Romney's 'Faith in America' Speech (Updated With Reaction)

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Dec 06, 2007 10:30 AM
I talked to Fred Barnes last night, asking what he thought we'd hear in "the speech."

Fred: "Not much."

Looks like he's right, judging from the excerpts, which are good but bland:
"It is important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America, we share a common creed of moral convictions. And where the affairs of our nation are concerned, it's usually a sound rule to focus on the latter – on the great moral principles that urge us all on a common course. Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people.

"We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. 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."

Jim Geraghty rightly fears the "Barney the Dinosaur" effect: Romney can't get into the specifics of his religion, and won't call people out for religious bigotry, so you end up with a recitation of the wonders of faith in America, and how many faiths work together to comfort and lead this great nation through times good and bad.

Bob Novak was just on Fox saying this is a panic move on Romney's part-- a response to Huckabee's surge in Iowa:

Two weeks ago it was settled policy within Mitt Romney's campaign that his speech dealing with his Mormon faith would be delivered much later -- if at all -- and only after primary election victories. Romney suddenly overruled his advisers to undertake that risky venture today [Thursday] in College Station, Texas, for one reason: Mike Huckabee's ascent in Iowa.

Romney had been told by campaign strategists that flooding television screens with ads financed by his ample funds could win the critically important Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses for the former governor of Massachusetts in a state where Mormons comprise 0.5 percent of the population. That was working as Romney led the state's polls until former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, came from nowhere to challenge Romney for first place. Surveys detect substantial anti-Mormon bias.

Matt challenges Novak's sources, here.

Here we go. Best of luck, Mitt.

Update: I like this part: "There are some who say my religion could sink my candidacy, but I think they underestimate the American people. The American people do not respect believers of convenience, people who would jettison their own beliefs even to gain the world."

I wish his tone were a bit less sing-songy and more serious, but I'm enjoying parts.

Update: Thought this was touching:
These American values, this great moral heritage, is shared and lived in my religion as it is in yours. I was taught in my home to honor God and love my neighbor. I saw my father march with Martin Luther King. I saw my parents provide compassionate care to others, in personal ways to people nearby, and in just as consequential ways in leading national volunteer movements. I am moved by the Lord’s words: ‘For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me...’

My faith is grounded on these truths. You can witness them in Ann and my marriage and in our family. We are a long way from perfect and we have surely stumbled along the way, but our aspirations, our values, are the self-same as those from the other faiths that stand upon this common foundation. And these convictions will indeed inform my presidency.
And, the part about state-run religion in Europe and religion-by-coercion in radical Islam was effective.

Mona Charen calls it the "best political speech of the year," citing particularly the part about empty cathedrals in Europe. I liked it, but wondered that there was no mention whatsoever of those with no faith at all. They're not a huge voting block, but many of them are patriotic Americans who respect their religious neighbors (not you, Michael Newdow). It would have been nice to hear that they make up part of the symphony as well.

All in all, I think he looked Presidential, sounded serious and hit a lot of good refrains about faith in America that will play well with plenty of voters. I can't imagine the snippets on the evening news could hurt him, and it will likely serve to make questions about his religion seem petty from here on out. Plus, we've been talking about Romney's speech non-stop all week, sometimes to the exclusion of the illegal landscaper story, while Huckabee's been taking a lot of bad press.