Romney Bows Out

Mitt Romney, the candidate widely considered an animatronic phony and opportunistic carpetbagger, has bowed out of the race for the Republican nomination. Well, good. The idea of Romney in the White House was scary.

But he’s not all bad. If he ran for Governor of Massachusetts again I would probably vote for him. And I’ve only voted for two Republicans ever, for any office, since the first time I voted 1972.

I’ll skip over most of the reasons why I wouldn’t vote for Romney for president, since they’re not too different from the reasons that other lefties wouldn’t vote for him, and that’s a topic that’s been pretty much beat to death all over blogistan. But let me pile on a little; that’s what we do here.

His sense of entitlement was pretty galling; he seemed to believe that he was entitled to be president by virtue of being very wealthy, having run the Olympics, and having been governor of a state. But tell me, which candidate doesn’t project a sense of entitlement? Man’s man & war hero John McCain? Hillary Clinton, who’s been running for this office since she was a Wellesly undergrad? Saint Barack “our time has come” Obama? They all project that conviction that the White House is properly theirs, wrongly held from them by dastardly usurpers (much as I, myself, am rightful heir to the thrones of Sweden and Ireland, but that’s a story for another day). And of course they’re following on the heels of George W. Bush, who has raised entitlement to high performance art. So, projecting an air of entitlement does not disqualify him; there seems to be no getting away from that.

What bothered me most about Romney, what really made him horrible in mine presence, was that awful speech he gave about religion. He managed to both endorse a wimpy, wishy-washy, New-Agey faux-Unitarian approval of religious piety of any sort, and single out for ridicule and condemnation the beliefs of a large minority of Americans who consider themselves “secular humanists.” His bashing of non-religious people was illogical (secular humanism is not a ‘religion’, at least not in the sense in which he used the word), and unAmerican.

I’ve already discussed my feelings about the Unitarian elevation of what my friend Holly Nadler calls “People Who Believe In Stuff”. Romney goes Unitarianism one better. Look at this:

I love the profound ceremony of the Catholic Mass, the approachability of God in the prayers of the Evangelicals, the tenderness of spirit among the Pentecostals, the confident independence of the Lutherans, the ancient traditions of the Jews, unchanged through the ages, and the commitment to frequent prayer of the Muslims.

Isn’t that just horrible mush? The Catholic Mass is predicated on the reality of the transubstantiation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist. If you don’t think that’s real, then how can it be profound? If you think Muslims are praying the wrong prayers in the wrong fashion, why do you love that they do it? To me this is mere arbitrary sentimentalism. Which is fine, of course. Nothing wrong with sentimentalism. But what does that have to do with being president of the United States of America? And why are sentimental people better qualified than non-sentimentalists?

But there is worse fuzzy-headedness than that. Look at this nonsense:

Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.

As others have already asked, if freedom requires religion, then does that imply that Scandanavia and West European countries that are largely secular are less free than say, Saudi Arabia or Iran? And if religion requires freedom, does that mean that there is no religion in prison? Is their no Islam in Guantanimo? Was there no Judaism in Auschwitz? This is an incoherent argument. I don’t want a president who cannot think more clearly than this. And by the way, what about Hinudism and Wicca and other religions that don’t have a single God, and don’t necessarily identify God as The Creator? Do they count?

And here is the worst part, the offensive core of his “argument”, such as it is:

But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong.

I hate this. This is innuendo of the sloppy, pernicious kind. Exactly who are these “some” who have taken the separation of church and state “well beyond its original meaning.” What have they done, exactly, to which Romney is objecting? What is this “religion of secularism” to which he alludes? Are there churches, creeds, dogmas, holy books, tax exempt organizations, what? I don’t get it. If secularism is not really a religion (and it isn’t, not in the way he’s talking about), then what is he getting at here? And if it *is* a religion, then who is he to say it’s wrong? I thought his whole point was about tolerance?

I think we know the answer: he’s getting at bigotry. He’s throwing a bone to the hardcore Christianists who were the main audience for this speech. He’s saying, “don’t worry, I hate those sophisticated atheists as much as you do, and I’ll privilege you over them.” It’s ugly, bigoted and unAmerican pandering. In my mind it immediately disqualifies him for the office of President. But hey, look where he chose to give this speech, and by whom he was introduced: George H.W. Bush, the lying adulterer who said

I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.

Bush and Romney are religious bigots. Fuzzy-headed, sentimental, New-Agey bigots. I rejoice that Romney is out of the running, for 2008 anyway.

Bigot or no, I think Romney did an OK job as governor of my home state of Massachusetts. He put the final nail in the coffin of Billy Bulger‘s public life by making clear that he would appoint Howie Carr to the Regents of the University of Massachusetts, of which Bulger was president at the time. That was that for the Corrupt Midget(tm Howie Carr). Romney’s move promted Bulger, finally, to resign, thank God. Goodbye and good riddance, and I give Romney credit for that. Many people, including Bulger himself, had thought that he was safely ensconced for life at UMass.

The Massachusetts legislature, which is overwhelmingly Democratic, is full of corrupt politicians, and they’ve staffed enormous state agencies, such as the Turnpike Authority, with patronage appointees. They siphoned God knows how much money out of the Big Dig. Romney was willing to take on these corrupt interests, and he had some success fighting them. So, good on him. Although he’s a bit of a carpetbagger, he provided a useful check on the one-party monopoly. It was a job he was actually pretty well suited for. It would have been better for all of us if he had spent his four years in office actually doing the job full time, instead of using it mostly as a springboard for his national ambitions.

Of course, were Romney ever to come back to the Governor’s mansion he would probably pick up his “social conservative” mantle and try to undo gay marriage. So maybe it would be best all around if he just retires to Utah.


  1. I think Romney’s style of religion is coming into style – logical thought would have to antagonize some religious constituency.

  2. David,

    Yes, unless it’s the logical thought that says religion should not mixed up with government. Or at the very least, that professions and piety and public adherence to one of the more common USian religions in no way makes one more qualified for office than anybody else.

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