Over at archy, John McKay makes an excellent point about Mitt Romney’s upcoming big speech on his Mormonism. Catholic President John F. Kennedy convinced Protestant Americans that he would not put the Vatican in charge of the country by expressing a deep commitment to the Separation of Church and State: he was running for an office of down and dirty political leadership, not to be the country’s Bishop. Kennedy showed in his famous speech that he understood what the founders had argued: that religious belief is already safely in the hands of the people, needing no central management. That while Presidents have great power over armies and budgets, they have no legitimate expertise, authority, or control over anyone’s beliefs.
Romney, on the other hand, is facing a Republican primary electorate that wants nothing more than to see the Separation of Church and State derided as a plot to destroy Christmas. They don’t want to be mollified by promises that sectarian religion will be kept at bay: they want red meat assurances that their own favored sects will get government sponsored goodies and plaudits at every turn. That Christians, and most specifically, their sort of Christians, are truest and bluest Americans of all. Assuring them that his “wrong” beliefs won’t affect what sort of President he is just isn’t a viable option for the sort of audience he’ll be dealing with.
In any case, whatever solution to this dilemma Romney comes up with, it’s sure going to make for a lot more interesting political theater than Rudy 9/11 Giuliani patting himself on the back or Mike Huckabee fumbling over evolution.