Here’s the beginning of our conversation yesterday:
HH: Now I want to start by letting people know, you’ve been writing for Time Magazine how many years?
NG: It’ll be 22 years this fall.
HH: So you’ve seen a lot of presidential candidates come and go.
NG: I have.
HH: Have you ever seen a conversation about a candidate’s religious faith as intense as the one surrounding Mitt Romney?
NG: I have not, and the closest thing, and it wasn’t even, I don’t think it even came anywhere close to this, was when Al Gore nominated Joe Lieberman as his running mate. And yet, I don’t think even that conversation approached this one. You really do, as many people have pointed out, you have to go back to 1960 to have anything like this kind of conversation. That’s really the reference point.
HH: When I was writing A Mormon In The White House?, I reviewed the famous The Making Of The President 1960 book, as well, ’64 and ’68, when Mitt Romney’s dad was involved in national politics. There was nothing like the intensity, either, or…I lack the word for it, brass knuckled, perhaps, Nancy Gibbs. What was your impression of the people eager to attack the Mormon faith? Were they overly aggressive? Or was it just par for the course these days?
NG: Well, you know, what I wonder when you talk about his father’s run, especially in 1968, is whether what happened in 1960, the fact that the country had an intense discussion about the relevance of Kennedy’s Catholicism, and essentially concluded that the substance of private religious faith is really not relevant to the discussion of qualification for public office. I wonder whether the residue of that conversation was still fresh in people’s minds when Mitt Romney’s father was running, and it has somehow faded, and so now we are, all these years later, having the conversation again, and much more intensely.
Read the whole thing. We have to hope that gradually the MSM will get to where Gibbs already is: Aware that the attacks on Romney’s faith are unprecedented and unsavory. Gibbs notes that those in 1960 who were opposed to Kennedy were divided by Theodore White into the ignorant and the bigoted, and that Romney faces the same two camps today. I added that today there is a third group, or actually a respectable division among the bigoted, and that some of those have access to MSM. That’s what makes Romney’s challenge more difficult. When Jacob Weisberg and Al Sharpton are attacking a religion, the bigotry Romney confronts seems at the same time more respectable and more loathsome, more subtle and much more crude, but it is certainly a more powerful presence in the MSM than it was in JFK’s day.