The Big Lie: President Obama wants “take God off our coins.”
The Truth: Mitt Romney is using an invented attack in order ease fears about his religion and to agitate fears about the president’s faith.
During the Democratic National Convention, just one story interested the right wing press: “The Democrats booed God!” They were referring to an impromptu vote on the Democratic platform’s mention of God and a plank recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state. The voice vote was close and the chair accepted the “yeas” without any further consideration. The crowd booed.
This fictional booing of God was the headline of the Drudge Report on the day after Bill Clinton’s now-classic convention speech was the headline in most of reality. The convention was doomed! Or so the right claimed, because of those boos. A week later, the President is up by more than three percent in the Real Clear Politics average and by five percent in Gallup’s daily tracking poll.
As this bounce began to take flight, Mitt Romney decided to take the apocryphal Democratic razzing of the Almighty to a new level. Over the weekend he added a new refrain to his stump speech. “That pledge says ‘under God,’ and I will not take God out of our platform,” Romney told a crowd in Virginia Beach. “I will not take God off our coins, and I will not take God out of my heart.” Conan O’Brien wondered how Romney knew what a coin is.
Recognizing that no one outside of the right wing faux-outrage machine can summon much (or any) outrage about language in a party platform, Romney tried to make the issue concrete by suggesting that there is a concerted effort in America to remove “In God We Trust” from United States currency.
The Obama campaign responded, “The president believes as much that God should be taken off a coin as he does that aliens will attack Florida.”
Romney has continued to make his pointless assertion about not taking God out of his platform or his heart – and leaving the coinage part out. This raises the question: Why – if Mitt Romney supposedly wants to make this election strictly about the economy – is he invoking God?
The answer reveals both the weakness of Mitt’s campaign and the cravenness he now regularly displays.
Evangelicals are an essential part of the Republican base. One of the more reassuring aspects of the 2012 campaign is that Romney’s membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has not prevented him from consolidating support from far right establishment, who have often been suspicious of Mormons. At the Republican convention, evangelical leader Mike Huckabee said: “I care far less as to where Mitt Romney takes his family to church than I do about where he takes this country.”
However, Romney’s faith remains an issue to many voters. According to Reuters/Ipsos, 35 percent of voters would be less likely to vote for a Mormon. By embracing “God” in a vague way, Romney is reassuring these voters that he is a God-fearing man.
At the same time, Romney is playing on a persistent fear of President Obama that has been nurtured by the right wing. Nearly four years into his presidency, only 49 percent of voters correctly identify the President as a Christian. Nearly one in five think he is a Muslim.
By asserting that he will not take God “out of his heart,” Romney is, by inference, suggesting that his opponent has done so.
Romney believed that voters would believe that the economy is failing and would see the election as a referendum on the economy. Instead, it’s clear that voters see the election as a choice, as the president said in his convention speech, between two paths.
A just released poll by right-leaning pollster Rasmussen Reports finds that voters trust President Obama on job creation by a two percent margin. That’s within the margin of error but a sign that voters don’t buy the argument that Mitt Romney knows how to create jobs better than the president does.
So what do you do when you can’t win on the economy? Mitt appeals to the fears of the voters with implication, insinuation, and invented charges.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.” By definition this is an objective to which most of us can only aspire. Mitt Romney could start by not involving God in his falsehoods.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File