Romney is out with a new ad designed to let us all know that he cares. My word, really? Did he think that we doubted that? He's a Mormon, a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints, one of the most notoriously family-centered religious bodies in the U.S. He has by all accounts been a good husband and father all his life—which is more, unfortunately, than one can say for the witty Newt. Yes, Romney has a robotic image, and a "cold" reputation. But that's doesn't mean Americans think he doesn't care. We know he cares—he just doesn't care about what we care about.
Romney is a good man. So, I believe, is Newt (now), and so I think
Santorum and Paul have always been. They all have their flaws, but none
of them have the flaw of being heartless. Yes, Romney is a good man.
He cares about his family. He cares about his friends and their
families, and his employees and their families. He cares about getting
elected. He just doesn't care about policy.
Romney is not a philosopher, like Paul, or a professor, like
Gingrich. Ideas simply do not run his day, or govern his decisions. He
is a businessman, and his political decisions are governed by the same
sort of pragmatic law that governs business decisions: "What works?" Of
course, being a fundamentally decent person, Romney's not going to
support a law that is outrageously inhuman—if, for example, he were
elected President, and a law relegalizing partial birth abortion came
across his desk, I suspect he'd veto it. And as a campaigner, there are
certain things he won't do; e.g., hire assassins to take out his
opponents. But it's a matter of course to him that, as a politician who
wants to succeed, he's got to attack his opponents where they're
weakest—even if those attacks, when viewed against the larger backdrop
of a candidate's full record, reveal themselves as distortions of the
candidate's views. And, mutatis mutandis, so with his own
record: he's got to present his strongest decisions, and present them in
the best possible light. He's not going to talk about mistakes, or
But that word "inconsistencies" is misleading. Romney doesn't view
his record as being inconsistent, because he doesn't see that there's
anything to be consistent about. That adjective is only applicable if
one assumes that candidates have—or should have—a unified worldview
that governs their political decisions. Romney has no such view.
Politics is a game for him, like chess. Trade a pawn here, catch a rook
Politics is a game for Gingrich, Paul, and Santorum as well.
But—and here is the difference between them and Romney—all three of
the other men have more or less consistent political philosophy. There
are some pawns they won't trade.
I don't think it's a coincidence that two of the three of them are Catholics.
this applies to theologically vibrant Protestant sects as well—are
used to thinking within a logical framework. "Hm, Jesus says this ...
the old Testament says that ... How do we reconcile the two?" They take
delight in trying to make their theology jive with science. Catholics
in particular have a history of using and encouraging the use of
Reason—think of Thomas Aquinas and his use of Aristotle, of the various
ancient and new natural law movements, of Anselm's "faith seeking
understanding," of Pope Benedict's Regensburg address. One of the joys
of being a Catholic is that you don't have to check your intellect at
the door; if anything, you are likely to use it more vigorously in
living your faith than you are in any other aspect of your life.
Obviously, Catholics can have disparate political opinions.
Politics is a practical and prudential matter, so the application of the
consistent and valid religious principles of Catholicism to political
questions will vary. But the Catholic the respect for and love of
Reason tend to engender habits of intellectual consistency that are
hard to shake off, and tends therefore to manifest itself in some
rational, consistent political philosophy—as is the case with Santorum,
Gingrich, and Paul.
Romney is a Mormon. Does that explain, in part, his failure to
embrace a systematic political philosophy? Or does that failure have to
do simply with Romney's habits as a businessman? Is there some other
explanation for it? I don't know. It would be no slur on Mormonism to
suggest that it fails to encourage reasoned consistency. There are
other perfectly respectable religions that operate the same way—Islam,
for example—and of course the secularists, with their addiction to
telling religious people how to act, would prefer that all religion be
either supra- or subrational in its practice and in its application to
public life. Just as a man can be a good man without having a
consistent political philosophy, a religion can be a nice religion,
without having a consistent philosophy.
Mormonism, whatever its intellectual rigor or lack thereof, seems like a fundamentally decent religion. Romney seems like a fundamentally decent man.
Just don't ask me to believe in him.