TAO OF MITT: Boxers, Briefs & Magic Underpants

[“Plural Marriage?” by JESSICA HAGY for McClatchy Newspapers]

So Mitt — while you’re all in a sharing mood, which is it? Boxers, briefs, or Magic Mormon Underpants? Yes, it’s Mormon week out there in primary land, and on Thursday, Romney took The Pledge, declaring Jesus Christ his Lord and Savior and saying that freedom and religion can be, like, friends with benefits but can’t actually be a couple-couple … or something like that. Actually, what he said was that while the government can’t, and he wouldn’t, pre- or proscribe a specific denomination, everybody should get religion.

The quote was that “freedom requires religion,” and that’s a bold statement, even coming from a guy who was for abortion rights before he was against them. I’d argue that Romney got it exactly backward: Religion certainly can exist in the absence of freedom — ask one of those monks in Myanmar, or a Catholic in China — but it flourishes when it is freely expressed and shared. And while the Founders certainly gave “theirgarment.jpg Creator” his propers, the problem is in deciding whether his existence in their lives equals not just an endorsement of, but the requirement of, religion — not just God — in this country. On that point, the candidate couldn’t have been clearer.

In the hours since the speech, however, the consensus seems to be that while Romney finally delivered an address so obviously polished as to leave threadbare the elbows of his jacket, he didn’t really say a whole lot. Certainly, it wasn’t for Romney to give the country a primer on his church’s history — there are plenty of Mormons who’ll be glad to do that for you — but a peek into his heart might have gone a long way. Romney invoked John F. Kennedy’s own “finger of suspicion” religion speech from back in 1960, a time before TMI (Too Much Information), in which the first Catholic president spoke about broad religious acceptance, but specifically not about what impact Catholicism had on him as a person. (Though given what we now know about JFK’s personal history, count on guilt playing a role.) Less than 24 hours later, they’re already calling it Romney’s “JFK speech,” and maybe that’s appropriate, because like Kennedy, Romney touched all the appropriate political bases while not actually telling us anything about himself or his religion. MORE

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