Monday, January 28, 2008

Book Review: "A Mormon in the White House?" by Hugh Hewitt

Conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt is familiar to many. I listen to him locally on KRLA 870 AM (or the parts I want to on his podcast found at When it became apparent over a year ago that Massachusetts's governor, Mitt Romney was going to be a leading candidate for the Republican nomination as President, he wrote this book examining Romney's views and looking at the problems a Mormon would face running for President in the United States.

Hewitt begins the book with a look at Romney's background, including his father's run for the presidency, his life at Bain & Company and Bain Capital, the turnaround of the 2002 Winter Olympics, and his family life. The key elements of the book though are, obviously, the sections on Romney's positions, how the Mormon issue will affect Romney's candidacy, and the advantages Romney has as a candidate.

Pro-Life: Romney readily admits he came around to this position in 1994. This was at the time when he ran for the Senate against Ted Kennedy. Hewitt argues Romney would be for a strict interpretation of the Constitution, thus helping the pro-life movement in the courts. He also points out that Romney, as governor, vetoed four provisions that would have expanded abortion rights and that he kept his promise to not pass any new pro-abortion laws. (Something to keep in mind. If Romney had run saying he would ban abortion, he NEVER would have been elected in liberal Massachusetts. Another thing to consider is this: He took a pro-life stance/change in 1994 when it would have been advantageous to stay pro-choice.)
Traditional Marriage: Hewitt points out Romney strongly attacked the Mass. Supreme Court and their forcing of gay marriage onto the legislature. 
Governorship: Romney frequently hired people from outside of government who brought a fresh, business-like mindset to the Mass. executive office. He also was able to balance the budget within a year without raising taxes. Hewitt also went into detail on Romney's health care plan which utilized private insurance companies, expanded health care, did not raise taxes, and did not create any new government programs.

Mormon issue:
Hewitt brings up three arguments people (and other candidates) would use to argue against electing a Mormon; that Salt Lake City would be calling the shots, it would supercharge Mormon missionary work, and "it's just too weird." Hewitt argues that SLC would not call the shots anymore than the Vatican did during the Kennedy presidency (which wasn't much at all) and that if Romney were to just follow Mormon leadership, it would greatly discredit (and after four years) end his Presidency. He also points out, in regard to the supercharged missionary work, that a President has very little impact on the faith of the individuals of a nation. People come to faith based on the personal witness of individuals, not because their national leader is of that faith. For instance, could you argue that the number of evangelicals has risen in the past eight years due to President Bush? Hewitt's response to the "weird" argument should clearly dispel this point. Hewitt shows that to non-Christians, the beliefs of Christianity would seem pretty "weird" also. He makes this argument not to say Mormons are equal to Christians in saving faith, but to point out that while the argument may be used against a Mormon today, it could be used against a Christian tomorrow.

While Hewitt gave a bunch of other advantages (public persona, ability to fund a campaign, etc) the best advantage he gave Romney is that he IS NOT John McCain. While at the time of the writing of the book, Hewitt did not see Huckabee as a main player, he points out Romney's candidacy is much more appealing to a Republican base that despises McCain's numerous compromises and arrogance. He also shows Romney is much more appealing to the base when compared with Giuliani's liberal social views.

The book got off on a wrong note when it referred to the Korean War starting in 1947 (It started in 1950) and it is already slightly outdated since it does not factor in Huckabee's strong showing. While the date of the war is wrong, the point of the story fits well with the book and it can probably be attributed to editor error anyway. That being said, the book does a great job of showing who Mitt Romney is, and provides a solid argument as to why Republicans should vote for him. If you have not voted yet, I recommend you read this book.

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