David Brooks, "Faith vs. the Faithless." December 7
CANDYLAND! Bright, primary-colored game pieces move across a yummy ice-creamy landscape at the roll of the die, and there's no real competition--except with the outside world, which occasionally makes you come inside and eat vegetables. Noonan, of course, lives there; Brooks drops in to hide whenever the grab for his lunch money gets a little too real. Both kibitzed Mitt Romney's play Friday. Peggers went swoony:
Romney reintroduced himself to a distracted country--Who is that handsome man saying those nice things?--while defending principles we all, actually, hold close, and hold high.
Bobo reached for Junior Ad-Exec Teaches Community College Night School:
Yesterday, Mitt Romney delivered a speech that artfully blended the centrist Meacham and the conservative Neuhaus.
Now, one of the things one learns in trying to write every day--even if by "write" one means "type cranky Letters to the Editor with little thought and less editing"--is that it is impossible--even on Planet Peggy--to take shit like the artificial hoopla over Romney's speech seriously. One may certainly understand it's all bullshit without personally enduring a daily publishing schedule, let alone one as strenuous as Noonan's. But the effort of putting words on e-paper on a regular basis has got to inform you that this The Speech business was pure PR guff, the same way filleting farm-raised trout for a living would allow you to sense a spoiled one without bothering to sniff. Not that it's a surprise that either of these two would shill the thing; I'm just sayin'.
Nor is one surprised when Noonan takes a trumpet solo in the middle of her harp recital:
He had nothing to prove to me regarding his faith or his church, which apparently makes me your basic Catholic. Catholics are not his problem. His problem, a Romney aide told me, had more to do with a particular fundamentalist strain within evangelical Protestantism. Bill Buckley once said he'd rather be governed by the first thousand names in the Boston phone book than the Harvard faculty. I'd rather be governed by Donny and Marie than the Washington establishment.
Easily arranged. Take I-80 west til you get to the Bonneville Salt Flats. You'll get to travel the Indiana Toll Road in the process, so you can celebrate Privatization while you're at it, for a nominal fee.
But Peg, look, in the interests of doing what Willard Mitt didn't--namely, discuss religious differences--Roman Catholics are religious wholesalers. The most important thing to a Catholic is being seen as part of the inventory. They're not real concerned about the crazy guy panhandling down the block, unless he steals a truck. On the other hand, Protestants, generally, and certainly all evangelicals, buy retail. They don't like you readin' the magazines without buying. They're naturally schismatic. They don't tend to excuse doctrinal changes just because a new infallible leader got himself elected. Instead, they just start another One True Church. There are over thirty-five denominations of Baptist Church in this country, without counting the thousands of independent Baptists churches as separate denominations on their own, with they technically are. They'll form a splinter group over the question of whether you can baptize in fluoridated water. Minor questions of faith are major concerns for these people. They can lose half their congregations to some guy who drinks turpentine, overnight.
Which doesn't mean Roman Catholics should go around patting themselves on the back over their tolerance. It means they feel the penalty for early withdrawal, as drilled into young heads, is sufficient to hold off the Minions of Mongo. As I recall, some Catholics turned out to be pretty intolerant of one of their own around the last Presidential election, even though his beliefs were in line with the teaching. Romney doesn't have a "Catholic problem" not because Catholic Republicans are the soul of ecumenicalism; he doesn't have one because he changed his stance on abortion in an effort to get nominated. If "Abortions for some, tiny Ameican flags for others" was inscribed on one of those Holy Pie Plates from Mephzab that form the basis of his religion he'd have a Catholic Problem that'd make him forget his prostate.
(Nooners, by the way, gives us a remarkable Lives of the Saints view of The Speech--the resistance from "some" of the staff, the rough draft in March, the May Day of Decision, the Summer of Indecision, the desire to deliver it "on the ascendancy", the October "Thanksgiving" target date complicated, but not dictated, by the Surging Huckabettes. One thing is clear: with this much campaign mythology behind it--whether true or false or mixed--nobody's more intoxicated by The Speech than that campaign staff which is said to have been so lukewarm about the idea. I've met Tapeheads who weren't so obsessive.)
It's politics, not theology, behind the evangelical "uproar" over Mormonism--which seems strangely to have come instantaneously into play right alongside the Unstoppable Huckabee Iowa Express. This explains why Brooks actually dedicates half his column to being lukewarm about it, for real. After praising Mitt for competently navigating the raging rapids that separate Genuine Mushy Ecumenicalism and Politically-Motivated 'Conservative' Faux Mushy-Ecumenicalism, Brooks says:
And yet, I confess my own reaction is more muted.
And I'm sure there's something in Burke about it, too, but the real reason is that the But I'm Not A Social Conservative 'conservatives' like Brooks are the ones who were burned the worst by the whole Schiavo business, when their delusion about who they'd been sharing a party with since Reagan reached the flashpoint. If Brooks is now concerned about the banana pudding God Romney proposes to dollop onto every courthouse lawn in the Republic, what was he doin' the last thirty years? Is the bull-roaring homo-and-feminist Hater of Falwell and Robinson a better fit?
In fairness, Noonan gets around to this idea in her final graph, though one tries to be careful passing out credit to a woman whose very next sentence may concern the stopped watch the Queen of Sweden gave her in 1874.
I do not know why Romney did not include nonbelievers in his moving portrait of the great American family. We were founded by believing Christians, but soon enough Jeremiah Johnson, and the old proud agnostic mountain men, and the village atheist, and the Brahmin doubter, were there, and they too are part of us, part of this wonderful thing we have.
I dunno...is American really ready to clutch to her Xanax-deadened bosom the theological descendants of a mythologized Western cannibal? Or, for that matter, Jeremiah Johnson?