January 17, 2008

A few weeks ago, I chastised Mitt Romney for responding to Tim Russert’s question about the past racial policies of the Mormon Church by highlighting his father’s opposition to Barry Goldwater. While I disagree with his depiction of Goldwater, Romney was perfectly correct to stress that he should be judged on his own record, rather than the former policies of his denomination.  

Of course, Russert was not the first to bring up the issue of the Mormon Church’s views on African Americans. In 2006, Andrew Sullivan wrote a hysterical piece attacking past Mormon racism and Romney’s connection to this dark history. Sullivan’s guilt-by-association attack went as far as quoting Brigham Young and then stating that Romney attended Brigham Young University. 

Sullivan inveighed:

“I don’t know if Romney has addressed the question of Mormon racism in its historical practices, or whether he has a record of opposing it in his twenties, when he was a missionary for a racist church. But it strikes me as a matter that will require addressing.”

For Sullivan, Mormons are so uniquely bad that “€œthe only sect I can think of as equivalent is the Nation of Islam”€”in reverse.”€

This last part is interesting, because Barack Obama’s black nationalist church is finally coming under some scrutiny because of its connection to Louis Farrakhan’s Muslim organization. This week it was reveled that Obama’s minister and mentor”€”and the man who coined “€œthe audacity of hope”€“€”Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., presented Farrakhan with a lifetime achievement award.
Richard Cohen wrote a column in the Washington Post on Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism (but not his anti-white racism) and urged that Obama officially denounce the Nation of Islam leader (which he has subsequently done.)

Now if Romney must distance himself from every single Mormon who ever uttered a politically incorrect word, one would think that Andrew Sullivan wouldn”€™t have a problem with Cohen’s request. Instead he went ballistic, calling the column “€œdisgraceful”€ and complained that

“If Obama has to disown a man he has never had anything to do with and a man whose toxic racist politics Obama has consistently and continuously opposed with all his might, then every black candidate is forced to jump through Cohen’s petty little racist litmus test. They’re all guilty of anti-Semitism until proved innocent.”

To Sullivan, Romney must be scrutinized for being born into a large religious denomination whose leaders made statements over a hundred years ago he doesn”€™t like and once had policies he objects to. In contrast, it is beyond reproach to be concerned with the views of a church Obama joined as an adult and a minister to whom he accredits his Christian faith and describes as his “€œsounding board.”€ 

Calling this a double standard would be too generous. 

***Editor’s Note: See Evan McLaren’s excellent post on mainstream conservative’s timidity with regard to Obama’s church from yesterday’s edition***


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