The more you know about Romney’s religion, the more you want to ask him questions about it. Your religion was founded by an alcoholic criminal named Joseph Smith who committed bank fraud and claimed God told him polygamy was cool after his first wife caught him having an affair with the maid and who then went on to have 33 wives, and you really believe every word that he said and wrote? Do you really believe that the American Indian is genetically descended from Israelites? Would it shake your belief if DNA testing showed no such relationship between Indian tribes and Jews? Do you really believe that Jesus Christ came to America? Do you really believe that your possible general election opponent, Barack Obama, is black because his people turned away from God? Are you in favor of big increases in federal funding for Missouri or turning the site of the Garden of Eden into a national park?
I wouldn’t ask Romney any of these questions if he hadn’t decided to make a political speech in which he pretended to tell me about his religious beliefs.
I could vote for a devout Mormon for president or anyone with any religious affiliation if I agree with the candidate’s policy positions. I used to agree with a lot of Romney’s policies before he flip-flopped on all the ones I agreed with. Flip flopping for political convenience is a Mormon tradition. In 1890, the Mormon president claimed he had a chat with God that finally convinced him polygamy was no longer cool, thereby allowing Utah to become a state. That was quite a flip from Brigham Young’s anti-American position. When Brigham Young–a deadly serious racist and a hero of Romney’s who actually got a mention in the speech, unlike the unmentionable Joseph Smith–was told Utah could not be admitted to the United States as long as it allowed polygamy, he said, “Then we shall never be admitted.”
In his “faith of my fathers” speech, Romney had the audacity to say “Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world.” Weren’t any of the Romney speechwriters worried that someone was going to point out that Romney’s religion jettisoned its beliefs to gain statehood? Of course not. That would mean talking about a candidate’s religion, which, by current press convention, only the candidate is allowed to do.
The unprecedented relentlessness of Romney’s flip-flopping is his campaign’s biggest problem. The Mormon thing has done a fine job of diverting attention from the flip-flopping. Romney knows he can use the Mormon thing whenever he wants without fear of getting trapped in an uncomfortable question. On the campaign trail, he has actually said, “I can’t imagine anything more awful than polygamy.” And no reporter has thought to ask the obvious follow-up about how conflicted he must feel about his great grandfather having had five wives.