from which he's been working so diligently to escape:

"Governor Romney is new to the pro-life movement and his campaign clearly has a few things to learn about it. First, they should understand that despite their campaign's every effort, groups like the National Right to Life Committee's PAC (NLRC-PAC) cannot be bought. NLRC-PAC is supporting Fred Thompson because of Fred's 100% pro-life voting record. They know he stood with them yesterday, he stands with them today, and he will stand with them tomorrow. It is unseemly for the Romney campaign and its supporters to suggest that NLRC-PAC's coveted endorsement is based on a bribe. Second, this unfounded accusation is as outrageou s as it is ironic, given the Romney campaign's long history of spreading money around to anyone who will take it.

"If the Romney campaign is looking for the reason they did not receive the NLRC-PAC endorsement, they can start with the fact that Governor Romney was pro-choice just two years ago. They should also consider the fact that Governor Romney's own health care plan in Massachusetts offers taxpayer funded abortions for a mere $50 co-pay and requires by law that a representative from Planned Parenthood sit on the MassHealth advisory board. Tellingly, Governor Romney made no such requirement for a representative from the pro-life movement.

"The Romney campaign was clearly hoping for this endorsement and are now clearly upset. But being denied an endorsement is no excuse to impugn the integrity of the very organization they were just days ago trying to woo."
Yeeouch. Is the Commodore bleeding? He oughta be. Is Mitt Romney's "conversion" to social conservatism genuine? Well, the early Church doubted the authenticity of Saul of Tarsus after he met the risen Christ on the road to Damascus. But the Apostle to the Gentiles didn't have his buddy Barnabas running around slurring the Jerusalem church as closet Roman tax-collectors, either.

The first rule of any competitive endeavor, let alone politics, is to minimize your weaknesses and maximize your strengths. Mitt Romney's strengths are his organizational skills and message discipline; his biggest weakness is the youth of his social conservative claims, and the contradiction of his former social liberalism with the faith he is now conspicuously defending. In that regard, scoring the Weyrich endorsement was a legitimate coup; living with it may prove to be a like liability.

And there's nothing slick about that.