Romney is 'Closeted' Mormon, Frank Rich Tells Rachel Maddow

Liberals hate it when conservative politicians talk about their religion. Except when they don't. They hate that too.

Damned if they do, damned if they don't. (video after page break)

An example of this could be seen Monday night on "The Rachel Maddow Show" when Maddow was talking about Mitt Romney with guest Frank Rich, former drama critic for the New York Times now writing for New York magazine.

Rich theorized that Romney fails to connect with many voters because of reticence about his Mormon religion --

RICH: One thing that I've been grappling with, I think a lot of people have been, is why does this guy not connect? Why has he seemed plastic, basically? And the standard answer is, he's stiff, he's rich, he needs better performance skills, he needs to learn how to speak better before crowds. But I think part of it is also that there's one thing that he feels really passionate about is his religion. He's had a long history in the Mormon church as a leader and because he feels, and it would be sad if it was true, that people are bigoted about it, he just doesn't want to talk about it. And yet, that's something I think he probably cares about more than Bain and all the money and all the Cayman Islands and Swiss bank accounts. But I think you feel that there's some-, you're not getting the true Romney and I don't think we are.

MADDOW: So you feel like because, maybe that is the thing that he could tell stories about, that he could talk about in a personal way that would, for lack of a better term, animate him, that would make us sense more of who he is.

RICH: I agree. I think that's exactly it and I think, look, the Mormon religion is a really interesting kind of great American story that, you know, a lot of things about it have been good for the country and helped build the country, particularly in the West, but he just doesn't go there. So it's almost as if he's closeted about his religion and I think that makes him seem fake.

Say for the sake of argument that Romney did as Rich suggests and spoke more about his religion. Can there be any doubt that liberals like Rich and Maddow would hesitate all of a nanosecond before condemning Romney as yet another conservative foisting his religion on others?

Another scenario comes to mind: Romney elaborates on his Mormonism as Rich suggests. Followed by Rich criticizing Romney for not divulging enough, campaigning when he should be observant, not leading Mormon pride parades through Salt Lake City ... the demands would never end.

What is arguably most notable about Rich's criticism is the compliment he included in it, describing Romney's religion as something "he probably cares about more than Bain and all the money and all the Cayman Islands and Swiss bank accounts." Mark your calendar -- this may be the only praise of Romney you'll ever hear on MSNBC, or at least during that 95 percent of its airtime when the views heard are from left of center.

Jack Coleman
Liberated ex-liberal from the People's Republic of Massachusetts