Check the blogs, editorials and talk radio shows across the country, and chances are you'll hear something about presidential candidate Mitt Romney's delivery this week of his "Faith in America" address in Texas. The topic of discussion: Did he hit or miss the mark? Did he defend religious freedom, or did he alienate those who choose no religion? How do his words compare to those of John F. Kennedy, who spoke about his Catholicism nearly half a century ago?
Here is a sampling of the commentary:
• "I think he appealed to a lot of moderates out there in the Republican party.... He is making excellent points about manger scenes being banned from the public square and menorahs being unwelcome. And empty European cathedrals and what that tells us about the direction that Europe is going." Laura Ingraham, author and syndicated radio host, speaking on radio's "Imus In the Morning"
• "If Mitt Romney wins the Republican nomination, it will be due in large measure to his splendid and moving defense of his faith and beliefs delivered today at the George Bush Presidential Library. The address was courageous in a way that John F. Kennedy's speech to the Baptist ministers was not.... Romney did not truckle. He did not suggest that his faith was irrelevant to the formation of his political philosophy." Patrick J. Buchanan, conservative columnist, buchanan.org
• "Mitt Romney gave a tactically astute speech yesterday about the importance of religion in American life, but he addressed it to a particular audience: those who believe in evangelical Christianity as deeply as he holds to the tenets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. ... Someone with ambitions to lead all the people in a pluralistic society should not identify so closely with any religion or religious figure, even one as revered as Jesus. ... the building of a just country and world, not religious fervor, should be the focus of the 2008 presidential campaign." Boston Globe editorial
• "I hope that Romney has helped to set this thing behind him once and for all. Kennedy did a good job. I think Romney hit the ball out of the ballpark today in separating his religious convictions from the role that he would play if elected president." Tony Compolo, president of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, speaking on the "Hannity and Colmes" talk show.
• "I wish Mitt Romney didn't have to give the speech that he gave earlier today. I think it's an unfortunate truth, but he has been, from almost the very beginning, in my estimation, the victim of a very vicious, nasty campaign by people that are attacking religion and using religion as a wedge." Sean Hannity, co-host of "Hannity and Colmes"
• "I don't agree with him politically.... Nevertheless, look at his values, look at his family, look at the way he lives his life, certainly that comports with the things that you as an evangelical Christian believe." Alan Colmes, co-host of "Hannity and Colmes"
• "We only wish his empathy for religious minorities such as his own extended a bit further, to those who do not believe in God. It is regretable that 47 years after John F. Kennedy felt the need to promise voters that his Catholic faith would not dictate his conduct as president, Mr. Romney felt compelled to offer similar assurances.... Where Romney most fell short, though, was in his failure to recognize that America is comprised of citizens not only of different faiths but of no faith at all and that the genius of America is to treat them all with equal dignity." Washington Post editorial
• "I personally found little in it with which to disagree. But it was hardly a speech of the ages.To my ear it was a political speech in the narrowest sense, aimed at reassuring evangelical primary voters, especially in Iowa, who are wary of his Mormon faith.... the most obvious omission was Romney's failure to follow up on his promise to 'offer perspectives on how my own faith would inform my presidency, if elected.'" Kenneth L. Woodward, Newsweek Web exclusive
• "It is not always easy to blend an argument for religious liberty with an argument for religious assertiveness, but Romney did it well. Yesterday, I called around to many of America's serious religious thinkers, including moderates like Richard Bushman of Columbia, and conservatives like Neuhaus and Roberty George of Princeton. Everyone I spoke with was enthusiastic about the speech, some of them wildly so." David Brooks, The New York Times
• "Romney simply offered a series of paragraphs that, while well-phrased, led to no coherent conclusion.... mostly, he offered a caricature of Clintonian triangulation. On the liberal side, Romney endorsed the separation of church and state, supported the tolerance of those with different beliefs, and found something to admire in Catholicism ('the profound ceremony'), Lutheranism ('confident independence'), Judaism ('ancient traditions'), and Islam ('frequent prayer'). On the 'conservative side,' he proclaimed that 'secularism' is a religion, decried the un-churching of Western Europe, and declared that 'freedom requires religion.'" David Kusnet, former presidential speech writer, The New Republic
• "Romney's knock on the 'religion of secularism' was pure pandering to the religious right. I hope Romney's eloquence about 'our grand tradition of religious tolerance and liberty' persuades voters who need convincing that it would be terribly divisive if his Mormon faith were a factor in how he fares in the primaries. I wish he had felt less need to water down his boldness with politically convienent assertations that would also divide us, just in different ways." E.J. Dionne, Washington Post Writers Group
comments on this story
• "It's hard not to be impressed with the speech former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney gave Thursday on faith and religion. He displayed a deep, intuitive understanding of the proper role of religion in public life, while dispelling the notion that his Mormon beliefs are somehow aberrant. It's also hard not to be perturbed by the whole affair. Why is it that the dynamics of the presidential race compelled this candidate, and this one alone, to give this speech?" USA Today editorial
• "How unfortunate it would be if he were rejected on the basis of such irreducible doctrinal differences. The Mormons seem the very embodiment of 'family values,' and you couldn't invent a religious culture that lived more consistently with Biblical messages. ... On the scale of American problems, the Mormons don't even register." Wall Street Journal editorial