Hugh Hewitt sees it coming from the Left. My co-blogger at Article VI Blog sees it coming from the Right.
I think they're both right. What do you think?
Calling the Kosher Hedgehog . . . .
Kosher Hedgehog to the Rescue!
The Hedgehog speaks truth! Religious bigotry can come from the Left or the Right. Indeed, in the case of anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism and anti-Mormonism, historically it has also been a feature of the political, cultural, societal and religious center, what one might call the Protestant Mainstream, in relatively benign forms that typically involved discrimination but not overt violence.
However, there is a different impetus to the recent spate of articles warning of the dire consequences of a Mormon President of the United States, and the perpetrators are Democrats with an ulterior motive. I had previously expressed privately to the Hedghog my belief that these articles, including the Jacob Weisberg Slate column and the cover story by Damon Linker in the Jan. 1-15 edition of The New Republic were simply political hit jobs directed at Mitt Romney. To his credit and my pleased surprise, Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles Times agrees, in his column on January 13, 2007, entitled "Romney's Religious Rights." Rutten rejects all arguments that try to distinguish the attacks on Romney's Mormon faith from the universally acknowledged bigotry of the attacks on John F. Kennedy's Catholicism in 1960. Moreover, Rutten correctly identifies the real culprits behind this campaign:
"What both journals are doing is playing with social fire for the sake of narrow partisan advantage, hoping to knock a potentially attractive conservative candidate out of the running in much the same way that some Republican commentators desperately attempted to prod some Catholic bishop somewhere into denying Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry communion because he's pro-choice."
I will leave it to the reader to judge whether Rutten correctly describes what occurred during Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. My own recollection is that it was the Catholic Bishops who on their own called for denial of communion to Mr. Kerry, without the need of prodding from Republican commentators, who merely gleefully watched and reported. In any event, Republicans certainly did not attack Kerry for being Catholic; at most they attacked him for being a bad Catholic.
In the case of Romney, Rutten has it exactly right. Slate and the New Republic were attempting preemptive strikes on a conservative GOP candidate whom they consider a grave threat to deny the White House to the Democrats in 2008. As Rutten notes, neither Weisberg, nor Linker discussed whether the Mormon faith of Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada)should disqualify him from being Senate Majority Leader.
The LDS Church is not a new phenomenon--it has played a significant role in American society, culture and politics for 176 years. During that time the Republic has somehow escaped political domination by the President of the LDS Church. Nor has Mormon faith been historically identified with conservative Republican politics (although you would never know it by reading Linker's article). In Arizona, where I grew up, all of my Mormon friends were Democrats and the Udall family exemplified liberal Democratic Party sentiments. Stewart Udall was Secretary of the Interior under JFK, and longtime Congressman Mo Udall unsuccessfully sought the Democratic Party's Presidential nomination in 1976. There are two Udalls in Congress today, and they are both liberal Democrats.
The failure to provide that perspective and factual counterpoint in the Damon Linker article in The New Republic in my opinion proves that the article was not an examination of a legitimate issue of public affairs, but rather the cynical use of religious bigotry for partisan political purposes. That, in my view, is even more contemptible than bigotry alone. As a long-time champion against religious bigotry, The New Republic should be ashamed that it published Damon Linker's article.