“When Mitt and I give that check, I actually cry.” —Ann Romney, relating her feelings about tithing to the Mormon Church, in the Aug. 26 Parade magazine.
The latest journalist to press Mitt Romney on his tax returns is the ultra-resourceful Josh Tyrangiel of Businessweek. Here’s how he cleverly posed the question in a recent interview: If you’re an investor and you’re looking at a company, and that company says that its great strength is wise management and fiscal know-how, wouldn’t you want to see the previous, say, five years’ worth of its financials? Alas, no dice. Romney’s response: I’m not a business.
When discussing the subject of bigotry, it is helpful to discriminate (no pun intended). It's more difficult to do so when reporting on poll results, and the latest attempt, in The Washington Post, shows just how difficult it can be. The headline of the piece, 'Mormons, African Americans Face Substantial Prejudice, Poll Finds,' is part of the problem.
Before 2013 begins, catch up on the best of 2012. From now until the New Year, we will be re-posting some of The New Republic’s most thought-provoking pieces of the year. Enjoy. I DON’T REMEMBER the missionaries’ names, only that one was blond and one was dark, one was from Oregon and one was from Utah. They arrived at our house on secondhand bicycles carrying bundles of inspirational literature. They smelled, I remember, of witch hazel and toothpaste.
THERE WAS A TIME when it was no fun to be a Mormon in Washington. In 1903, Utah sent a Mormon named Reed Smoot to the U.S. Senate, prompting a series of hearings the following year to decide whether a Mormon should be even permitted to serve in the chamber. The trial had nothing to do with Smoot’s qualifications and everything to do with his strange-seeming faith, in particular its association with polygamy. “It is the Mormon Church that we intend to investigate,” thundered Senator Julius C.
My old student, that is, my former student from four-plus decades ago, Michael Kazin, has written that the long life of the Christian Right has come to an end. It certainly has lost its old “failsafe” battles. I have no nostalgia at all for the hardened hearts and mellifluous voices which judged intricate human dilemmas through dogma, through harsh dogma, at that. It’s odd, though—isn’t it?—that black churches, rarely labeled as “right anything,” are among the places where same-sex marriage, even the idea of same-sex sex, runs into trouble, big trouble.
It’s looking more and more likely that Barack Obama will be facing Mitt Romney next November. According to recent polls, Romney’s much-debated “Mormon Problem”—considered by some to be a main roadblock to the Republican nomination in 2008—has decreased in salience among the white evangelicals on whom he’ll probably depend in both the primary and general elections.
Kudos to Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times, who yesterday took on, in an illuminating but not-insensitive way, a key chapter in the life of Mitt Romney, the prominent leadership role he took within the Mormon church in metro Boston in the 1980s and '90s. The press has generally treaded so carefully around the fact of Romney's religion that I suspect many Americans don't realize how central the church has been to Romney's leadership resume.