Have you noticed that no one is suggesting that Mitt Romney should select former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman as his running mate? That has more to do with the fact that the Republican primaries seriously undermined Huntsman’s conservative credentials, not to mention that Huntsman was President Obama’s ambassador to China and now says he will skip the GOP convention.
But there’s another reason Huntsman would never find his way onto Romney’s ticket, besides his current estrangement from his own party.
Like Romney, Huntsman is a Mormon.
Little known fact: the 12th amendment to U.S. Constitution essentially bars the president and vice president from inhabiting the same state. However, it does not say that the two shall not be members of the same church. But, in Romney’s case, it might as well.
If there’s one constant in Romney’s political career, it is his reluctance to discuss his religious faith in public. That’s because Romney knows that a considerable percentage of Americans tell pollsters they have a problem with the Mormon church. In fact, many Southern evangelicals don’t consider Mormons to be Christian.
It appears that, if given a choice, Romney would rather talk about his tax returns than his religion. The political facts of life are this — Romney does not want religion to become a prominent topic of debate in this presidential race.
That’s why he would never name a Mormon running mate and it’s why he won’t put Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on his ticket.
It’s the point I made in a blog post several weeks ago, when I noted that Romney was not likely to pick Louisiana’s governor because Jindal, in a 1994 magazine article, wrote a detailed description of his participation in what appears to have been an amateur exorcism.
Stating that political fact of life seems to have annoyed Katrina Trinko, a writer for the National Review, who tees off on my blog post in a story today.
Robert Mann, a longtime staffer for Louisiana Democrats and now a communications professor at Louisiana State University, wrote a June blog post with the headline “Why Bobby Jindal won’t be Mitt Romney’s running mate, in one word: Exorcism.” Jindal, Mann wrote, “cannot exorcise the fact that he participated in a quirky religious ritual that — if he were on the ticket with Romney — would draw a great deal of negative and very unwelcome attention to Romney’s Mormon faith.”
As the buzz about Jindal’s chances of being second on the ticket has increased, Mann has been joined by others. Washington Post blogger Chris Cillizza wondered in a post last week if Jindal had “too many known unknowns” in his past, including “his participation in what some have described as an exorcism during his college years.” Time’s Alex Altman mentioned the incident and wrote that “without casting any aspersions on Jindal’s beliefs, it’s safe to say that Romney — who has dealt with an undercurrent of bigotry toward his own faith — likely wants to avoid a protracted discussion of religious practices that would overshadow his focus on the economy.”
Trinko goes on to quote defenders of Jindal, as if the point of my blog post was to attack the governor.
In political discussions about Jindal’s article, over 5,000 words long, it is generally reduced to his “exorcism experience,” without any attention paid to his careful language and conclusion. Quin Hillyer, a Louisiana native who worked for Louisiana Republican congressman Robert Livingston in the Nineties, thinks that Jindal’s experience won’t be a problem if it is understood in its fuller context.
“Here is a guy who was (a) in college, (b) was not an instigator of this exorcism but was pulled in reluctantly and (c) was trying to help a very dear friend,” comments Hillyer, now a senior fellow at the Center for Individual Freedom and a senior editor for The American Spectator. “And who, on top of that, wrote about it very sensitively. I think if the American people hear this story, and actually read what he wrote, they will say this is a very thoughtful, compassionate person.”
I’m sure Hillyer is 100 percent correct. In the end, should Jindal find himself on Romney’s ticket, voters would eventually shrug and conclude that this exorcism was really no big deal, a youthful indiscretion, somewhat equivalent to Clinton smoking pot or Bush’s DUI.
But that was not my point.
My point was not that Romney and Jindal couldn’t eventually win a debate over Jindal’s apparent exorcism. It was, rather, that all the available evidence suggests that Romney will do almost anything to avoid having this very discussion.
It’s not about whether Romney and Jindal would win the debate; it’s about Romney’s steely determination never to have this debate.
Even Trinko seems to understand that Jindal’s selection would spark a national discussion on religion. She writes: “It is likely that, no matter how the experience ultimately plays, there will be a media firestorm about it initially if Jindal becomes Romney’s running mate.”
Do I care that Romney is a Mormon? No. I couldn’t care less. If he had a Mormon running mate, I’d be fine with that, too.
Do I care if Jindal participated in an exorcism, spiritual warfare, or whatever he might choose to call it? Honestly, as I said in my blog post, I couldn’t care less. If that’s how he wants to spend a Saturday night, that’s fine with me.
In fact, as I made clear in the post, I don’t care about any of this, per se. Well, I do care, a little. Truth be known, I and many other Louisiana voters wouldn’t be so disappointed if Romney chose Jindal.
Should Romney win, Louisiana would not only get Jay Dardenne as governor (I’ve happily voted for him twice for lieutenant governor), we’d also get – for the first time in six years – a full-time governor who would remain on the job, in Baton Rouge, for more than a week or two at a time.
And, in turn, the nation would get a decent, deeply religious man as its vice president.