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I'm Supporting Senator John McCain for the U. S. Presidency

After weighing many considerations, I've decided to support Senator John McCain for President of the United States. Although I was leaning towards Governor Mitt Romney (see my First Things blog piece on the Romney candidacy here), I have become convinced that in a general election Senator McCain stands a better chance of defeating either Senator Hillary Clinton or Senator Barack Obama. An Obama v. Romney general election, in my opinion, would be disastrous for the Republican Party's future with the African-American community: it would pit the winsome, intelligent, and quick on his feet Senator Obama, an African-American, against the successful and intelligent, though robotic, Governor Romney, whose church had prohibited blacks from holding its priesthood until 1978. I know that that is deeply unfair to the former Massachusetts governor, whose personal and professional record on civil rights is impeccable. It is also unfair to the millions of Latter-Day Saints around the world, many of whom are people of color. But, whether we like it or not, that's the reality of our political culture and the sort of onslaught that Governor Romney and the Republican Party should expect to face if there is an Obama v. Romney presidential contest, IMHO.

My other reasons for supporting McCain are largely reflected in the arguments found in the National Review Online articles by Notre Dame law professor, Gerard Bradley, and Susan B. Anthony List treasurer, Frank Cannon.

Comments (57)

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/95212.php

I want to emphasize, too, that when this talks about McCain's "supporting" ESC research, it means with federal tax dollars.

McCain is my least favorite. Ron Paul or Mike Huckabee are better choices.

I'm very sorry to hear you saying this, Mr. Beckwith.

First of all, I think your assessment of McCain's chances in the general are incorrect. Against Ms. Clinton, McCain might do alright; he's appealing to moderates who might find Ms. Clinton off-putting. However, McCain's good performances in head-to-head polls and his general appeal rely on a cloud of positive media attention, and that attention will evaporate as soon as he's running against a Democrat the press likes. Chances are that the press will drag out Keating Five details, and Hillary Clinton will win the character issue, incredible as that seems.

A McCain-Obama matchup will be much worse for the Republicans. Obama receives fawning, misty-eyed adoration from the press, evoking images of Camelot and John Kennedy. The only way to combat that is with a rock-solid track record, like those sported by Romney, Giuliani, or Huckabee -- they get to play "Adult v. Idealistic Child" and keep the race close. McCain doesn't just forfeit that advantage, he inverts it. Against McCain, Obama plays "New Idealism v. Washington Insider," and wins handily; it would be a rerun of 1992.

Beyond that, McCain simply does not have the personal character to manage the office of the President correctly. He achieves to fill a hole in his ego, and whines when he's crossed; he considers himself better than others, and sneers at them when they oppose him; he loses his temper and tries to bully others to get his way. Guys like him are dangerous when they obtain power; they tend to protect their egos before they protect the Constitution. Other Presidents with similar characteristics include Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

I've written several posts on my blog about McCain; I think the man is dangerous, and will embarrass the Republican party. Please pay a visit and read what I've written; http://www.plumbbobblog.com/?cat=25 will give you the list. There are five posts, and they're not long articles.

Now that Thompson has withdrawn, I haven't decided which of the other candidates I'll support; I personally like Rudy Giuliani, who is a lot more conservative than he's given credit for, and handles himself ably in all circumstances.

Mr. Beckwith,

The fact that McCain is friends with the deeply ant-Catholic Pastor Hagee doesn't give you pause?

http://rememberruss.blogspot.com/2007/03/pastor-hagee-argues-that-strike-against.html

"The fact that McCain is friends with the deeply anti-Catholic Pastor Hagee doesn't give you pause?"

What gives me pause is the prospect of a pro-abortion Democrat nominating federal judges. If the Rev. Hagee can help make that less likely, more power to him. Of course, he is is completely wrong about Catholicism. But, hey, even Jesus spent time with the Republicans and the sinners. :-)

The fact that McCain formed the gang of 14 to stop the Republicans from cutting off the judge-filibustering Democrat nonsense bodes ill for his judge-nominating activities. Every Republican candidate says how much he admires Scalia. It's like talking nice about President Reagan. You can't be a Republican and not do it. And of course McCain does it, too. I'm not sure I believe _any_ of them that they'd appoint judges even a little bit like Scalia. But McCain is one of the ones I believe least.

McCain's whole career over the past fifteen years has come to be about fighting the conservatives in his own party. With him, it's a weird sort of matter of principle. And he's had a _lot_ of practice. As someone said on VFR recently, if we conservatives faxed a President McCain and bombarded him with letters and calls on an issue (I believe immigration was in the immediate vicinity, but the point was meant to apply more broadly), he'd call a press conference to announce that he was Saint John the Righteous and was planning to do the exact opposite.

It really seemed McCain's presidency bid was over a few months ago. To my mind, it's a shame somebody neglected to put a stake through its heart.

McCain seems to crave the media attention he gets by crossing his own base. Thus, he is the Left's favorite Republican .

Note, while I was writing this, Lydia added a very important point, which I should like to adopt (though I completely disagree with her on how to conduct the war vs. Islamic terrorism). --Hey Lydia!

A few problems with the arguments made and adopted --in addition to the one identified by Lydia and partially addressed by Bradley.

1. Bradley: "Identifying the best presidential pro-life candidate is very largely about judges, as well as particular issues. The next president is likely to (no one can say for sure, of course) have a couple of vacancies on the Supreme Court to fill. Given the Court’s present makeup and who is likely to be replaced, these two nominations will either tip the balance against Roe, or confirm it once again for a whole generation."

Objection: As my English friends say, not bloody likely. Exhibit A: Robert Bork.

Response: Yeah, but, we'll need the judges to overturn Roe. And who better than McCain?

Reply: Yes, but we'll need a lot more than just judges to make it stick --and that "more" is where there's a better candidate. More on "more" later.

Bradley: "A candidate’s stand on torture is revealing of his (or her) whole approach to moral questions. Of the remaining Republican candidates, only McCain (so far as I know)."

2. Objection (and here I lay out my card): Professor Bradley's parenthetical is pretty much unbelievable (to me), and makes me question the professor's competence to judge. Exhibit A: Ron Paul, at the debates, taking just as firm a stance against torture as McCain, perhaps even more so, in that he was against the war in Iraq and, in stark contrast to McCain, is in favor of withdrawal. By the way, it's not inappropriate to note at this point that the Church was against the war, inasmuch as one might summarize the Church's views on the matter. Furthermore, and the reason to bring up Iraq at all is to remind everyone that instances of, to put it charitably, overzealousness, were entirely predictable and predicted. So here you have one candidate who was against the war in Iraq and in favor of withdrawal as against one who was in favor and in favor of staying longer --"why not 100?" [as in McCain recently responding to a question about how long we should stay in Iraq]. Which policy is more likely to result in further instances of torture?

Response: Well, now we're into the whole war issue....

Reply: Exactly. But Bradley brought up torture, so....

3. Bradley: McCain's personal honor.

There's nothing to be objected to in what Bradley notes; only to be commended. And McCain's wife too. But had Bradley cared to look, he might have found some commendable personal virtues in Ron Paul. For instance, Paul and his wife are scheduled to celebrate their 51st wedding anniversary on February 1st. Not bad. There's no response. But there's nothing conceded either. More power to both of them.

4. Cannon: "On foreign policy, McCain represents continuity with American greatness. As he said at the Values Voter convention in October, "My father and grandfather fought fascism. My generation fought communism. Now we are summoned to confront the evil of radical Islamic extremism. There is no denying it is evil. How much more evident could it be than in the means our enemies choose to confront us. Their terrorism is not only an assault on our political and economic interests. It is an act of war against our defining ideals.""

Objection. This sounds like demagoguery to me ("a political strategy for obtaining and gaining political power by appealing to the popular prejudices, fears and expectations of the public — typically via impassioned rhetoric and propaganda, and often using nationalist or populist themes"). There are two sub-issues here: a) equating the threat of "radical Islamic extremism" with (incorrectly) fascism (I think he means Nazism) (Exhibits A-C on far less threatening fascism, Italy pre-pact with Germany; Franco; Salazar --those last two we cut deals with) and communism and thus, b) by implication, and by the parallelism of the rhetoric, advocating a similar --massive-- military response. McCain's wrong on both counts. Paul is right, or at least far better.

Response?

5. Cannon goes on to allude that McCain will also be good for the economy and cut spending. Here Paul actually has the Bradley "perfect" record on taxes and spending.

Response? (Yes, I'm running out of gas and have to go to bed.)

6. Immigration. McCain was for the amnesty, Paul wasn't. Whatever you're view on immigration, it would seem to me to be important enough to take into consideration. I don't see it addressed here.

7. Finally, Who can win? You seem to rate Obama as the likely Democratic nominee. Ok. With McCain, it's continue the war, continue America's greatness, cut spending, cut taxes, try to emulate Reagan vs. end the war, pull-back from abroad and work on our own problems, try to emulate..... I've seen this movie before. McCain vs. Obama is Ford vs. Carter. Carter won. Or it's Nixon vs. Kennedy....

Meanwhile, Paul out anti-wars Obama, out-non-interventionalists Obama, and addresses problems in a Republican, Conservative, cut-taxes and cut-spending way.

It's a sad day in American politics when the most qualified Republican candidate for the top **executive** office - one whose economic and business turn-around record is the best this country has ever seen - is not endorsed simply because he belongs to the 4th largest Christian denomination in the country. It is especially galling when you realize that the Mormon Church does not have racially-segregated congregations - and that there are Black Mormons who lead predominantly White and mixed-race congregations. Seriously, how many Protestant denominations in America cannot say that? In a very real way, many Protestant congregations are the last bastion of "separate but equal" left in this country.

I understand your reasoning, Mr. Beckwith, and it saddens me deeply. It says, essentially, "In order to try to win, we must sanction bigotry." The end justifies the means? Like I said, intellectually understandable but sad.

My take on it, viewed from the enemy camp, is that Romney is the most viable of the GOP hopefuls. He looks presidential, which is, unfortunately, important; he has excellent executive/economic experience, which is almost certainly going to become a better and better selling point in the months ahead; and he is (now) saying the right things with regard to conservative hot-button issues.
I don't really think that his Mormonism will hurt him, when push comes to shove.
His major draw-back, at this point, is having been caught in several outright lies about his past positions and experience, such as a "life-long" NRA membership which didn't exist. I think that he will live those things down. The GOP electorate, by even seriously considering Rudy Giuliani as a candidate, has shown that it puts keeping power over and above ideology and idealism. In the end, Republicans will nominate whomever they think can win, even if he's pro-choice, and even if he's pro-gun control. Fortunately for the GOP orthodoxy, however, Giuliani is not going to be the one with the best chance to win; I predict that Romney will be that man.

About those judges:

First off, it's virtually certain that the next President will get to replace two very liberal judges; John Paul Stevens is well past retirement age, and Ruth Ginsberg is fighting cancer. Both have said publicly that they'd have retired already if the President was a Democrat who would replace them with another liberal. I doubt they'll hold on another four years.

Secondly, Christopher's pointing to Bork as a means of saying "nobody will appoint another Scalia" is completely off the mark. The Republican party was caught off guard by the Democrats' onslaught against Bork. They learned, and prepared their next conservative appointment, Clarence Thomas, for the fight. We all know the outcome, and Thomas is, if anything, more conservative than Scalia. Same with Sam Alito and John Roberts. Conservatives know how to get conservatives past Congress.

Thirdly, while McCain claims to support Scalia, he says he wouldn't want another Alito. Alito was uncontroversial, a middle-of-the-road conservative. Looks bad for McCain.

Both Romney and Giuliani have a reputation for fairly appointing judges who uphold the law. Both appointed a mix of Ds and Rs, but both governed largely Democratic entities and disproportionately appointed Rs. I think we can trust them. Huckabee seems clueless about law; I don't think we can trust him. McCain seems less than forthright about what sort of judge he'll support; I don't think we can trust him.

Romney's religion is immaterial to me in my considerations in the primaries, but it is wrong to call the LDS religion "the 4th largest Christian denomination in the country". It is not Christian, period.

Professor Beckwith is right that in the general election all possible "strange features" of the Mormons would be trumpeted by the press, and I believe that the racist past of the religion would be the smallest of them. That may not be nice, but it would happen, and will certainly happen if Romney and Clinton are the nominees: if even hot topics such as racial relations and Mr. Obama's middle name are forced through the back door by the Clintons in the Democratic internal contest, how much more would be all possible Mormon practices, beliefs, and historical events which could be used to present Romney as a "weirdo".

Funny that the only religion that believes that Jesus Christ actually still visits the earth and literally guides his church through direct revelations is denied the claim of being Christian. Gimme a break Oy!

Rob: Suppose Oy were to claim to be Mormon, but denied the Scriptural and normative status of the Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, and the Doctrine and Covenants as well as the authority of the Church's First Presidency. Would you have sufficient warrant to say that Oy is not a Mormon? I think you would. Now, put yourself in the place of traditional Christians. They accept an understanding of God and Christ that is deeply ancient, having its roots in the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, Chalcedon, and Orange, all forged by a reading of the Bible found in their leading communities--Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, and Jerusalem--in every instantiation of the liturgy. Now, a mid-19th century farm boy comes along and says that he has the true Christianity and that all his predecessors--including these ancient sees--are completely mistaken about God, Christ, and Scripture. Would these traditional Christians have any warrant to refuse to apply the word "Christian" to beliefs of the farm boy and his followers? Of course they would, even if you think they are wrong in doing so.

Funny that the only religion that believes that Jesus Christ actually still visits the earth and literally guides his church through direct revelations is denied the claim of being Christian. Gimme a break Oy!


Anyone else remember in "A Man for All Seasons" when young Will wants to marry More's daughter? And More says no, calling him a heretic. "Now that's a word I don't like!" Will asserts. More answers, "It's not a pleasant word, it's not a pleasant thing."

Francis,

With all due respect, if do not believe in the Creeds, that makes us non-Creedal, not non-Christian. If you need the Creeds to be Christian I suppose that all the Christians who predated the Creeds are likewise out of luck?

I don't mean this as a threadjack, because it speaks directly to your point: if you ask your average American what constitutes a Christian, s/he will surely be much more likely to say "A belief in Christ as the Savior" than to say "A belief in the various creeds written after Christ's death." If you're worried about Romney's electability, you should realize that Americans will surely find lots of reasons to NOT vote for Romney besides "He doesn't believe in the Nicene Creed."

I'm not a regular reader here, so I can't say for sure, but I can't help but suspect that, deep down, the real reason you don't want to see Romney as the candidate it that, like Richard John Neuhaus so candidly admitted some time ago in First Things, you don't want a Mormon in the White House--not because you fear he would be a bad president, but because you fear he would be a good one, and that his success would lend his church far too much legitimacy at home and abroad.

(I say all of this, btw, as a practicing Mormon who has no intention of voting for Romney even if he's the GOP candidate -- I just want people to NOT vote for him for the right reasons...)

When the flock thins, it becomes a choice between men with principle and those who mold their principle to fit the audience. When faced with isuch a choice, consider, do you trust a hard ass with strong values and solid principles, but one who rubs people the wrong way sometimes, even those from his own party, or someone so obviously PHONEY and with a history of pandering and 180 degree mind changes... come on people, doesn't character count for anything anymore? I'd choose a hard ass any day, but that's just me.

Now, a mid-19th century farm boy comes along and says that he has the true Christianity and that all his predecessors--including these ancient sees--are completely mistaken about God, Christ, and Scripture.

Mr. Beckwith--
I'm no expert on the LDS Church, but from what I do know, I believe that your characterization above is in error. I think that Mormons add to what they consider to be the Christian canon (ergo "Latter Day") without rejecting that which was already there.
If I am mistaken in this belief, I would appreciate being corrected.

Mr. Beckwith:

You use, twice, a telling phrase in your response to Rob: "traditional Christians." That usage appears to grant the possible existence of "non-traditional Christians." Your invocations of Chalcedon, Orange, Rome and Antioch bear far more on the "tradition" side of the equation than on the "Christian" side. Like it or not, in common parlance (outside theological seminaries) the word "Christian" is not primarily associated with the Nicene Creed, ancient sees, or even with trinitarianism. This is particularly true outside the Christian world--have you ever tried to convince a Jew or Muslim that the Christmas-and-Easter-celebrating, blood-and-body-of-Christ-partaking, New-Testament-reading, proselytizing-and-baptizing, in-Jesus'-name-praying Mormons are anything other than Christians? Good luck. For 99.9% of all people (including the vast majority of rank and file Christians), the sine qua non of Christianity is bound up in the worship of the historical person of Jesus Christ, belief in his divinity, acceptance of the New Testament account of his life, ministry, death and resurrection, and reliance on the merits of his sacrifice to overcome sin and death. This definition has the added benefit of sweeping into tent of Christianity those first-century saints who had to make do without the creeds and councils.

I am happy to grant that other definitions of "Christian" are possible, even defensible. It may be the case that semantic drift is gradually carrying the word closer to the definition preferred by those who would exclude Mormons and other Jesus-centered new religious movements. But until a seismic lexical shift occurs, I will continue to maintain that those who, in reliance on an undisclosed and idiosyncratic definition, publicly proclaim Mormons not to be Christians are, if not dishonest, at least misleading. You can call us nontraditional Christians, heretical Christians, unsaved Christians, or any other negative modifier you prefer. But you have to have a modifier.

By contrast, in common parlance the word "Mormon" is generally associated with the institutional Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, I would certainly be willing to adopt an idiosyncratic definition and accept as a fellow Mormon any person who accepts the scriptural status of the Book of Mormon and the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith, which I view as the sine qua non of the restorationist movement. For the most part, though, other restorationists prefer to leave the term "Mormon" alone.

And surely you didn't mean to imply that Mormons "deny the scriptural and normative status" of the Christian Bible?

Frank: A couple of quick points.

1. Mormons don't claim that the Great Apostacy caused all previous Christians to be completely mistaken. As you know, of course, Mormon rhetoric on this point is all over the place over the years, but I think that it is fair to say that Mormons think that traditional Christianity preserved many of the fundamental truths of the Gospel. We just think that you lost some stuff.

2. Your hypo about the Mormons who rejects the authority of the Book of Mormon, prophets, etc. actually raises just the right question. Whether or not I would be comfortable with such a person labelling themselves as Mormon would depend on the context and purpose for which the claim is made. For example, I think that it is safe to say that my mother rejects all of these claims, but there is also a real sense in which she is very Mormon and I don't have a problem with her labelling herself as such. On the other hand, I can imagine a context in which such a claim would be unacceptable.

3. It seems to me that at the theoretical level the tirestome are-Mormons-Christian-debate comes down to a disagreement about concept and conception. Mormons are quite comfortable admitting that they have a very different conception of Christianity. On the other hand, they are not comfortable with traditional Christians who insist that their conception of Christianity should be taken as identical with the concept of Christianity. (Among other things, such a move would seem to disqualify most pre-Nicene Christians as Christians.)

4. At the end of the day, I suspect that this rather sterile debate has little to do with substantive disagreements. Mormons generally understand which aspects of their theology are deal killers for Catholics and Protestants, and at least some Catholics and Protestants are informed enough about Mormon theology to accurately and charitably articulate its differences. Hence, the debate is not really about understanding, I suspect, but rather about politics. In other words, it is about the use to which the claim "Mormons are Christians" or "Mormons are not Christians" is put to work. In a nutshell, I think that the disagreement boils down to something like this: On one side traditional Christians think that the Mormon claim to Christianity is a dishonest proselytizing tactic, an attempt by those sneaky Mormons to trick people into thinking that they are just idiosyncratic Baptists. On the the other side Mormons think Protestants and Catholics, motivated by religious animus, are lying about their beliefs by denying Latter-day Saint belief in and worship of Jesus Christ as son of God and savior of mankind.

5. So are Mormons Christian? I suspect that the honest answer is that it depends on where and why we are using the term "Christian." I know that Mormons-have-sneaky-PR-motives meme is strongly embedded among Protestants and Catholics. In some situations, there is no doubt some truth to this. At times Mormons would probably like to soft-pedal theological differences in the name of more effective proselytizing. Also, at times I suspect that Mormon fear of what Noah Feldman calls "soft bigotry" makes them eager to sumerge themselves in a less socially objectionable identity. I can understand why a traditional Christian might in good faith object to the claim "Mormons are Christian" in such contexts. On the other hand, much of the work down by anti-cult ministries and other Christian apologetics outlets is sloppy and ignorant at best and vile at worse. There are good-faith critics of Mormonism, but there are also a great many bad-faith critics.

Finally, it is important to remember that the Mormons-have-sneaky-PR-motives meme misses some extremely important facets of the issue for Latter-day Saints, the most important being, I think, that Mormons make a covenant each week when they take the sacrament (communion) to "take His [i.e. Jesus Christ's] name upon them." For myself, I have no particular desire to be mistaken for a Protestant or a Catholic. (I remember explaining in law school to a friend why Mormons weren't WASPS.) On the other hand, I don't see that my covenant allows me to simply walk away from the issue. I have made a solemn commitment to God that I will identify myself as a follower of Jesus Christ.

I apologize if I inadvertently opened a discussion which is off-topic. As a Catholic (convert from Protestantism), I would have several motives to explain why the LDS religion is not Christian - and perhaps Professor Beckwith could open a post exclusively for this discussion. In short, though, what unites all Christians is the one valid Sacrament all Churches and "church-like organizations" (what the Catholic Church calls "Ecclesial Communities"), Baptism. As the Decree on Ecumenism of the Second Vatican Council informs us, "all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ's body,and have a right to be called Christian, and so are correctly accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church".

The problem is, the appropriate authority of the Catholic Church decided - not lightly, but after more than a century of careful examination, in 2001 - that the "baptism" administered by "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints" is not valid, and thus not truly "baptism". The consequence is obvious: even though they are among the nicest people I know, Mormons are not Christians.

"With all due respect, if do not believe in the Creeds, that makes us non-Creedal, not non-Christian. If you need the Creeds to be Christian I suppose that all the Christians who predated the Creeds are likewise out of luck?"

I didn't say that. I was merely suggesting to Oy that he put himself in the place of those who do not think Mormonism is a Christian sect, and why they would think that. What I wrote, I wrote carefully. Please reciprocate and read it carefully.

Jeremy writes: "I'm not a regular reader here, so I can't say for sure, but I can't help but suspect that, deep down, the real reason you don't want to see Romney as the candidate it that, like Richard John Neuhaus so candidly admitted some time ago in First Things, you don't want a Mormon in the White House--not because you fear he would be a bad president, but because you fear he would be a good one, and that his success would lend his church far too much legitimacy at home and abroad."

This is so hurtful to read this. If Jeremy had taken the time to read my First Things piece on Romney (see here), to which I link above, he would know that I was just about to close the deal with Romney. In addition, if he had done any checking on the internet, he would have seen that at Princeton on November 9, 2007, I offered a defense of Romney's candidacy against the criticisms of secularists (such as Damon Linker in the New Republic) and traditional Christians. I delivered this paper at a conference called Mormonism and American Politics, which you can find here.

Oy: I have read the Vatican's ruling on the validity of Mormon baptisms, and although I recall having some nits to pick with some of its theological characterizations, it has the virtue of being much more careful and charitable than most treatments of the subject. I am certainly entirely comfortable with the claim that for purposes of Catholic canon law and theology I am not Christian. On the other hand, it does quite a bit of violence to language's ordinary usage to think that the meaning of the term "Christian" in any and all situations is defined by Vatican II.

"I know that Mormons-have-sneaky-PR-motives meme is strongly embedded among Protestants and Catholics."

Nate: I neither asserted nor implied such a thing about Romney, his candidacy, or even Mormons in general. To bring this up, as if I had said it, is a version of the complex question fallacy.

Frank

Frank: I didn't mean to suggest that you did, only that the meme is a common thread in these sorts of debates. I take it that your insistence on why Mormons aren't Christian stems from their rejection of the Nicene Creed. I think that this confuses conception with concept, but in your case I think that it is a good-faith confusion ;->

Frank: I should also be clear that I didn't mean to respond to your original post, but to some of the comments. I disagree with you on the original post, but that is mainly because I am less sanguine about McCain's ultimate viability, not because I disagree with you that the Mormon question would get ugly in a general election with Romney, especially if Clinton gets the nod.

Plumb Bob, read it to the end. First, I raise Borking because, while I wish I was completely off the mark about it, I fear I'm not. Second, althought you and I seem to agree on the demerits of McCain on this issue, and I agree with you, I'll explain what I mean by the "more" that I merely alluded to in my initial post.

FB: Ron Paul and McCain have the same idea on this issue: pick an originalist judge who will overturn Roe and put the issue back to the states. So how does the same exact proposal yield a finding that McCain's the better candidate on that one issue? They're identical, at least in what they propose.

As a practical matter, however, they are significantly different. At first McCain, with more legislative experience, might seem less Borkable, for what that might be worth. But if one looks overall at the two, you can't help but notice that RP finds his guidance on this isssue, as in so many others, from an overall and far more consistent political philosophy or, if it must be said, ideology, whereas McCain strikes me as hopelessly unconservative and inconsistent. That's the "more" I'm trying to talk about. RP proposes a more thorough, radical, reform, across the board, on many issues: War, Immigration, State's rights, Taxes, the Federal Reserve, Monetary policy, the power of the executive branch, and on and on. Basically, he's more in line with the Catholic idea of subsidiarity, as far as I can see. Now, even if elected --a long shot, RP's still not likely to get much of his program (or rather, lack of program) through but he nevertheless still promises to push, as far as he can, those ideas of subsidiarity (state's rights, less federal government overall). McCain's subsidiarity exists on this, and few other issues; exists as an "unprincipled exception." Thinking of Paul's radical proposals and the probable response from Congress puts me in mind of that famous quote of French Marshal Ferdinand Foch: "My center is giving way, my right is in retreat; situation excellent. I shall attack." Furthermore, let me ask: who is more likely to lead the necessary Republican or pro-life majority into Congress in 2008? McCain? Really? How many people have registered Republican this year so as to vote for McCain in a primary? How much money has he raised --has been raised by volunteers for him, spontaneously?

We are proposing a change to the Constitution on one of the tenets of the sexual revolution. Who strikes you as more of a revolutionary: John McCain or Ron Paul?

"With all due respect, if do not believe in the Creeds, that makes us non-Creedal, not non-Christian. If you need the Creeds to be Christian I suppose that all the Christians who predated the Creeds are likewise out of luck?"

Those pre-Creedal Christians didn't disbelieve the Creeds either. They just didn't believe them because they hadn't been written yet. However, they did believe the contents contained therein, which is why they wrote the Creeds.

Thanks Nate!

Now, I'm off to teach Law and Religion in the U.S.

Frank

I apologize, Mr. Beckwith, for opening the "are Mormons Christians" can of worms. I felt I needed to make the point I did, but I was hoping (perhaps beyond hope) that it would not take that tack.

My intended point was quite simple: By putting election above the condemnation of bigotry, bigotry is strengthened. It becomes OK to deny Romney a chance due explicitly to his religion - which by your own account produces good, patriotic, sincere, loving, well-adjusted, educated, intelligent, thoughtful people. It produces people who gravitate to multiple political camps, specifically because they are allowed to work through and construct their own individual political paradigms. It produces Harry Reid, Orrin Hatch, Mitt Romney and every stance between them.

Finally, EVERY religion has aspects of its past that could be used by others to deny them legitimacy. Catholics and Protestants over the centuries have killed each other and others to an exponentially greater degree than Mormons have. Protestantism's theology was the core justification for Manifest Destiny - which was the foundation of slavery and the treatment of the American Indians throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries. If Romney is ineligible because of Mormonism's past racial practices, then there is NOT ONE CHRISTIAN candidate who should be eligible. To assert otherwise holds Mormons to a double standard that others cannot meet. That, really, is my only point.

Francis,

I simply can't bring myself to support McCain. It's not just that he has his disagreements with conservatives - it's that he has active sneering contempt and hatred for them, in a way that he doesn't for liberals, who he is quite chummy with.

As Bob pointed out, McCain has a childish Clintonesque anger problem, but it's worse than Clinton, because it's exclusively aimed at his own putative "allies".

He seems to relish, and actively seek out opportunities, to backstab, deflate, and demoralize conservatives, and to stall the conservative agenda. I used to think this was mainly because he enjoyed basking in the media limelight. While that may be part of it, it seems to be more the case that he has manufactured a perverse sense of "honor" for himself, according to which it's a virtue to betray your would be friends as often as possible, and especially at the most vital of moments, so as to prove to the world that you have no loyalties and hold your contrarian "principles" higher than anything else.

I remember all those near heart attacks I've had, when McCain nearly ruined us by firing on his own at precisely the moment when we most needed solidarity to get something done. Even when we survive his assassination attempts, he usually manages to take the wind out of our sails and significantly stall our momentum. I think the GOP Congress we lost in '06 could've been a lot less pathetic without McCain (and a handful of other RINOs) there to stall every serious conservative initiative and ensure it's mediocrity.

With McCain as President, I could have that near heart attack feeling every damn day. It's bad enough worrying about what new outrage Bush will inflict on us next, but at least Bush doesn't take personal pleasure in betraying the base in and of itself.

I'd rather have Hillary or Obama as President than McCain. Either way, we'll be subjected to largely liberal governance. The difference is that in McCain's case, the conservative base will be demoralized, confused, and powerless, as it will be split between defending and opposing the guy, even though it will have no sway over him, and even as he betrays it again and again. In Hillary/Obama's case, it will be very clear who the enemy is, and the base will be riled up and united in combating them, and will be free to advocate real conservative policies again. If I'm going to spend the next 4-8 years getting stabbed, I'll take it in the front where I can see it, thank you very much.

The only conceivable reason I might prefer McCain to a full-fledged liberal is judges. But here again, I simply don't trust him. With McCain-Feingold, his grasp of constructionism is suspect to say the least. And then there's the recent comments John Fund reported. And of course the Gang of 14. And even if there weren't any of that, McCain is McCain, and if that's taught me anything, it's that he's likely to use judge nominations as another opportunity to demonstrate that he's a maverick who doesn't answer to those close-minded backwards conservatives he hates so much. He'll probably put in someone who's a "conservative" by the McCain definition of the word.

Regarding whether LDS is a Christian denomination, I think we're using the word "Christian" in two different ways.

The first is doctrinal, creedal, and ultimately spiritual. Yes, a Christian who is thoroughly against what is taught in the creeds is not a Christian. Of course, a Christian who claims to believe the creeds but behaves more like the devil is also not a Christian.

The second is historical, and what counts there is pedigree. Latter Day Saints doctrine is clearly heresy, but it's Christian heresy, as opposed to Muslim heresy, like Baha'i, or Jewish heresy, like Spinoza or ... well, Christianity. So, whether we like it or not, secular scholars will continue to regard LDS as a Christian denomination, and we sound like testy, religious pedants when we correct them.

Be patient. Remember Herbert Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God? They've reportedly renounced most of their heretical teachings, and are now just another overly strict sect of Protestant Evangelicalism. So you never know, LDS might someday wander its way back into orthodoxy.

"So you never know, LDS might someday wander its way back into orthodoxy."

I certainly hope not...

Correction: We are proposing to overturn 35 years of precedent on one of the tenets of the sexual revolution. Who strikes you as more of a revolutionary: John McCain or Ron Paul?

"Remember Herbert Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God? They've reportedly renounced most of their heretical teachings, and are now just another overly strict sect of Protestant Evangelicalism"

I actually do, as it was my childhood. But I won't say what's left is now "overly strict sect of Protestant Evangelicalism". That actually sounds funny to me.

About the only line I can find (at a quick reading) to disagree with in Deuce's comment is "I'd rather have Hillary or Obama as President than McCain." And that's because I never say things like that, preferring just to say, "Those are all really bad scenarios, and I refuse to be forced to say that one is less bad." But even there I see his point--namely, that a McCain presidency may do more harm to conservatives as a group than a full-fledged liberal presidency.

I apologize for not giving you enough credit, Mr. Beckwith. I should know better than to, as the movie says, "come in here accusicatin' and makin' demandments," having not familiarized myself with your positions first.

Don't sweat it, Jeremy. If Romney wins the nomination, I will strongly support him as well as reprimand those who engage in anti-Mormon bigotry.

FJB

The thread discussion re: Mormonism is remarkably good, esp. for a blog. I'd expect as much from you (Beckwith), whose reflections on Mormonism have been generally first rate as an outsider.

Your reasons for supporting McCain are I'm sure sincere but seem strange to me. I think that differences between Romney and McCain with African-Americans is marginal. Differences in background and personality aren't going to move black voting numbers when the candidate is a Republican. Maybe Huckabee would do better (or could have before SC), but not 9 out of 10 Republicans. And you can't go much lower than 10% of the vote.

If you look at negative/ postive numbers of black protestants for Mormons (like the ones noted at the Princeton conference), they're kind of bad, but not that bad. Many people (and I'm not singling you out) may remember 1978 as a time when the LDS church was a lone island of racism in a country that had moved on, but I don't think blacks view things that way. Two years later you had the GOP candidate talking about "states' rights" in Philadelphia, Mississippi. So I don't think a Mormon Republican is worse than a plain ol' Republican for the black vote.

Plumb Bob: "Chances are that the press will drag out Keating Five details"
I'm not a huge McCain fan, but I'm surprised how much this is mentioned on conservative blogs. It's largely a folk tale. It's quite likely he was included in the final investigation to add GOP balance to an otherwise all-Democratic "Five". In the end the Ethics Committee concluded nothing more than "poor judgment". McCain promptly apologized for it and endorsed ethics reform. Political journalists who have been working for any time at all know how many times McCain has been tarred with this, so it's not just their pro-McCain bias that will prevent them from bringing this old, stale yarn up again.

For 99.9% of all people (including the vast majority of rank and file Christians), the sine qua non of Christianity is bound up in the worship of the historical person of Jesus Christ, belief in his divinity, acceptance of the New Testament account of his life, ministry, death and resurrection, and reliance on the merits of his sacrifice to overcome sin and death.

You just articulated a creed. There is no such thing as a "non-creedal" Christian (or Muslim or Jew or even atheist for that matter), the only question is what creed.

Robert Novak confirms the story about McCain saying Alito is "too conservative" for his taste in a nomination:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/30/AR2008013003212.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

I'm telling you, McCain is bad, bad news.

The first version (John Fund) was that McCain had supposedly said that he might draw the line on a Samuel Alito "he wore his conservatism on his sleeve".

Now, Novak says that nobody seems to know for sure what McCain said, but what he meant was that Alito was "too conservative"...

It is hard to make such an important decision based on what "someone heard what someone might have said to that effect"...

Regarding the first supposed line, I tend to agree with what McCain may have supposedly said: a Roberts "stealth Conservative" is much easier to confirm than a "Conservative-on-his-sleeve". Nonetheless, Alito was easily confirmed in part thanks to the Gang of 14 strategy.

Now, Novak says that nobody seems to know for sure what McCain said, but what he meant was that Alito was "too conservative"...

It is hard to make such an important decision based on what "someone heard what someone might have said to that effect"...

It's not based on what "someone" heard, but on what several people, independently interviewed by Fund and now by Novak, heard. And of course it's not surprising that you can't get 100% consensus on the exact words that were spoken, when your source is multiple different people going by their memories of an event that happened 8 months ago. We still have excellent reason to believe that it happened, unless we're to categorically disbelieve all witness testimony not caught on film.

Regarding the first supposed line, I tend to agree with what McCain may have supposedly said: a Roberts "stealth Conservative" is much easier to confirm than a "Conservative-on-his-sleeve".

Well, I certainly hope that he was talking merely about the practicality of getting a justice confirmed, and not about his personal distaste for Alito's style, though that doesn't seem to be the impression given to Fund and Novak.

"Speaking as a private individual, I would not vote for John McCain under any circumstances," said James Dobson.

Part of the difficulty with this election is it is hard to break the mold of the single election cycle. That is, we often view this particular election and its consequences for this term, etc. Even if McCain won, it seems that would still be bad for the country in the long run, as it would essentially put the kobosh on a principled pro-life stand in either major party. As a supporter of ESC (albeit with "surplus" fertility embryoes), a McCain presidency would make clear that utilitarian ends completely rule both parties on the life issue. It would be only a matter of time (and short time at that) before succumbing to the rest of the ESC program and beyond.

At least with a loss, there may still be hope for a principled pro life stand.*

*Ron Paul would be my preferred candidate, and will be my vote should he remain through the Texas primaries (and in the general election if he runs third party).

...and following up on my previous comment, even if McCain did only mean to say that, from a practical standpoint, a Roberts "stealth Conservative" is much easier to confirm than a "Conservative-on-his-sleeve", it's still a stupid statement.

The fact is, Alito isn't outspoken politically (or otherwise) at all, so it's hard to imagine what McCain could even be referring to. He came with a solid record of practicing judicial restraint, but if that's what McCain means by "wearing his conservatism on his sleeve", we've got a real good reason to be worried.

This is a big red flag (one of many that should've kept conservatives from even considering him long ago), it's totally in-character for McCain, and we ignore it at our own peril.

Let me be clear: I do not believe it was said; or if it was said that it was clearly grasped by those who now claim to have heard it. I was just speculating on a possible meaning, but I believe in the candidate's denial (on record) more than on supposed paraphrases of what McCain may have said.

Fact: McCain is the only Republican nominee who is (and has been) beating both democrats in the national head-to-head polls. (Visit RealClearPolitics.com for details.)

People can talk all they want about Ron Paul or Romney or whoever, but that fact is that they don't stand a chance in the national. Look at the data. If Romney stood a chance I'd vote for him, but all the evidence points in the opposite direction.

Pro-Life dissenters: I grant that McCain isn't a thorough-bred conservative. But who would you rather have appointing judges: Clinton/Obama or McCain? I'm hoping you'd opt for the latter.

Lydia, I'm surprised Frank hasn't answered your objection. Perhaps he thought these lines from Bradley's article would suffice:

McCain has said...that he approved embryo-destructive research in the limited case of so-called “spares”— those embryos “left-over” after couples have exhausted their interest in IVF...In face-to-face conversation with McCain I said not only that such research was wrong, but that it would never be limited to “spares.” I said that big biotech needed a far larger supply of research subjects than “spares” could provide. McCain asked to continue that conversation, to hear more. Now he realizes that there is no need to exploit “spare” embryos, in light of recent successes with adult cells. And so he has been telling South Carolinians over the last few days.

An odd way for Bradley to put it, as if there were ever a "need" for such exploitation. In any case, the link you provide is more recent, and in Florida McCain was still claiming the same old ground. But my question for you is this: does conservative support for McCain - in spite of his (self-professed) reluctant approval of this research - present any more of a moral difficulty than the same support offered to Bush by pro-lifers, in spite of the exceptions he made for incest and rape?

Rodak: Dr. Beckwith was not in error. You can start your reading here, if interested, where you can meet your Heavenly Mother, among other interesting concepts.

Bill, that's a good question. One question (and I can't remember for sure) is whether Bush was advocating funding for such abortions. McCain has always supported tax funding for such research. It ratchets the evil up a notch, I would say. Romney, for example, is still messed up on the ESC research (yes, still, even after his supposed conversion) but _says_--to the extent that one can trust what he says--that he definitely opposes tax funding for it. McCain, I want to reiterate, has always been _dead set_ on tax funding for it. Always. Any new move now is very, very new. Newer even than the link I posted above where he "still favored" it.

There are so very many reasons against McCain. Probably pro-lifers should have been tougher on Bush. I was unhappy about NRLC's downplaying Bush's position on rape and incest in 2000. But Bush did not _before_ his first election show contempt for pro-lifers and conservatives as McCain has over so many years in so many and varied ways. The embryonic funding issue is only one reason in a list.

From an article in today's NYT:

Richard Land, an official of the Southern Baptist Convention and a longtime critic of Mr. McCain, agreed, saying, “He is strongly pro-life.”

“When I hear Rush Limbaugh say that a McCain nomination would destroy the Republican Party,” Dr. Land added, “what I want to say to Rush is, ‘You need to get out of the studio more and talk to real people.’ ”

Lydia: I agree that, from a conservative perspective, "There are so very many reasons against McCain." But there are also some good reasons for him. (1) ESC research aside, he has been consistently pro-life; (2) The democrat he will run against in the national will be someone who is undeniably pro-abortion; (3) Unlike the other Republicans, McCain actually stands a chance to win in the national.

If I take the stand (and I do) that no one who supports, defends or condones the destruction of even a single embryonic person - even to benefit the health of another person - can honestly claim to be pro-life or deserve to be called such by anyone else (even if such a person were strongly opposed to every other crime against the sanctity of human life), I must also take the stand that neither McCain nor Romney is pro-life.

"McCain has said — it is true — that he approved embryo-destructive research in the limited case of so-called “spares”— those embryos “left-over” after couples have exhausted their interest in IVF. .... Now he realizes that there is no need to exploit “spare” embryos, in light of recent successes with adult cells." Gerard V. Bradley

I wouldn't call that a conversion of mind, heart or soul. It's merely a change in course of action, which may not be steadfast.

Can we say that a woman had changed her mind about the morality of abortion if after having seen an image of a surgically aborted child, she chose to have a chemical abortion, or because she was too far along to have a chemical abortion she chose to give birth, but would be willing to chemically abort her next child?

People are making too little out of embryo destruction. If this continues, we will end up doing less to fight against that form of killing our own citizens than we have against abortion.

If we continue to fail to emphasize the personhood and right to life of unborn children rather than the fact that surgical abortion mutilates them and that abortion hurts women, we will never win the fight against killing embryonic children.

We must equally defend the embryonic person. No matter how small, a person is a person.

Four years later, and we're here again. Mitt Romney is once more running for President, causing many Americans to ask, "Are Mormons Christians? While I am fine if individuals consider the religious beliefs as a factor in their voting, I think it's wrong for the media to do so. America was founded on religious freedom. People left England and came here so that they could worship how they wanted, without attack. And where are we now? We are attacking the beliefs of all our candidates. We are undermining the founding principles of our nation. This shouldn't have happened to Kennedy, it shouldn't be happening to Romney. Even President Obama's "supposed" beliefs were attacked by the media; it isn't a partisan issue. It's a moral one.

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