by Max Brantley
Considering Mitt Romney's speech on religion this week, Brummett draws a good comparison (not that it makes him any more inclined toward Romney):
America is supposed to be about religious freedom and separation of church and state. So we ought to consider our political candidates on political terms based on our assessment of them in a political context. We should not consider religious branding, because that's personal and distinct.
One guy can be a professed Southern Baptist and be Bill Clinton. Another can be a professed Southern Baptist and be Jimmy Carter. Another can be a professed Southern Baptist and be Mike Huckabee. Another can be a professed Southern Baptist and be Ronnie Floyd.
Those are four greatly distanced political figures. It would be impossible, and insane, to lump them politically for joint judgment according to the brand of their shared religious denomination.
I think is IS fair to judge candidates who make a big point of their religiosity when they depart from generally respected tenets of all faiths -- such as by bearing false witness or treating others in ways they wouldn't wish to be treated themselves. If you get my drift.
As luck would have it, Timothy Rutten of the LA Times asks today why all the scrutiny of Romney and why not more of Huckabee and the notion of putting a preacher in the White House. Comparing him with Romney, he writes:
Huckabee, by contrast, already believes kooky things for religious reasons -- in things like creationism, which he thinks should be taught in the public schools. Doesn't anybody thing it's worth asking whether a nation fighting to remain technologically competitive can afford a president who -- for religious reasons -- wants to encourage as many children as possible to join him in scientific illiteracy?
Then there's the issue of the Iowa campaign ads in which Huckabee declares he is "the Christian candidate." We're all sophisticated enough to understand that's a not-so-subtle way of saying that, as a Mormon, Romney isn't a Christian in the eyes of most evangelicals. However, neither are Catholics, Unitarians or Quakers, let alone Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Bahais or -- God help them -- the despised atheists. That's the thing about religious bigotry -- and the ad is nothing less -- once it is set loose, like the angel of death, it has a logic of its own. Surely, somebody in the national campaign press corps must think this is an issue worth raising with the avuncular Arkansas pastor?
And religion occupies the NY Times' Gail Collins, too. She sees Romney as pandering to the handful of Religious Righters who dominate the Iowa caucus. And she doesn't find much comfort in Huckabee.
To be fair, inclusion runs two ways, and social conservatives might want to ask the pro-choice contingent if they’re capable of getting beyond abortion. Perhaps they could accept Mike Huckabee, who seems to respect everybody and has a record of using the power of government to take care of the poor and the helpless.
... Except that Huckabee is already turning into one of those empty vessels that dispirited voters pour all their hopes and dreams into, only to discover that he’s just like all the other guys, only less qualified.
According to the Web site at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, Huckabee told the students there that God orchestrated his sudden surge in the polls. And this week he couldn’t answer questions about the new National Intelligence Estimate. Do we really want somebody in the Oval Office who hasn’t heard that Iran stopped working on nuclear weapons? Spending money on the needy is important, but Huckabee may be getting a tad too much credit for a nursing home bed tax and a surcharge for parks.