From Mike Allen’s Playbook this morning:
David Axelrod tells us the Obama campaign will make a major umbrella issue of what he calls “Romney’s penchant for secrecy”: ”George Bush felt it was appropriate to release the names of his bundlers. John McCain did. But not Mitt Romney. Why did George Bush and John McCain release multiple years of tax returns, but not Mitt Romney? Why did Mitt Romney leave Massachusetts government with the hard drives from his computers, and why did his senior aides leave with the hard drives from their computers? Why won’t he be more forthcoming about some of these offshore investments?
Harkening back to my youth, which extends far beyond yours, there was a show called, ‘I’ve Got A Secret.’ Increasingly, I think that would be the appropriate title for the Romney campaign. There are central issues, but this is a disturbing one and it goes to that question of, like, ‘Who is this guy? What does he stand for? What does he believe? What do we know about him?’”
On today’s Morning Joe, Jon Meacham asked whether or not that was just “code for the secrecy of the Mormon Church,” to which Allen replied:
“As the Obama campaign makes the case that Romney is somehow weird, different, some supporters of Romney will say that that is a dog whistle, that is a way to come near the religion issue. The Obama campaign will tell you they’re not going to touch it, they don’t poll on it, they don’t talk about it in focus groups because they know that it would blow up if they did and that got public.”
There was a really illuminating exchange between Joe Klein and BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith a few weeks ago in which Klein played the smarmy urban secularist afraid of that sine qua non of Mitt Romney the fundamentalist, that little “something very close to the core of his being, on a very personal level, that leads him to mistrust the rest of the world.”
Have a look:
After Smith points out Romney’s engaged leadership as Massachusetts governor and that criticizing LDS for praying dead people into heaven is like those tone-deaf atheists who just can’t buy Christianity because of Levitican prohibitions on eating shellfish, there’s something unmistakably nasty about the way Klein resorts to jabs about Mormon underwear.
And since he’s loathe to admit his argument is simply bigoted, Klein pivots to saying Romney’s Mormonism matters because the evangelicals in the Republican base won’t have it; they “believe it’s a satanic cult.” He isn’t opposed to Mormonism but those crazy Republicans are, and since they probably can’t read or write, Klein is more than happy to speak for them.
The gulf between Romney and the average GOP voter shouldn’t be downplayed, nor should the sectarian posture of the LDS Church. But it seems to me that The Mormon Question is just another excuse for elitists to make self-satisfied claims to their own enlightenment. Headlines circulate every so often of this and such preacher or 501(c)3 leader declaring that Mormons aren’t Christians, and the tension there is what Klein is talking about I suppose. But the exclusion is mutual; Mormons refer to all non-Mormons as gentiles, which is incompatible with the belief held across nearly all Christian sects of the Church as the Body of Christ. Also I’d venture that the number of evangelicals who don’t consider Romney a Christian but voted for him anyway is larger than one might expect.
Regardless, it’s looking more and more like Romney’s going to have to address the issue head-on.