Yesterday, in a politically correct speech for politically correct times, Mitt Romney stated his defense to run for president regardless of his Mormon religion.
Like John F. Kennedy 47 years before him, Romney said, essentially, I am an American not a Mormon, or a Catholic running for president.
There were differences. Romney's speech was given much earlier than Kennedy's 11 months from the election compared to eight weeks and it was twice as long 2,480 words to 1,476. Plus, Romney was speaking to several hundred specially invited guests who applauded as if on cue whereas Kennedy was speaking to several hundred Baptist ministers who didn't applaud at all.
But for the most part they both used their forums to appeal to the good conscience of the American people to not count them out because of the church they belong to.
Still, for all that, in comparing and paralleling himself to Kennedy, Romney did rather dance around the real issue surrounding Mormonism.
His problem is way different than Kennedy's.
His problem is this: 160 years since they drove us out of Nauvoo, people still think Mormons aren't normal.
They think we're weird.
This is perplexing to us who are actual Mormons, and not just because it bugs us that our beliefs, rites and rituals attract a great deal of ridicule when other religions can have their chants, creeds and ceremonies and no one seems to look twice.
Nope. We don't like it because we know we are every bit as normal as they are.
We have our triumphs, we have our defeats, we're gracious, we're petty, we get it right, we screw it up, we're industrious, we're lazy, we're tolerant, we're intolerant, we're thrifty, we're spendthrifts, we're devout, we're indifferent, we're optimistic, we're pessimistic, we're inclusive, we're exclusive, we're happy, we're depressed, we take risks, we play it safe, we marry, we divorce, we're strict, we're lenient, we're funny, we're dull, we turn the double-play, we don't turn the double-play, we're savers, we're spenders, we're sharp dressers, we look like slobs, we're kind, we're harsh, we give, we take.
And sometimes that's all in the same day.
We're a walking contradiction just like everyone else who puts their pants on one leg at a time.
In our heart, we know this. We know we are as normal as a one-dollar bill.
And every bit as capable of producing a president as anyone else.
Kennedy didn't have to fight not being mainstream; on the contrary, as a member of by far the world's largest religious group, he had to fight being too mainstream.
Romney's problem is just the opposite.
I've always thought Mitt Romney is as presidential as they come. He has Kennedy-like charisma and Jefferson-like smarts. If he couldn't lead this country in a straight line, no one could.
But I doubt his speech made much difference.
He might have been better off just wearing a badge that said "Vote For Me. I'm Normal" and leaving it at that.Although they'd probably think that was weird.
Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to [email protected] and faxes to 801-237-2527.