It's a pattern, isn't it?
Mitt Romney, whose succesful career with Bain Capital essentially thrived on his talent as a salesman, aims above all to please.
When asked about interrogating terror suspects in a Fox debate in May he answered, outside of any considerations of practical need, that he would "double Guantanamo." When asked about immigration in the more recent CNN/YouTube debate he insisted that, unlike Giuliani, he would not condone any exceptions for illegals to report crimes or go to school -- lest we create sanctuary cities, sanctuary states, a sanctuary nation. He also claimed on that evening that he believes every word of the Bible -- "Yes!" he said to Anderson Cooper's direct question -- despite the position of his Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which holds that it contains a multitude of errors, corrected in the Book of Mormon.
When Romney goes there, he goes there. Until he goes somewhere else. What we have here is a candidate whose strength is in his cheerful accomodation to almost anyone -- any potential customers, in the broad sense of the word -- who will advance his interests.
He is the "weatherman" that Bob Dylan sings about in Subterranean Homesick Blues (the one that "you don't need...to know which way the wind blows").
That's what is perhaps most troubling about Romney's speech yesterday. He is merely the weatherman, but the actual weather is coming our way.
I first noticed the barometer dropping when the Democratic candidates sat for a "Forum on Faith" in June and answered questions from Soledad O'Brien about their private religious views. Hillary spoke of "prayer warriors." Hmm. I didn't know about prayer warriors. Edwards insisted that "we are all sinners."
Oh, I thought. Thank you. Glad to be informed of that.
Then I thought I might have felt a first raindrop fall when, in a September debate on MSNBC, the Democratic candidates were asked their favorite Bible verse. No one flinched at the inappropriateness of this question, even though, to my ears at least, it verged on religious test for office. Think about it: Could you, if so inclined, actually decline to answer this? Would Tim Russert simply nod and go to the next candidate? Of course not. The next question would have been: Why? Are you not a believer? And that's getting pretty close to a religious test.
Obama helpfully mentioned Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. ("Love your enemy," I guess -- he's still rubbing it in that he will meet directly with the heads of state of North Korea and Iran where Hillary would dither).
Now I know it is not news that the candidates for President, on both sides, have religious convictions. But what is news is that their convictions are being foregrounded in their campaigns. Would it be such a stretch, even in this campaign, to imagine a candidate sporting a "cross pin" or a "crucifix pin" on the opposite side of his coat from the obligatory post 9-11 American flag pin? (You can imagine the... shall we say, disapprobrium, that would follow on Fox News if Obama, or any other candidate, suggested that he need not wear a cross on his lapel to prove his faith. Go at 'em Sean Hannity.)
The climate is indeed a-changing, and in more ways that one. Essentially what we saw yesterday was Romney announcing the weather -- a gathering storm of faith -- on TV.
And Huckabee? Huckabee is the weather.
Yesterday he claimed that his rise in the polls is the direct result of "thousands of people across this country who are praying that a little will become much." (Watch the video here.) Their prayers -- and God's resulting attentiveness to caucus-goers in Iowa -- are lifting Huckabee up, in what can only be described as a sacred updraft, to the highest seat of finite power in this world.