Welcome to Behind the Lines, a weekly conversation with Salt Lake Tribune cartoonist Pat Bagley and BYU economist Val Lambson.
Lambson: I know you want to discuss the Mitt Romney cartoon. So here goes. The question of whether Romney's Mormon faith should matter to voters, or whether JFK's Catholic faith should have mattered, or whether Joe Leiberman's Jewish faith should matter, or whether any candidate's religion or lack thereof should matter, all seem similar to me. Most voters probably try to vote for the candidate who is most likely to implement policies closest to the ones they prefer. Whatever politicians say, they tend to act differently once elected. So it makes sense to use whatever information we have about them in trying to guess what they will actually do in office. Romney has a track record in office. People can sensibly decide whether to vote for him based on whether they like that record; it is probably a pretty good indication of what to expect from him as president. How his Mormonism will affect his decisions is probably already reflected in his prior behavior in office. I don't see a legitimate reason to consider it separately.
Bagley: So, Romney probably won't be taking his orders from Salt Lake. I was never really worried about that. My eye-rolling is reserved for the GOP for subjecting their candidates to a "religious test," as Perry, Cain, Bachmann, Gingrich, Santorum and, yes, Romney, humbly trot out their spiritual awesomeness for primary voters to examine. Jesus' warnings to the faithful against publicly flexing one's piety have gone right out the window.
Lambson: Yet another way you are disturbed by the GOP. Last week you suggested that you have some problems with the Democrats also. I would love to know what those are.
Bagley: Jesus even had a pithy quip about Democrats. "... because thou art lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spew thee out of my mouth." Democrats are about making deals, which is normal in politics. Obama should have realized early on that the current GOP isn't about normal politics. To Republicans, this is war. Which is why we ended up with a Republican national health care plan that not a single Republican voted for.
"Obamacare's" main component, the "Individual Mandate," was first dreamed up by the conservative Heritage Foundation. The following link from a recent GOP debate says it all hysterically. True slapstick. Gingrich and Romney perform a policy vaudeville routine worthy of Abbot and Costello: http://www.forbes.com/sites/aroy/2011/10/20/how-a-conservative-think-tank-invented-the-individual-mandate/ The "Public Option" was a natural Democratic fit, but was given away in the spirit of bipartisan compromise. Now they are left defending a lukewarm program that isn't even theirs.
So, is Romney going to be the one to fulfill LDS founder Joseph Smith's prediction that the Latter-day Saints would one day save the Constitution? My sources in Utah Valley assure me that is the plan.
Lambson: Of course your beef with the Democratic Party would be that they aren't liberal enough. Who voted for what, however, is only a matter of political maneuvering. The parties are both working toward bigger government involvement in health care as well as most everything else. (Recall it was Bush who expanded prescription drug benefits.) There is a ratchet effect. Programs seldom disappear once they are implemented. So even though you want to sprint along the Road to Serfdom, don't be too frustrated with the slow pace. You appear to be winning.
I am unaware that Romney is part of a plan to save the Constitution. Perhaps I missed the memo.
Bagley: You seem to want to convert me to the bracing freedom of libertarianism, and all I wanted was to talk about religion in politics. Let me make a stab at combining the two by quoting Ron Paul quoting Sinclair Lewis in 2007 on Fox News: When fascism comes to this country, it will be wrapped in a flag carrying a cross.
Usual sniping in the comment section, generating lots of heat but little light. There was, however, "catsailor" sharing that the "liberal media" may not be Cain's biggest problem: "He's not going to be the nominee, if I can just be honest here. He was never going to be the nominee," Weekly Standard editor William Kristol said on "Fox News Sunday." Ed Rollins, the longtime Republican operative and former Michele Bachmann campaign manager, told POLITICO that Cain's moment in the sun was already over: "This guy knows nothing about foreign policy, '9-9-9' has been ripped apart, the girl problem is not going away and his beating up the media shows a thin skin that will get him in trouble. You combine that with no real campaign and his days are limited."