I plunked down $25 for an opening-day copy of Hugh Hewitt's A Mormon in the White House? 10 Things Every American Should Know About Mitt Romney. You can get it at Amazon for $18. I have no doubt it will be about ten times as insightful and relevant as the usual vapid campaign-year political biography. In the Introduction, Hewitt expresses his hope that, if Romney doesn't manage to get the nomination or the office, it's for policy stands or candidate gaffes but NOT because of his religion. At the same time, it's clear Hewitt, a 99.44% pure conservative, thinks Romney is a true conservative and has what it takes to sit in the big chair.
I'll put up a couple of posts on the book in coming weeks. Here are a few quotes from the Introduction to get you started. On Romney personally:
Mitt Romney is unique. He has a talent for politics and leadership that is extraordinary amongst the ranks of professional politicians. What's more, his record of accomplishment in both public and private spheres is remarkable. If Mitt Romney's personal characteristics and record of achievement didn't clearly qualify him for the presidency, there would be no discussion about his faith. (p. 4)
Quoting Dean Barnett (a co-blogger at Hewitt's website) on how Christians playing the religion card against Romney are using a double-edged sword:
"If it becomes permissible to question the tenets of Romney's faith, all religious people will be vulnerable," Dean argued. "All religions require a faith in the fantastic and a belief in the unbelievable. If Romney's faith in the Book of Mormon is used as evidence that he is a fool, a new kind of political attack will be legitimized. Christians who believe in the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and the literal truths of Communion will be dismissed out of hand."
"It almost goes without saying that certain secularists already hold such views. But if members of other religious communities support the attacks on Romney's faith because of some animus towards Mormonism, the weapon they legitimize will in short order be turned against them." (p. 10)
And that is perhaps the central point of the book. Quoting Hewitt: "If much of the campaign of 2007 and 2008 is spent exploring, evaluating, debating, and mocking the Mormon faith, expect the very arguments used to diminish Romney's qualifications in this regard to return in the future against devout evangelicals or orthodox Catholics. Once a long-closed door to a religion test is opened, it will not be easily closed again" (p. 11).
Finally, Hewitt notes in the Introduction that he is not Mormon nor is any member of his immediate family. He did, however, form a friendship with Elder Neal A. Maxwell after interviewing him on several occasions as part of the PBS series Searching for God in America (your local library probably has a copy of the video and of the companion book). So Hewitt is no stranger to Mormonism. That, plus his prior experience working inside the White House and his tenure as a talented political commentator, makes Hewitt ideally suited to evaluate Romney's bid for the White House and America's reaction to it. Here's his final word from the Introduction:
I have never met a more intellectually gifted, curious, good humored, broadly read, and energetic official than Mitt Romney. Whether he can convey these gifts to the electorate and thereby earn their support is another question entirely. Like every other reporter and most other voters, I'll be watching to see if that is the case. (p. 17)
Yes — we're all watching.