Feeding the rabid right

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  February 28, 2007

Instead, they are hearing a tepid argument that doesn’t match pro-lifers’ view of abortion as a vicious crime against God and humanity. Romney seems to put it more on a level with Grand Theft Auto, Will & Grace, or Nas. “I believe that the Roe v. Wade mentality of the last couple of decades has so cheapened the value of life in our society that it’s important for us to stand up and say, ‘You know what? We can’t continue that way,’ and that’s my view,” he told a television reporter in South Carolina last week.

Such generalities only add to the skepticism of the religious right, many of whom openly say that they consider Mormonism a “cult.”

Here, Hewitt has a stronger argument in claiming that the “Mormon question” dogging Romney is often thinly disguised bigotry. An Associated Press report last week on bigamy in Romney’s family history had a ring of that, as did a recent Damon Linker article in the New Republic and a Jacob Weisberg essay in Slate.

But again, the bulk of Romney’s religion problem comes from the right, not the left. And that’s whom he panders to when discussing it.

Romney has recently been talking about those tenets of Mormonism that benefit him in the eyes of Christian conservatives — his belief in Jesus Christ as his Lord and personal savior, as well as the virgin birth and resurrection.

Still, he dodges or objects to questions about other aspects of the religion, and has never explained publicly what version of the Latter-Day Saints creed he believes. Why are some of his religious beliefs open to the public, but not others, unless he wants to cherry-pick among them for political reasons? It’s just one of many ways that Romney keeps reinforcing his image as political opportunist.

He did it again last week by attacking McCain on the abortion issue. A February 19 e-mail, sent by Romney’s staff to influential social conservatives, dredged up a McCain quote from eight years ago that seemed to contradict the senator’s recent claim to favor the repeal of Roe v. Wade.

Beltway political blog Hotline On Call, however, quickly found the video (and posted it on YouTube, natch), showing that Romney’s camp had excised the sentences immediately preceding the quote, which were: “I believe this issue of the repeal of Roe v. Wade is important. I favor the ultimate repeal of Roe v. Wade.”

Romney’s unfair attack over the very turf he is defending led cultural-conservative icon William Bennett to denounce Romney on his nationally syndicated radio show. “People are not going to buy that. I’m not buying it,” Bennett said.

Bennett is just one conservative who belies Hewitt’s claim that only the liberal media are taking shots at Romney. David Keene, chair of the ACU, recently wrote that “many believe [Romney] could retire the pandering cup before he’s through.” Syndicated conservative columnist Deroy Murdock wrote last week that “no one really knows where the performer ends and the characters begin.” Conservative consultant (and former Boston Herald columnist) Don Feder topped that with a blistering article on GrassTopsUSA.com, writing that Romney will “say anything to get conservatives behind [his] presidential campaign.” And Phyllis Schlafly, in New Hampshire last week, called Romney an unacceptable presidential candidate.

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Related: Hard sell, Romney’s greatest gaffes — so far, The Mormonator, More more >
  Topics: Talking Politics , Political Policy, Christianity, Al Gore,  More more >
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