Time magazine is shooting straight at Mitt Romney’s religion. On the Time Ideas blog, the conservative-bashing psychoanalyst Dr. Justin Frank has an article titled “The Root of Mitt Romney’s Comfort With Lying.” That root, he says, is Mormonism.
Dr. Frank is agitated that Romney would “lie” about Obama’s economic record: "But this pattern of lying and not acknowledging it, even when confronted directly, has persisted and led me to look for other sources of Romney’s behavior and of his clear comfort with continuing it. I think much of this comfort stems from his Mormon faith."
I’ll get to Romney’s treatment of Obama’s record shortly. But let’s unravel all the Mormon-bashing first:
I found myself discussing this situation with several colleagues, and we agreed that Romney doesn’t lie. Let me repeat: Mitt Romney doesn’t lie. He is telling the truth as he sees it — and truth it is, the facts notwithstanding. This is not simply a case of Hamlet arguing about point of view, saying, "For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." This is about a conflict between evidence and faith. There is a long tradition in the Mormon belief system in which evidence takes second place to faith. Examples abound, as when two Mormon elders who were questioned about the inconsistency in passages from the Book of Mormon said, "We know the Book of Mormon is true and that it contains the Word of God even in the face of evidence that appears contradictory," according to The Mormon Missionaries by former Mormon Janice Hutchison. Thus there are no lies, only faith-based certainty that translates as truth for which no apology is needed, since what was said was not a lie.
In almost every religion, faith requires a reliance on more than evidence. So if Obama is a Christian (more than a golfer), he could also be vulnerable to this kind of secular attack. He believes in a virgin birth? Then clearly he's comfortable with lies. Dr. Frank asserted you don't have to be Mormon to lie, but you do have to lie to be a Mormon:
One doesn’t have to be a Mormon to lie — just look at John Edwards or former Nevada Senator John Ensign. But in the Mormon Church, there was a decision to accept authority as true — whether or not evidence supported it. Hence Joseph Smith, the founder of the faith in 1820, claimed he was illiterate and received the Book of Mormon directly from God. But he could read, and read very well.
This unwavering faith is central to Romney’s comfort in deflecting any examples that the press might bring up of his lying. Further, it allows him to repeat lies again and again — both personally and in political advertising — because to him they are not lies at all. I’m reminded of that old epigram from the 1960s: "My mind is made up; don’t confuse me with the facts." That may be all good and well in many offices, but it’s not so good in the Oval Office.
Romney's offense, according to Dr. Frank, was claiming that President Obama knowingly hampered the economic recovery to pass ObamaCare. Obama adviser Larry Summers said he always admired that Obama had the vision to know that "50 years from now, people would remember that all Americans have health care...even if pursuing health care affected the pace of the recovery, which was unlikely in my view, people wouldn’t remember how fast the recovery from this recession was.”
The author he cited, Noam Scheiber, felt Romney was misleading, but acknowledged a kernel of truth in it:
I can't give Romney the full “you know nothing of my work” treatment. While he’s definitely misrepresenting Summers and the administration, there’s a kernel of truth to his interpretation of my book. I argue that Obama really was more focused on long-term, historically significant accomplishments than marginal, near-term differences in the pace of the recovery. On some level, Obama was prepared to accept (and I’m making up these numbers for argument’s sake) three years of painfully high unemployment with health care reform rather than 30 months of painfully high unemployment without it. And the reason is the one Summers alluded to (before disputing): Health care was simply more historically important than avoiding those extra six months of pain.
Now, I happen to think this was a reasonable tradeoff—the logic being along the lines Summers lays out—even if I might have made a different call. But it was a trade-off nonetheless (even if the White House rejects this). And for the average voter who’s upset that unemployment has been so high for so long, it’s something they need to consider when evaluating Obama’s record.
Justin Frank is the same "doctor" who diagnosed all the Republican candidates a few months ago with "a childish need to explain mystery — especially to blame someone else for any personal discomfort or stress. With his exotic “other”-ness, and his mysterious capacity to tolerate mystery, Obama is an appealing recipient of that blame."