One of the great sequences in every World War II novel was an introduction to every ethnic and religious neighborhood in America, represented in almost every platoon and air command, and on any ship. I still remember as a Catholic boy learning my first admiration for the moral character of evangelicals when watching the war movie Sergeant York.
In war, a fellow’s religious background didn’t matter much, if he was a man of valor and skill and reliability. One learned to love such companions. Men learned to value much more what other men did than which prayer service they attended. In fact, many learned to respect men of other religions more than they ever had, just by watching the way their buddies lived – and died. American religious ecumenism was born under the stress of battle more than under church leadership.
I really admire several other Republican candidates for certain special qualities of their own. I have known the heroism of John McCain the longest, honor Rudy Giuliani greatly for his executive skills in leading New York through the disasters of 9/11, and have quite warmed up to the folksy wisdom of Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee. But I have gradually focused in on Mitt Romney as best representing what I would like to see in a President during the next four years.
In the United States, a President is not just an administrator or a manager – not just a policy wonk or even prime minister. The President has to be all those things in due measure. But our President is also, in an important way, our king, in the sense that he almost alone represents our national history and our narrative of America. He stands in the most distinguished line in our national life and literature – no other class of men plays so heroic a role as Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and Ronald Reagan. Looking at this leader, we wish to feel proud of our nation. We want a figure that seems to spring out of our history and to express it – coming from nowhere perhaps, a trailblazer, an exemplar of the better angels of our nature.
For all these reasons, and one more, I have decided to endorse a presidential candidate much earlier than I had hoped to do so. That additional reason is that his religion has been treated unfairly, and I did not want to stand by and let that happen. It is important to nip that evil in the bud. That factor has influenced my timing. But it is not an adequate reason for endorsing a man who would be president in perilous times.
I have watched Mitt Romney’s steadiness under fire, and I endorse it.