Thursday, June 07, 2007

Not Wild About Mitt

My review of Hugh Hewitt's A Mormon In The White House? appeared in Carolina Journal.

I'm unconvinced of Hewitt's belief that Mitt Romney is the best conservative hope for the 2008 election -- though I share his skepticism of the other front runners:

For Hewitt, national security is the main issue. He sees no candidate on the Democratic side that suggests firmness in the face of global terrorism, which he blames partly on the "incompetence, weakness, and blindness" of the last two Democratic presidents. On the other hand, he finds Giuliani highly questionable on social issues, and McCain questionable on everything but security.

Hewitt however has damaged my still-forming opinion of his analytical skills with this promotional effort. Although he tries to bring solid evangelicals into the discussion, including interviews or quotations from Rev. Jerry Falwell, Dr. James Dobson, Dr. Al Mohler, and Chuck Colson, Hewitt gets sucked into the vortex of his own advocacy. Principled objections to Romney are dismissed as "quixotic", those who hold them are called "bigots", and the Constitution is twisted all out of its frame to try and keep evangelicals in line for the Mormon candidate:

... [I]n his seeming fear that the religious right will embrace another candidate, Hewitt overreaches. For example, he explicitly applies the "no religious test" clause of the Constitution as if it were a moral commandment to individuals rather than a policy of government. Thus, a voter whose religious opinions might influence his vote is labeled "not merely un-American, but un-Christian."

The best thing that can be said about the book is that Hewitt correctly warns evangelicals against joining the liberal and secular parade of journalists and commentators for whom Romney's peculiar beliefs are just another form of preposterous religious claptrap. If we allow Romney to be sunk by malicious sarcasm over his church, we can expect the same to be redoubled to us at the next opportunity.

However, there is plenty of room to discuss Romney's political record, his apparent flip flops on key policy issues, and even, to be sure, our own discomfort with his philosophical underpinnings. Theology matters, as Frank Pastore points out on

Unfortunately for Hewitt -- I'll leave Romney to Providence -- this book doesn't do credit to the very interesting question it proports to address, and is more likely to harm both Hewitt and Romney rather than helping either. Meanwhile, I'll continue to look for the rightwardmost viable candidate; I just won't start here.


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