My blog post about Mitt Romney’s church service and its indication of his character has attracted a host of new visitors to this blog. Welcome! I hope you stick around. You may not, though, after reading this piece.
Last month, I had occasion to spend some time with people in the LDS Church Public Affairs department. They expressed their concern that the LDS Church is perceived as an exclusively American, Republican enterprise, and they are eager to do whatever they can do to change that. One thing they are not willing to do, however, is to dictate political policy or ideology to elected officials, or to lay members, for that matter.
“Politically, with church members, we know have a very big stick,” they told me, “and, except in very rare cases, we refuse to use it.”
So, with that in mind, it’s clear that when they do feel strongly enough to enter the political arena and take a firm policy position, church members ought to stand up and take notice. And in the case of the Republican Party in general, and Mitt Romney (and Glenn Beck) in particular, they don’t.
The LDS Church, publicly and controversially, issued a statement on immigration that is far more liberal than the Tea Party is willing to accept. They decried mass deportation and stated that “any state legislation that only contains enforcement provisions is likely to fall short of the high moral standard of treating each other as children of God.” They came out in support of the kind of guest worker programs that immigration zealots wrongly mislabel as amnesty, and they supported Utah legislation that codified these principles into law, only to watch the Utah GOP pass a party platform that attacked those laws and targeted politicians who supported them. Utah’s Republican governor is now facing stiff primary opposition from zealots who are focusing almost exclusively on his willingness to sign the Church-supported bills into law. Ironically, his Republican opponents are all Mormons who are angry that the governor has taken the same political position as their church leaders.
In like manner, Mitt Romney’s immigration policy is wholly at odds with the position of his church.
I suppose that might give comfort to those who think Mitt is a stalking horse for a covert Mormon theocracy, but it drives me crazy, only because the GOP’s hardline stand on immigration is bad policy, regardless of where the church stands. And as I consider Mitt as the GOP standard bearer, I find that, ideologically, he’s all over the place.
Consider his tax plan. Frankly, it stinks.
Eliminating charitable donation deductions for rich people? President Obama tried that early in his administration, and the Republicans shouted him down in unison. Now Mitt adopts the identical position without batting an eye. He targets the “1%” – we’re apparently all Occupy Wall Streeters now – and eliminates their tax break for giving money to charity. Some think that means we’re moving toward economic justice. I think it means we’re moving toward a world where rich people give less money to charity. How is that a good idea? Why can the government better spend those dollars than, say, the Red Cross? It’s just one more boneheaded, politically tone-deaf move, and Mitt is making far too many of them. Just as he’s rebuilding momentum in Michigan, he makes an offhand remark about his wife’s two Cadillacs. After his huge triumph in Florida, he makes an absurd comment about not being concerned about the very poor that is sure to make its way into Democratic attack ads in the general election… if he makes it that far.
I still think he will make it that far, but I’m not particularly comfortable with how he’s getting there. Take, for instance, his evisceration of Rick Santorum at last week’s Arizona debate. I’m no Santorum fan, but Mitt went after him using the worst possible arguments. Santorum was for earmarks, doncha know, which means he recognizes his constitutional duty to let Congress spend the money and not the president! And – gasp! – he voted to raise the debt ceiling instead of letting the country default! There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that if Mitt had won Ted Kennedy’s senate seat in 1994, he would have done precisely the same thing. But since he didn’t, he had no problem throwing this nonsense at Santorum simply because it was all he had. Rick Santorum is not Newt Gingrich, a man who’s baggage has baggage and who deserves the dirt that Mitt dumped on him. But as Mitt attacks Santorum for being too reasonable, it becomes achingly clear that, for the most part, Mitt himself doesn’t really believe in anything that isn’t politically expedient.
Given that he’s clearly a man of integrity in his personal life, one wonders why that doesn’t seem to be bleeding through into his public persona.