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Matters of Faith

Mitt Romney, pro and con. Mortgage industry madness. Bailing out Bush. The book on Mormons. Plus more.

12.9.07

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GETTING TO FIRST BASE
Re: Liz Mair's Romney's Base Hit and Hunter Baker's Romney and the American Religion:

Both Liz Mair and Hunter Baker make great points about Mitt Romney's speech. But one point omitted by both is how uniquely and consummately American the speech was, and in that respect it filled me with great pride. The British press has recently touched on how forbidden it is for a politician in Britain to publicly discuss his faith and the relevance of his faith to his being, both public and private. It is in fact in the British context almost as intolerable as an American politician publicly using the N-word. It simply cannot be done and will not be tolerated. (Please note I am drawing equivalence to the probable reactions, not to the relative validity of the reactions.) The same can probably be said for public figures throughout Continental Europe, perhaps even in Italy. How truly magnificent it is to see American freedom exercised, and to know that only here can you enjoy it.

On a minor point, when Mr. Baker writes, "The American model continues to serve both church and state well. Institutional separation has made the church far more influential than anyone might have expected," he should perhaps consider the historical implications of Roman Emperor Constantine's embrace of Christianity. There is no avoiding the historical reality of Christianity's overwhelming spread through the Empire very much because of the institutional unity, not separation, that Constantine caused. America is arguably at the crossroads of a decision to institutionalize atheism and formally exclude religious thought and expression from all public discourse, in a sense a reverse Constantine. Mitt Romney would doubtless steer between the two extremes. But several candidates clearly would not.
-- Frank Natoli
Newton, New Jersey

Liz Mair seems to have an uninterested take on the Romney speech. It was, however, the best presentation any of the candidates running for President, Republican or Democrat, have delivered. He clearly established that he has Presidential timber and deserves serious consideration from the voters.
-- Howard Lohmuller
Seabrook, Texas

"On the one hand, his Mormon faith is a substantial obstacle to his candidacy for the Republican nomination for president. In his speech, Romney presented his Mormon faith as another version of Christianity, but that view is contested to say the least. Evangelicals make up a large part of the party's base as do Catholics. For both groups, Mormonism is a heresy." Hunter Baker

"But, by the same token, his inclusion of the sentence, "Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world," will have struck some as ironic. Romney is, after all, the man accused with frequency of having changed his views on everything from abortion to immigration to Ronald Reagan to his favorite book." Liz Mair

These two sentences capture beautifully what troubles many about a significant segment of the GOP base and about Mitt Romney.
-- Mike Roush
North Carolina

I am not now or I have been a member of the Mormon Church, but I've met quite a few Mormons during my sixty years. When I was in the Army back in the late sixties my dog tags had "NO PREF" stamped on them. Not that I was an atheist or an agnostic back then. I just figured that if things got to the point where people might be taking a close look at my dog tags that I'd be happy to have a minister of any faith in my corner. I have yet to meet a Mormon that I felt that I couldn't trust and I have never met a Mormon that wasn't a strong supporter of their family, their country, and their faith. Mormons have a distinguished record of service in this country's military as well as a long record of public service -- with one exception. If I had to select a Mormon that didn't live up to my ideal of how a patriotic American public servant ought to conduct himself I'd have to pick Senator Harry Reid of Nevada. Senator Reid may be a member of the Mormon Church, but he appears to be more devoted to the Doctrines of Karl Marx and to the Gospel of Defeat than to the Doctrines of Jesus Christ. That's just my opinion, but that's how I see it.

If Governor Romney gets the nomination of his party I intend to vote for him for President. I consider him to be a decent and honorable man who "packs the moral gear" to lead this country. I can't say the same of any of the Democratic candidates who might get that party's nomination. And, by the way, I'm not worried that the day after Election Day I'll wake up to find my house surrounded by young men in white shirts and ties on ten-speed bikes.
-- T.L. Jeffrey
Carmichael, California

FEELING SAD
Re: Shawn Macomber's Tancredo in the Twilight:

If, in chronicling the last throes of the Tancredo campaign, Shawn Macomber's prose had been set to music, it would resemble nothing less than a threnody, for his storyline is that of a man and his campaign passing from the scene. Yet, at last look, "Tom Terrific" was still on the campaign trail, and, for those with a Christian perspective, while there is life, there is hope. While it would be soothing to claim that he was doomed from the start by his "one issue" candidacy, I would like to repeat what I've written in these pages previously: no candidate running in the GOP primaries has a better record as a fiscal and social conservative than the aforementioned Signor Tancredo. While candidate Paul may have chosen not to fund Planned Parenthood because of his belief that it is not the government's role to do so, Tancredo's philosophy was, and is, that abortions are morally wrong, and therein lies a major difference between these two honorable men. The disconnect between the reality of his consistently conservative record in the House of Representatives, and the willful disregard by the MSM, including "conservative" outlets, to cover his campaign, has made Tancredo's course of action easy to ignore.

But Macomber does have the decency to point out that, in the event of his withdrawal, Tom Terrific is a true gentleman, with a wonderful sense of humor. Early in the campaign, when asked if he could be elected president, he demurred, saying that he "didn't have the right hair." He also didn't attract the big GOP donors; they were too busy falling over themselves to promote candidates who would make Dwight Eisenhower blush. Yet, to have seen Tom Terrific as the primary season lengthened was to see a man confident in the righteousness of his cause. I do not how to say this without sounding corny: Tom Tancredo is, genuinely, a man of the people of this country.

The history of third parties in this country is filled with examples of them organizing and agitating for a particular set of laws to be passed. Our current front-runners are seriously challenged regarding their records and willingness to enforce laws that already exist in dealing with illegal immigration into this country. Perhaps, Tom Tancredo's political epitaph will be, not that he helped pass certain laws, but that he was instrumental in their being carried out. This country needs more representatives who measure up to Tom Terrific Tancredo.

Pax tecum,
-- Vincent Chiarello
American Council for Immigration Reform

THE BUSH LEGACY
Re: Quin Hillyer's The Good Bush Narrative:

At this time next year, George W. Bush might be a great president and pigs might fly. I think the last is the much more likely outcome, going on the first seven years of his presidency.

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. Anything else is wishful thinking.
-- Christopher Holland
Canberra, Australia

Nothing wrong with anything Mr. Hillyer said. But more than half of the items noted depend on big, fat "ifs."

And let's not forget that for the first six years of his administration Mr. Bush ignored our porous borders, turned a blind eye to illegal immigration, and even in the face of screaming public opposition tried mightily to jam down our throats a collection of immigration-related proposals which, if enacted, would have had profound economic and cultural implications for the country, most of them by general agreement negative.

Nor should we forget that he tried to place an unqualified crony on the Supreme Court, or that he did install another unqualified crony as Attorney General.

He came into office claiming to be "a uniter, not a divider," and the fact is that our politics is now more poisonous than ever, albeit with plenty of blame to go around.

Let's give credit where credit is due, but if there is one word which does now and will in the future summarize the Bush Administration, I sadly suggest that word will be "disappointment."
-- C. Vail

THE SUGAR DADDY STATE
Re: John Berlau's Bailout Blues:

So much for signing contracts. So much for bond covenants. So much for the meaning of "bond."
Another well-meaning government bailout will (and should) undermine any covenant of the future. No wonder the credit markets are spooky. The cure will be worse than the disease.

The mortgage-back securities participants did a wonderful thing by liquefying mortgages that used to end up in bank vaults. But they went too far this time. And should hang for it. By themselves.
-- Mark Candon
Rutland, Vermont

I get sick and tired every time our imperial Federal Government comes running from the darkest recesses of bureaucracy to foist its ideals of nanny statism onto the free market. Where is the government's authority to do such? The market already has many built-in mechanisms to deal with the current mortgage situation and its inherent imbalances. And yes, I call it a "situation;" it is not yet a crisis -- as long as the Government keeps its hands out of the rice bowl.

To begin with, the $200M spent by the Treasury Department to set up a system to "find" these potential foreclosurees is unconstitutional. And more importantly, the Bush/Paulson bailout plan, no matter whether it is voluntary or not, in is direct violation of the Contracts Clause contained in the US Constitution. Specifically, the plan violates Article 1, Section 10, Clause 1.

This would be, as Mr. Berlau relates, a perfect time for some presidential candidates to separate themselves from the crowd and show that when they take the Oath of Office, they do so seriously. To "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States" is the highest calling any American can commit to, bar none.

Lastly, as a holder of high-risk, mortgage-backed securities, I am incensed at the possibility of receiving "altered" returns because of Federal Government involvement. My preference is to totally keep the bureaucrats and policymakers out of the process. I would rather lose more potential returns due to the machinations of the free market, than to have "not-as-great" loses due to governmental interference.

To me, long-term trust in the capitalist system is far more important than any short-term gains provided by a government-sponsored bailout plan. In the end, the bubble will only be prolonged.
-- Owen H. Carneal
Yorktown, Virginia

While Mr. Berlau delivers an excellent essay in favor of free market theory and against government intervention, a view I usually agree with, government action by jawboning, legislation or regulation of markets is sometimes necessary. Free markets sometimes have inefficiencies that cause them either not to work properly or even shut down completely. Most notorious of these inefficiencies is monopoly. Monopolies and their cousins, cartels, have to be regulated by government because their pricing mechanisms don't work, are not governed by supply and demand.

In this case the mortgage market was beginning to freeze up. The financial panic of 1898 and the Great Depression of the '30s were both caused by loss of liquidity and financial panic of the same sort occurring in the mortgage market today. The government through the Fed is taking steps to supply more money into the banking system to increase liquidity and stop any panic by keeping the mortgage market working. Lenders are being asked to ease up on increases in variable rate mortgages to those consumers whose financial qualifications deserve a second look. This happens all the time in businesses that encounter financial difficulty. Finally, the investors whom bought the mortgage-backed securities won't dump them in a panic. Because of the government's actions, the mortgage market will over the next year be nursed back to full health. And home ownership, perhaps the most important step in climbing the economic ladder, will continue to expand in America.
-- Howard Lohmuller
Seabrook, Texas

BLOWING BUBBLES
Re: Randal O'Toole's Paying the Planning Tax:

One might also note that growth management plans exist in states that have been already experiencing growth. That is why the growth management "plans" exist. It is the demand for land for housing, commerce, industry in those cities that led to the increase in housing prices.

I am most familiar with the Phoenix situation, where investors from out of state, seeing the quick increase in house prices, bought houses to hold for relatively short periods of time only to turn around and sell them with a large short term profit. Those buyers could have bought with the ARM mortgages knowing they were going to sell within the year, sometimes even a couple of months. Prices went up so fast that a $50,000 profit could be made on a house costing $300,000 in a couple of months. If the market had been limited just to real house buyers and not also speculators, the housing prices would not have gone up so fast, which, in and of itself, fed the investor frenzy. Mr. O'Toole might want to investigate why it was called a "bubble," and such a classic one at that.

As a Libertarian, Mr. O'Toole might also want to address an alternate method of financing all the urban infrastructure that goes into a house, such as water and sewer lines, treatment plants, road networks, schools, libraries, fire and police resources, etc. Of course, if one were to properly price for the existence of those services, assuming they were provided by private purveyors instead of by the dreaded GOVERNMENT, I would imagine that there would be some hefty front end charges that a housebuilder would have to pay to get "connected" to these various systems. Curiously, the "impact fees" are an attempt by local governments to behave like private entrepreneurs to focus those kinds of costs on the new buyers who request such services. Mr. O'Toole thinks these are just ways of increasing the price of houses for no good reason. Does he think that the only costs are on the actual construction of the house itself? If so, then let builders build houses on lots with no roads, schools, water/sewer lines, etc.

Mr. O'Toole might want to try doing some good science for a change instead of spending his time railing at government "planning."
-- Jean Montgomery

BAD FOR BUSINESS
Re: Doug Bandow's Killing Drivers, Increasing Costs:

I was not surprised by any of the data in the article.

When I was a child, we had station wagons. The last one was a 1973 Pontiac Grand Safari with a 400 CI motor. It had a tow capacity that matched the 1500 class pickup trucks of today. With 5 kids it made the perfect family vehicle. There is not a minivan today that had the capacity and capability of that boat. It could take the whole family with stuff up to northern NH with all those hills without breaking a sweat. Today's "family cars" cannot do that. In hilly terrain they are dangerous because they cannot maintain speed going up long inclines.

My wife and I own two Jeeps. A Wrangler and a Cherokee. Both have the trusty 4.0L I6. Both have over 150K miles. My Wrangler, which is heavily modified for off road use, has survived two crash, neither one my fault, that would have totaled the Saturn wagon I had before the Jeeps. One of which would have resulted in serious injury to my children or me. In that one, a driver of a Honda Civic lost control and came straight across my lane. I hit her broad side at nearly 60MPH. I thank God that no one was in her passenger seat. That side of her car got crushed in. But because me Jeep hit her above her center of gravity, her Honda got held down by my Jeep as we moved to the side of the highway. A lower vehicle likely would have flipped the Honda over and killed the driver.

Luckily, the only thing that went to the graveyard from that crash was her Honda and my radiator. CAFE and its advocates prove once again that Liberals are only pro-choice when we are making choices they approve of. They also prove they are impervious to facts. Particularly when they prove the fallacy of a position they hold.

My next vehicle will be a 4 door Jeep Wrangler Rubicon that I will outfit with bigger bumpers, a 4" lift and at least 35" tires. Need to be able to survive the winter potholes.

Of course the ultimate Truck without needing a CDL is the International MXT. It says, "Yes, I Am Compensating for Something. So What!"
-- Mark F. Kelcourse
Lowell, Massachusetts

FIGHTING WORDS
Re: Ken Shreve's letter (under "The Mormon Question") in Reader Mail's Corrosive Negativity:

There are defenders and then there are defenders. The kind of champion a candidate does not need is one that needlessly antagonizes potential supporters. In Ken Shreve's letter, he states:

"...to say that a Mormon is not a Christian is quite simply an ignorant, bigoted, lie."

Ignorant? Bigoted? I can understand theological disagreement. But to ascribe evil motives to anyone who thinks differently?

In a nutshell, Mormonism specifically rejects the doctrine of the Trinity. Mormons and many others defend themselves by stating Trinitarian theology is a small detail or a minor dispute. But the Trinity is not an incidental, optional doctrine in Christianity. As a doctrine, it expresses a mystery of God as presented in Scripture without ignoring inconvenient parts of the Biblical witness and without saying more than Scripture itself testifies. In expressing this mystery, the mystery still remains and is impossible to understand logically. At the same time, the Trinity tells us who Christ is and (just as important) who He is not. Mormons are completely free to disagree; but they are in no position to tell Lutherans, Catholics, Orthodox, etc. what historical Christian doctrine should not matter. In any event, Mormonism is rejected as Christian not because of bigoted ignorance but on solid theological grounds.

In our more immediate situation, it absolutely mystifies me why anyone would attempt to persuade Evangelicals to support his candidate by attacking their theology. The appeal should be made on shared views and political prudence -- not on the basis of "spiritual" fellowship. It is also dangerous to challenge Evangelicals to act out of their "better angels." Christians of all stripes are weary of being told to prove their "tolerance" by voting against their instincts. This particular gambit has been used one too many times as it is. Potential supporters looking on will not like it one bit.

We do not elect philosopher kings in the United States. We elect men and women for whom character and morality is not an incidental matter. We look for that uneasy combination of realism and idealism which may look foolish to the rest of the world but is essential to being an American. Each of us may or may not be a citizens in the Kingdom of God; but in this "kingdom" -- as limited and temporary as it is -- what is important is we gather around the same fire, share the same bread, grieve over blood lost, and love our country. By this measure, Romney is more than OK by this Lutheran.
-- Mike Dooley

Ken Shreve, in his letter of 12/7/07 says, "While I am not a subscriber to the tenets of Mormonism, to say that a Mormon is not a Christian is quite simply an ignorant, bigoted, lie."

I had to scratch my head on that one. Of course Mormonism is not Christianity, if Christianity is defined by at least the first 6 or 7 ecumenical creeds of the Christian church. Hasn't Shreve ever compared Mormon theology with historic Christian theology? I don't think so.

He says there's no religious test for office. That's true when it comes to government action, but not when it comes to what private citizens may do during election time. If Shreve thinks there's no religious test for office in that sense, what would he do if a radical Muslim, supporter of Shari'a law and all that, were running for president? Would he be so broad-minded in that case?

I don't have a problem with Romney, or Mormons generally, primarily because they hold conservative views. I would probably agree with them on most political issues and vote for them. Nevertheless, I would support Rudy this time around, despite my disagreements with some of his positions. He has experience under crisis, and that counts for a quite a lot. Romney and the others (save for perhaps McCain) just don't seem to have that.

I agree that one doesn't have to be theologically correct to hold public office in this country, but that doesn't mean it's not a component that should be weighed in assessing whether a candidate should be trusted with a leadership role in America. There are a lot of very weird ideas out there, after all, and if a political candidate holds some of them, it may say something about the candidate's state of mind or philosophical maturity. And there's nothing bigoted about making the best and most fully informed choice is there?
-- C. V. Crisler
Gilbert, Arizona

That's some rant, there, Ken. And, like you, I've managed, up until now, to avoid this Mormon business with regard to Mitt Romney. I like Mitt. He's a nice guy. But, he is not my choice as the Republican nominee for POTUS. Frankly, I think he's out of his depth, and too naive for the Presidency. After reading your letter a few times, though, it struck me that maybe we should be looking at this Mormon thing from a slightly different perspective.

Back in 1976, Bill Buckley and Ronald Reagan had a debate over whether we, the U.S.A., should turn over the Panama Canal to, well, Panama. Buckley was in the affirmative, and his reason was, as he put it, "spiritual." Ah, sometimes, it's hard to understand Bill Buckley, and if he had known the ChiComs would have become so chummy with the Panamanians, maybe he would have had a different point of view, but we can still learn something from his reasoning. Let's apply it to the 2008 presidential election, and thereby to Mitt Romney, as well as the other candidates. The election of an American President is about the closest thing to a spiritual event in which all Americans share. I'm for the guy who best understands that. It's why Ronald Reagan was a great President, and Bill Clinton was, well, you know. So, how do the 2008 roster of candidates for POTUS measure up in this regard? That's the question everyone should be asking. And, if asking that makes you a bigot, then so be it.
-- Mike Showalter
Austin, Texas

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