Wednesday, November 28, 2007

over the coffee [remember that?]

- by Donald Kaul
As experienced readers of this space (both of you) know, I am not a fan of the Republican Presidential candidates.
I like the Libertarian, Ron Paul, but he'd drive me crazy as President. I admire John McCain but he's in love with the war. It goes down from there---to Rudy Giuliani, who is Dick Cheney without the charm.
But I don't understand why some people, and more than a few, think Mitt Romney is unqualified because he is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. A Mormon.
There seems to be this feeling that Mormonism is more cult than religion and a kooky cult at that. To that I say, let's put it to the test:
Do Mormons drink sacramental wine and pretend they're drinking the blood of their founder? No, Mormons don't drink at all, actually.
Do Mormons, as a matter of ritual, hire a non-medical person to mutilate their baby sons' penises when they're eight days old? I don't believe so.
Do Mormons rush into crowded buildings and blow themselves up in expectation that God will reward them with eternal life in a heaven equipped with 32 virgins per martyr? Never heard of it happening.
All of those things happen in other religions.
What about polygamy? Well, what about it? The Mormon Church withdrew its sanction of polygamy in 1890---117 years ago. If you're expecting Mitt Romney to take two or three more wives any time soon you're going to be sadly disappointed. Actually, of the four major Republican candidates, he's the only one who's had only one wife.
My point is this: Looked at from the outside, all religions seem more than passing strange and, at their extremes, downright crazy. That is because they are not rational; they are systems of belief. Attempts to justify religious beliefs rationally are always a little absurd (see "scientific creationism"). Belief and the feeling of well-being it engenders need no further justification.
I'm fine with that. It's a free country; believe what you want (except for the bombing, of course).
I'm sure Mormons practice things that seem odd to the rest of us. So what? Looked at objectively, from a distance, they are an admirable people---clean-living, industrious, generous and civic-minded.
If you don't want to vote for Mitt Romney, I can think of a number of very good reasons not to do so. Being a Mormon isn't one of them.
I suppose you now imagine that I think the Democratic candidates are the cat's pajamas, a bunch of would-be philosopher-kings vying to lead us out of the wilderness.
Not even close. I think they tend to be professional politicians who have spent their political lives walking around with a tin cup, begging money from rich contributors. They have sold out so many times to so many people that they can hardly remember who owns them anymore. They just know it's not the American people.
Not that I blame them. That's our system. If you don't do it you don't get to be a serious candidate for President. You get to be Dennis Kucinich.
Still, there's something about each of the Democrats that I can like. It's an extremely intelligent, articulate group, for the most part very knowledgeable about the problems that beset this country.
What's missing, I think, is a sense of boldness in addressing those problems, a message that some solutions require sacrifice, not merely by the very rich but by all of us.
I'd like a candidate to tell Iowa that corn-based ethanol is a fraud and that the state is setting itself up for disaster by depending on it for so much of its economic prosperity. I'd like him or her to tell the American voter that the problem with gasoline isn't that it's too expensive, but that it's too cheap.
It's not enough to talk truth to power; you have to talk it to voters too.
I'm not holding my breath.
Don Kaul is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-losing Washington correspondent who, by his own account, is right more than he's wrong. Email: -- A photo of Donald Kaul is available CLICK HERE
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