Mitt Watch: Sunday Edition

Mitt is at it again! This morning he danced and squirmed his way through Tim Russert’s questions on Meet the Press.  More about that below.  Frank Rich has written an interesting column in today’s NY Times about Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.

Mr. Romney didn’t fight his church’s institutionalized apartheid, whatever his private misgivings, because that’s his character. Though he is trying to sell himself as a leader, he is actually a follower and a panderer, as confirmed by his flip-flops on nearly every issue.

Rich also makes an interesting comment about Obama’s biggest supporter Oprah:

This movement has its own religious tone. References to faith abound in Mr. Obama’s writings and speeches, as they do in Oprah’s language on her TV show and at his rallies. Five years ago, Christianity Today, the evangelical journal founded by Billy Graham, approvingly described Oprah as “an icon of church-free spirituality” whose convictions “cannot simply be dismissed as superficial civil religion or so much New Age psychobabble.” “Church free” is the key. This country has had its fill of often hypocritical family-values politicians dictating what is and is not acceptable religious and moral practice. Instead of handing down tablets of what constitutes faith in America, Romney-style, the Oprah-Obama movement practices an American form of ecumenicalism. It preaches a bit of heaven on earth in the form of a unified, live-and-let-live democracy that is greater than the sum of its countless disparate denominations. The pitch — or, to those who are not fans, the shtick — may be corny. “The audacity of hope” is corny too. But corn is preferable to holier-than-thou, and not just in Iowa.

Rich’s conclusion:

But it just may be possible that the single biggest boost to the Obama campaign is not white liberal self-congratulation or the Clinton camp’s self-immolation, but the collective nastiness of the Republican field. Just when you think the tone can’t get any uglier, it does. Last week Mike Huckabee, who only recently stood out for his kind words about illegal immigrants, accepted an endorsement from a founder of the Minutemen, whose approach to stopping the “illegal alien invasion” has been embraced by white supremacists and who have been condemned as “vigilantes” by President Bush. For those Americans looking for the most unambiguous way to repudiate politicians who are trying to divide the country by faith, ethnicity, sexuality and race, Mr. Obama is nothing if not the most direct shot. After hearing someone like Mitt Romney preach his narrow, exclusionist idea of “Faith in America,” some Americans may simply see a vote for Mr. Obama as a vote for faith in America itself.

In other news our favorite uber-Mormon possible robot Mitt Romney was also on Meet the Press this morning. Here’s an excerpt from the transcript (I have highlighted the best parts):

MR. RUSSERT: “Freedom requires religion.” Can you have freedom without organized religion?

GOV. ROMNEY: Well, I was paraphrasing and underlining, if you will, a quote that I’d just read from John Adams, who said that our constitutional form of government in this nation would require morality and freedom to be able to survive. And, of course, George Washington said virtually the same thing, that we were a nation that required a level of morality and religion in order to be a great nation and survive. And I think there’s truth to that, that the–that the great experiment of democracy, the experiment of America’s freedom has, as its basis, a sense of morality and a recognition that religious foundations are part of that, that morality.

And so I believe that long-term for America to remain a great nation and to lead the world, we must have a recognition of our religious base. Now, that’s, of course, not a particular denomination. But the, the founders of the nation, coming from different faiths and different persuasions, nonetheless all believed that the, the creator was an instrumental part of the founding of this nation. And I believe that that part of history should be taught, I believe that we should recognize the divine with everything from celebrations in the town square, with menorahs and nativity scenes, as well as in our history books, talking about the fact that the creators did believe in a fundamental sense of, of the divine. And, and recognizing that that gives us a moral code, a suggestion of what is right and wrong, that is–that is, in many respects, unique in the world.

We, we believe, as a nation, from the founding of this nation, that God gave the individual certain inalienable rights. That’s not a constitutional guarantee, that’s not a policy guarantee, it’s a guarantee from our creator. And, of course, the corollary is that, that if we’re all children of the same God, that we have a duty to one another, to care for one another, Americans first and the people of the world second. And, and finally, that freedom is something which is–which is of a, an eternal nature. And so all of these things, I think, are part of what makes America unique and part of what gives us confidence that freedom can ring forever in, in this–in this land.

Dance Mitt, Dance! So many performative contradictions! Thankfully, Russert asked a follow-up question that led to this exchange:

MR. RUSSERT: But when you say freedom requires religion, can you be a moral person and be an atheist?

GOV. ROMNEY: Oh, oh, of course. Oh, of course.

MR. RUSSERT: And participate in freedom?

GOV. ROMNEY: Oh, of course. Yes, this…

MR. RUSSERT: So freedom doesn’t require religion?

GOV. ROMNEY: Well, this–the, the context was talking about the, the founding of the nation and the, the sense in this case of John Adams describing the fact that our constitutional form of government and this American experiment required morality, which in turn required religion. And, and yet, of course, on an individual basis, you have many individuals of great morality and–that, that don’t have any particular faith.

MR. RUSSERT: So if you determined that the most qualified person for the Supreme Court or for attorney general or secretary of education happened to be an atheist or an agnostic, that wouldn’t prevent you from appointing them?

GOV. ROMNEY: Of course not. You, you, you look at individuals based upon their skills and their ability, their values, their intelligence. And there are many who are agnostic or atheist or who have very different beliefs about the nature of the divine than I do, and, and you evaluate them based on their skills. But I, I can tell you that I, I myself am a person of faith and, and respect the, the sense of the common bond of humanity that comes from that, that fundamental belief.

MR. RUSSERT: But there’d be no litmus test?

GOV. ROMNEY: No, no. There’s no litmus test of, of that nature.

Squirm, Mitt, Squirm!

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