Mona Charen
Let's play Imagine an Alternative Universe . Suppose that Rep. Paul Ryan had said that Joe Biden had "sullied the religion that he and I share." How many days of the news cycle do you suppose would be dominated by the story? How many Democrats and members of the press would declare that this kind of religious provocation/bigotry rendered Mr. Ryan unfit for high office? Please submit your estimates to my inbox.

Now back to the universe we inhabit. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, participating in a unilateral race to the bottom, said just that about Mitt Romney. Highlighting an Internet item, Reid said he agreed that Romney "sullied" the Mormon faith, and that, in Nevada, voters would "understand that he is not the face of Mormonism."

That is low, even by Harry Reid, "a little birdie told me Romney paid no taxes for 10 years," standards.

Consider the deviousness. By calling Romney a bad Mormon, Reid draws attention to Romney's (and Reid's) religion for the benefit of anti-Mormon bigots who may not have heard about Romney's faith. Reid doesn't fear such prejudices himself because a.) He was reelected to a six-year term in 2010, b.) He hails from Nevada, which boasts a large Mormon population, and c.) Religious prejudices rarely affect House or Senate races.

But really, saying someone "sullies" a religion? Republican senators should be demanding an apology at the very least, or calling for his resignation. Mr. Obama should be asked if he approves of this kind of character assassination.

It would be a disgraceful smear even if Mr. Romney were an ordinary politician. He has his faults, of course, but it happens that he has a truly unusual and admirable history of personally helping the less fortunate. His personal commitment to helping others would be exemplary in a clergyman. It's almost unheard of among politicians. We learned last week that Mr. Romney donated 29 percent of his income to charity in 2011, and that, over the course of the past 20 years, he has donated an average of 13.5 percent of his income -- well over the 10 percent tithe that many great faiths suggest.

How much does Mr. Reid donate? We don't know because he chooses to keep his tax returns private. We do know, however, that between 2000 and 2004, Mr. Obama donated about 1 percent to charity (he bumped it up to 5 percent in 2005 and to 22 percent last year).

"Lunch Bucket Joe" Biden -- champion of the middle class -- donated an average of $369 per year for the 10 years prior to 2008, or .03 percent of his income.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
 
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