Tuesday, January 23, 2007
BROWNBACK MAKES IT OFFICIAL AS GOP FIELD VIES WITH MANY INTERESTING CHOICES.
Some of my friends question whether or not Romneys Mormon Faith makes him a Christian. Your view, Please.
By Thomas F. Roeser
[Second in a series of possible conservative Republican options for president in 2008 written for The Wanderer, the nations oldest national Catholic weekly. Fresh updates since last weeks publication are the paragraphs in italics].
CHICAGOLast week I recited the pros and cons of three Republican presidential contenders for four groups of conservatives to choose from social conservatives, libertarians, neo-conservatives and traditionalistsbut before the week was out, the landscape changed concerning two of the front-runners I reported on: so Ill update.
First, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) made an official announcement of his candidacy, stressing himself as the most socially conservative candidate for the presidency. Its almost uncanny how much he looks like Ronald Reagangenerally agreeable looks to which he has added a shrewd imitation of the Gippers famous deferential bob of the head (showing his humility) and his smile. Brownback isnt exactly 100% pro-George W. Bush since he opposes the Bush-sponsored troop surge in Iraq.
Second, , ex-Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, 60, who bases his appeal to social and neo-conservatives, staunchly defended his Mormon religion from the charge that it is a non-Christian cult. In a news conference here, I thought he was pretty convincingsaying that the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints recognizes the trinity and the godhead of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. God the Father appeared to one Joseph Smith in the mid-19th century and urged him to restore fundamentals of the Christian faith that had been winnowed down over the centuries. Smith began to do so and his successors are endeavoring to continue the work.
One may question the role of Joseph Smith but there doesnt appear to be any fundamental disagreement with broad-based Christian doctrine to me. A few ancestors lost their way and engaged in polygamy but that was firmly repudiated in 1890 (along with their basic sanity for wanting more than one wife per household). The consensus among social conservatives Ive talked to is that Romney has made a great deal of headway in clearing up any difficultyfor the plain and simple reason that of the major contenders, hes the only one who stuck with the same wife. NOTE: When I expressed this view in The Wanderer last week, a number of friends told me at lunch that I dont know what Im talking about by agreeing with Romney that the Mormon faith can be seen as a variant of Christianity. They seemed to say that to be regarded as a Christian faith, it should be accepted as such by the Roman Catholic church! But I never heard that said beforenor do I recall the Catholic Church ever defining that the Mormon church didnt belong to Christianity. If Im wrong, please let me know. (Im sure my friends will).
That doesnt mean Romney wont be subjected to the kind of attacks that can come to any religion that isnt fully understood. At issue is a privately published book, Secret Ceremonies written by Deborah Laake, a fallen-away LDS (Latter Day Saint) which claims that the church teaches that any Mormon who dies in good standing will spend the afterlife on his own planet with his spouse and extended family. Defenders of the church say this is misinterpreted and not much different from the Christian belief that one dying in sanctifying grace-communion with God will go to heaven. One thing is sure: Mitt Romney will be busy answering all the details on his church during the primary season. NOTE: Sunday on my radio program, Ron Gidwitz who had been very much impressed with Romney, said he was giving much thought to Giuliani listing as a major reason the choice of Bob Kjellander by the Romney forces as the Big Fish for its Illinois effort.
Third, there have been several rude knocks put out on John McCainfrom the liberal media which used to glorify him. A liberal columnist for the Indianapolis Star, Ken Bode, who used to moderate PBS Washington Week in Review, and former dean of the Medill school of journalism at Northwestern here whom I know and have a great deal of respect for, cited two little known facts that could jeopardize support for Sen. John McCain from women. An element of his personal life was resurrected by Bode along with an obscure McCain quote. The Arizona senator has a reputation for candor, writes Bode, which includes a well-known admission that adultery caused the end of his first marriage. Confession may be good for the soul and it is possible that forgiveness may be forthcoming. We shall see. However, McCains abortion stance also is suspect. He regularly says he is pro-life but when once asked what he would do if his daughter had an unwanted pregnancy, he answered it would be up to her. That sounds suspiciously like a womans right to choose.
Exactly. Along with a further item that has long bothered me on McCain which is contained in a chapter of The Nightingales Song which covers McCains heroism in Vietnam, the first book to give the lawmaker a decided push because he turned down a chance to be freed by his North Vietnam captors who wanted to recognize that he was a son and grandson of distinguished Navy officers, McCain saying that others who were lodged at the Hanoi Hilton should be released first. The book details how after he got back and was reunited with his wife, Carol, McCain saw for the first time the extent of the injuries his wife had suffered in a near-fatal car accident while he was held prisoner. One implication is clearand has floated freely throughout McCains political careerthat because the accident maimed her appearance, McCains attitude changed toward her. They divorced and he married a much younger, more attractive woman, with a well-heeled Arizona family which has been helpful to him in politics.
Divorce is never helpful to presidential contenders but McCains own (a) acknowledgement of adultery and (b) the rumor of falling out of love because of a debilitating accident befalling a devoted wife who spent her days during his confinement praying and working for his release, is all thats needed in savaging the womens vote. Not because of the divorce but his acknowledged adultery and the alleged cold-hearted change of attitude toward his loyal wife. Reportedly the first Mrs. McCain is ready to deny (b) while giving tacit agreement to (a) saying after he got back from prison camp, McCain thought he was a 20-year-old again. That really doesnt help McCain! In the meantime, McCains ratings are also dropping because of his advocacy of a surge of more troops for Iraq.
Running first in the sweepstakes right now with some appeal to neo-conservatives especially but also libertarians and a surprising number of social conservatives, is the man least likely to be perceived as doing so before 9/11: former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani who prior to the World Trade Center disaster was regarded by most New Yorkers with scarcely-hidden contempt. Reason: his personal life was coming apart; he was the subject of late-night TV stand-up comedian taunts for his matrimonial difficulties. All changed when the twin towers were hit and Giulinai was perceived as a cool-headed man of the hour.
Giuliani, 62, a former pro-lifer, has espoused abortion including partial birth and endorses not gay marriage but civil unions. Rumor had been he was willing to tailor his abortion views to get back to his original position but this is unlikely. He is romancing Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson on the basis of his strong support of Israel which plays into the evangelical view of the hereafter incorporating Israel as Gods alleged Most Favored Nation--but his main appeal seeks to win broad-minded Republicans of all stripes with his strong national security, pro-free-trade and compassionate immigration policies. Never has a distinct sub-fraction of AmericansJewish votersbeen more assiduously courted by Republicans with bleaker electoral results: Jews are intransigent Democratic bloc voters notwithstanding that many Democrats lambaste Israel--but the Republican courting goes on heedless of the statistics.
His central argument has been that in 2008 the paramount issue will be national security, asking who better than the man who faced up well to the challenge when disaster hit his town than he? The documented story of his successes is outlined in an excellent pro-and-con book, The Prince of the City: Giuliani, New York and the Genius of American Life by two brothers, one of whom is a nationally known New York University urbanologist, Fred Siegel (with Harry Siegel). The book is thoroughly researched and tells how Giuliani accomplished almost the impossible, bringing a sense of order to the Babylon that was New York city under his predecessors. Anyone who visited New York pre- and post-Giuliani as I have must testify how phenomenally he succeeded against all odds.
If Giuliani had a better record in his personal life, he might well be a shoo-in for the nomination. But theres no likely pro-social conservative turnaround and an Apologia pro Vita Sua here. Some politicians have sold themselves to conservatives as repentant passers of the plate by announcing theyre pro-life, anti-gay marriage and have now seen the light. While there was some speculation that he might try that tack, it was discarded and any rehab of Rudy to his former altar boy status is seen as too overwhelming and cynical an undertaking.
But there are some volunteers for the rehab job. A priest of my acquaintance in New York, of rigorous conservative theological views and an admirer of Giulianis gutsy get-it-done management approach which revitalized his city, told me how he would advise Giuliani to explain an ideological change on social policy. I would tell him this, he said, and I would say, `Rudy, see if you can reach this same conclusion. You would say, `before 9/11 I had embraced a set of beliefs about life that was wrong, based on pragmatism. But during 9/11 I saw up close and personal the dreadful carnage and wanton taking of human life and it struck me as never before that the taking of any innocent life for whatever purpose is wrong and intolerable. Therefore I announce today that--.
The priest has a point; if Giuliani could actually say this with firm belief, he might turn a page on his support not just of abortion but partial birth abortion. Instead, a 140-page strategy for his presidential campaign was inadvertently lost and picked up by a consultant who works for McCain. The document didnt mince words that Giulianis social liberalism may well lose the nomination for him. And the lost strategy paper highlighted an irony. For one who is making big bucks as an expert to corporations and cities on security in crisis contingencies, the carelessly-lost strategy paper doesnt bolster confidence in Rudys reputation
But the missing strategy document is far from the worst that has happened to Rudy Giuliani. His past life with women will be seen as a chamber of horrors when the details are fully known by the electorate. Here you have an ostensible Catholic who has had not just one divorce and remarriage but a total of three marriageswith enough hair-raising plots to satisfy next years 13 week series of Desperate Housewives. His first marriage was to, believe it or not, a first cousin which necessitated an annulment. How this brilliant lawyer and prosecutor who stunned federal courtrooms with his encyclopedic recitations of the failings of defendants failed to discover she was his own first cousin has never been explained. But rest assured, it will divulged in full in the primaries.
His second marriage was to a TV anchor who later became an actress and starred in the Vagina Monologues on Broadway while he was mayor. Just the type for potential First Lady. As New Yorkers gawked, he tried to ditch her, couldnt. He came down with prostate cancer; she denied him access to his own bedroom and he slept on a cot in the hall. While in that state and physically ill, he sought to sneak his mistress--potential wife number three to other quarters in the mansion. Whereas wife number two got a court order preventing him from bringing his girlfriend to the mansion. Can you feature him explaining this story to conservative evangelical South Carolina, home of the most conservative presidential primary electorate as his opponents unfold that scenario? If he could get away with explaining that, hed rival Houdini escaping from a strait-jacket, upside-down 200 feet underwater in New York harbor.
And as if this werent enough, William F. Buckleys National Review recently put him on its coverin full-color and drag, festooned with lipstick, high-heels, blonde wig and a slinky gown, an outfit he wore during a slapstick presentation he made to the New York press corps one boisterous night where the media slapped him on the back and said, Rudy, youre a card! No, it seems very likely that the high Giuliani popularity ratings come from a vast public unawareness of these difficulties: which when theyre uncovered for general consumption hes likely to be very happy slinking back to Manhattan where cross-dressing may not be atypical.
Thus far we have examined two candidates who wish to appeal to social conservatives: Mitt Romney and Sam Brownback. Both have virtues and drawbacks but apparently can stand further scrutiny. Two others who can appeal to neo-conservativesJohn McCain and Rudy Giulinaiare hauling not just baggage but a ball and chain each--based on not just missteps but scandalously unattractive personal lives.
Now lets go to a traditionalist Republican candidate with great appeal also to social conservatives who follows the dictum of the group more nearly represented in the past by Pat Buchanan which eschews undue interventionist involvement in world affairs where the specific interest of the peace and freedom of the United States is not threatened and fair trade or restrictions on free trade which in the estimation of this candidate penalizes American workers along with espousal largely of Buchanans anti-illegal and, to some extent, anti-immigration policies (Buchanan having endorsed a 10-year holding pattern against all immigration until the flood-tide of new visitors is assimilated).
This candidate who flies the traditionalist, social conservative flag and even could win support from the national security-conscious neo-conservatives on military preparedness alone, is a CongressmanCong. Duncan Hunter of California, 58, until recently the chairman of House Armed Services under the Republicans. The Congressman, a Baptist, who represents the San Diego area, has two very persuasive traditionalists as fanswho havent endorsed anyone but who admire Hunters stands very much. Gallant, astute Phyllis Schlafly, who spared us the Equal Rights amendment and has emboldened the GOP on many social conservative ventures, talks up Hunter while keeping her options open. And Howard Phillips, founder of the Conservative Caucus and chairman of the Constitutional Party.
Mrs. Schlafly is very supportive of Hunters national security expertise (beginning with his impressive military service where he won the Bronze Star for 24 helicopter assaults in Vietnam), his advocacy of Ronald Reagans Strategic Defense Initiative, along with his fair trade and tough anti-illegal immigration views, saying hes right on all the issues. Phillips likes the fact that Hunter endorsed Pat Buchanans presidential campaign in the 1996 primaries (in 2000 he endorsed McCain). Hunter opposed NAFTA and CAFTA, fought GATT in 1994, the Mexico bailout in 1995, fast-track in 1997, most favored nation trade status for China in 2000 and trade promotion authority in 2002. Hes sure to be the most protectionist candidate for president since Ross Perot.
Hunter has not been an unalloyed go-along booster of the Bush administration, assailing the fact that the Iraq war should have involved more troops and that the presidents budget has left the military $30 billion behind on modernization projects. Phillips who has known Hunter since 1980 and has withheld formal endorsement because he has not vetted the Congressman fully, is not a Republican but Constitutional party chief so he has nothing to say about who GOPers pick. But he said it is possible that, after the vetting process, Hunter would be asked to run as the Constitutional Party nominee for president after he loses the Republican nodbecause, he says, the current Republican establishment is too wedded to the misnamed free trade and loosely enforced illegal immigration programs which enable business to run its manufacturing processes on the cheap. When Hunter loses the GOP bid as, to Philllips mind, it is certain, the Constitution Party might well be waiting in the wings for a third-party bid.
While no sitting House member has been elected president since James Garfield in 1880 (who then had the bad luck of being shot to death a year afterward), Hunter is not being spared the usual rip and tear-to-tatters routine that comes to every presidential candidate as skeptics look for supposed scandal. Attempts to tie him to the repudiated Cong. Randy Cunningham of California who received kickbacks from military contractors have cast some doubt on the purity of the candidate. Hunter is also seen as a big advocate of earmarking, the process by which congressmen bring home the pork and bacon but then until now this was seen as part of the job. Odds are earmarking will continue under disguise while reformers look the other way.
Next week more candidates including a man Henry Hyde has called half genius and half nuts and a minister-turned-governor who went on a crash diet and lost more than 100 lbs. just to run!