Many of us have been predicting that Mitt Romney would be the subject of scurrilous, anonymous religious attacks. One need not be a genius to have predicted this, of course; slimy and cowardly innuendos have been part of American politics from the beginning of the Republic.
As expected, it began in South Carolina, as Aaron Gould Shenin reports in The State, South Carolina's leading newspaper. The attack
All in all, fairly mild stuff. We will surely see much worse before too long.
. . . was sent via electronic mail from the address “firstname.lastname@example.org.” It said it was from “Martin W.” and attacked Romney’s faith.
The e-mail is headlined: “Mitt Romney has a family secret he doesn’t want you to know.”
It says: “Those dark suspicions you hide deep inside yourself about Mormonism are trying to tell you something. Trust your instincts! ... The light of truth will burn through the smoke and mirrors of Mitt Romney’s movie star looks and crafty words!”
The e-mail includes a copy of a recent Associated Press story about how Romney’s ancestors practiced polygamy..
But I'm wondering: Will John McCain ever denounce tactics like this? Will Rudy Giuliani? Giuliani at least has said that Romney's religion should not be an issue. McCain, through a spokesman, rather weakly stated:
"A presidential contest is a leadership test, not a religious one," McCain spokesman Danny Diaz said Tuesday when asked whether the senator denounces such attacks.Well, I guess that's a denunciation, sort of. But as the Salt Lake Tribune reports, plenty of high-visibility McCain supporters are brazenly playing the religion card in South Carolina. McCain doesn't seem to have distanced himself from those tactics, or asked his supporters to stop.
Giuliani did better, stating on the Hugh Hewitt show:
I think that the Governor’s religion is not an issue in any way in the campaign, and any more than John Kennedy as being a Catholic was an issue, or Senator Lieberman as being Jewish when we ran for vice president. I mean, these things…I think we’re way beyond that, and I don’t think it’ll be an issue. I mean, obviously, by an issue, people will comment on it, but I think the American people have gone way beyond that, and they’re willing…what they want to do is look at the person, and what kind of…how have you performed in public office, what have you done, have you acted as a fair, impartial person in dealing with people of all different religions or whatever. And if that’s the case, those are the issues, not is what is someone’s religion, but how have they acted.It seems to me that if Rudy keeps that up, he's likely to come out ahead of McCain, who does not exactly exude magnanimity anyway. Still, an outright denunciation of religious attacks-- anonymous or not-- has yet to be seen from either of Romney's rivals.
We'll be watching for one.
[Note: There's more about this at Article VI Blog.]