As I was driving to work yesterday, NPR was broadcasting a snippet of a speech made the night before by Mitt Romney. That’s when it hit me. I’d been trying for weeks to pin down who it was that Romney reminds me of, and with the patent insincerity of that speech, it finally clicked.
Mitt Romney is the Eddie Haskell of politics.
Eddie Haskell, for those of you too young to remember, was the disgusting little sycophant on “Leave it to Beaver.” The character was so vivid, his very name became synonymous with dishonest sucking up.
In the speech fragment I heard, Romney was feigning outrage over the new regulations promulgated by HHS, requiring all employers who offer health insurance–including religious employers like hospitals and universities–to include coverage for contraception. As I previously blogged, there are legitimate concerns when government issues regulations that are intended to protect or benefit the general public when those rules run afoul of some folk’s religious beliefs. But there was no such nuance in Romney’s attack–not to mention any recognition of the fact that several states have imposed similar regulations for years. Nope, according to Mitt, Obama was purposely attacking religion, and he wouldn’t do that if he were President. No siree!
Let’s just deconstruct that attack.
Romney is a Mormon, and the federal government long ago outlawed polygamy. The effect of that prohibition was to deny Mormons the ability to live by what was at the time considered an essential tenet of their religion, yet Romney has never criticized that restriction–indeed, he has said he agrees with it. The HHS regulation, on the other hand, does not require anyone to use birth control in contravention of their religious beliefs; it merely requires them to make that option available to employees who come from different religious traditions and/or hold different beliefs. The regulation doesn’t apply to churches–just to large religiously-run organizations like hospitals and universities, where employees represent a wide diversity of backgrounds and faith traditions.
There are plenty of laws that have incidental effects on religious practices. For example,laws requiring schoolchildren to be vaccinated pose problems for Christian Scientists. Quakers believe they should not be required to pay taxes that support wars (the courts have not been receptive to that argument). Laws requiring photo IDs for driver’s licenses are a genuine dilemma for fundamentalist Muslim women whose beliefs require them to wear full burkas. (Somehow, I doubt Mitt would get too worked up over that one, since the base he is so shamelessly pandering to tends to be virulently anti-Muslim.)
None of these “attacks on religion” have merited even a passing mention from Mitt Romney.
That’s the problem with channelling Eddie Haskell. The insincerity overwhelms the message.