In the halcyon days of TV there was a game show, “To Tell The Truth,” in which contestants bluffed – even lied – their way through their résumés, claiming experiences and expertise they did not have. The object of the game was to fool the panel into voting for the bogus contestants, instead of the one who really was who (s)he claimed to be. This seems to be the strategy Mitt Romney (R-MA) is using to get to the White House.

Romney has falsely claimed to have been a hunter “pretty much all my life”; to have been “endorsed” by the National Rifle Association; to have “made it tougher for people with meth labs” when he was governor of MA; and to have seen his father march with Martin Luther King, Jr. (in a 1978 interview with the Boston Herald, Romney had also claimed, “My father and I marched with Martin Luther King Jr. through the streets of Detroit.”)

The New York Times asks whether Romney has a “problem with blurring the truth”:

Some of the instances when Mr. Romney has tripped up on his facts show that he is prone to exaggeration, taking what is essentially a kernel of truth and stretching it to bolster his case. …

Indeed, with many of these instances, there has often been at least an element of his truth in his claims. But for a candidate who has featured his business background and made much of his propensity for careful analysis of data, he is not always precise.

Not always precise? The Times must mean that, um, figuratively. Here’s how Romney explains why no contemporaneous news accounts place him or his father at any of King’s civil rights marches:

Mitt Romney acknowledged yesterday that he never saw his father march with Martin Luther King Jr. as he asserted in a nationally televised speech this month, and historical evidence shows that Michigan’s Governor George Romney and the civil rights leader never did march together.

Romney said his father had told him he had marched with King and that he had been using the word “saw” in a “figurative sense.”

“If you look at the literature, if you look at the dictionary, the term ‘saw’ includes being aware of in the sense I’ve described,” Romney told reporters in Iowa. “It’s a figure of speech and very familiar, and it’s very common. And I saw my dad march with Martin Luther King. I did not see it with my own eyes, but I saw him in the sense of being aware of his participation in that great effort.”

As Michael Dobbs, who writes The Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog points out:

Mitt Romney was 16 years old in 1963 at the time that Martin Luther King organized a series of “Freedom Marches” through American cities, including Detroit. At the time, the Mormon Church, of which the Romneys were prominent members, still maintained an official ban on the full participation of African-Americans in religious rites, a ban that was not lifted until 1978. Nevertheless, the senior Romney sympathized with the Civil Rights movement and issued a proclamation in support of a civil rights march through Detroit in June attended by King.

According to researchers at the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project at Stanford University, George Romney declined to attend the first march on June 23, a Sunday, on the grounds that he would not take part in political activity on the Sabbath. Susan Englander, who is associate editor of the King papers, said that Romney participated in a different march six days later through the suburb of Grosse Pointe. She believes that it is unlikely that King was present on that occasion, as contemporaneous newspaper reports fail to mention him.

Though the participation of the Romney père et fils at any of King’s civil rights marches is a figment of the candidate’s overactive imagination, he was nonetheless so moved by the thought of racism, that his eyes welled with tears (video) on NBC’s “Meet the Press” as he recalled hearing a news report on this car radio in 1978 that the Mormon Church would no longer discriminate against blacks, telling Tim Russert that he “pulled over and literally wept.”

That’s not how Romney played this supposedly seminal moment during his unsuccessful 1994 race against Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, reports Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi:

Joseph P. Kennedy II, Kennedy’s nephew and a congressman at the time, criticized the Mormon Church for its policy of racial exclusion. The Romney campaign angrily noted that the policy changed in 1978. Romney said he was greatly relieved, but said nothing about weeping for joy when he learned about it. During a press conference, Romney also accused Kennedy of betraying his brother John’s victory in 1960 when JFK faced voter skepticism about his Catholic religion.

Mission accomplished: Joe Kennedy apologized, and Senator Kennedy backed off, too. Romney’s Mormon faith was off the table, where it belongs. Romney never delved any deeper into his feelings about his church’s past policy, saving a Bill Clinton moment for national TV and his presidential quest.

Leaving aside that even back then, Romney used “religious bigotry” as a smokescreen, Vennochi means “Clintonian” in a “feel your pain” sort of way. Syndicated columnist Star Parker, uses the term in a “you can’t trust a word out of his mouth” sort of way:

It’s doubtful that anyone needs any more reasons to explain why Americans are fed up with politics as usual. Nevertheless, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has given us one more.

Apparently when Romney said, “I saw my father march with Martin Luther King,” in his much publicized “Faith in America” speech … he meant this “figuratively.”

According to the former Massachusetts governor, “If you look at the literature or the dictionary the term ‘saw’ includes being aware of in the sense I have described. It is a figure of speech….”

We haven’t seen a politician parse a sentence like this since Bill Clinton dissected the meaning of the verb “is” and explained that it was Monica who had sex with him and not the other way around.

The next sentence in the speech following the King claim was, “I saw my parents provide compassionate care to others, in personal ways nearby….” Also figuratively?

It sure sounds that way to Wall Street Journal editorial board member Jason Riley. By the time the Mormon Church issued its “Official Declaration” on June 8, 1978, to extend “priesthood and temple blessings to all worthy male members of the Church” – only after the church’s then-president Spencer Kimball received a “revelation” – Riley notes that “the U.S. was more than a century removed from a civil war over the status of blacks; W.E.B Du Bois and Henry Moskowitz had co-founded the NAACP; and President Truman had integrated the military three decades before.”

Until this “revelation,” Mormons regarded people who had even “one drop” of black in them “unrighteous,” “despised” and “loathsome” descendants of the biblical Cain, who was cursed for killing Abel. And afterward?

Riley cites Mormon scholar Armand Mauss who wrote in 2004 that “ironically, the doctrinal folklore that many of us thought had been discredited, or at least made moot, through the 1978 revelation, continued to appear … [in church literature] written well after 1978 and continues to be taught by well-meaning teachers and leaders in the church to this very day.”

No doubt, Romney was raised on these teachings – Riley writes that by in 1978, “Romney was a 31-year-old vice president at Bain & Co. and a lifelong devout Mormon. Throughout his current campaign for the Republican nomination, Mr. Romney has declined to distance himself from the repugnant racial teachings of his church.”

What if in addition to refusing to repudiate the (past?) racism of the Mormon Church, Romney himself repeated these repugnant doctrines while trying to win converts as a missionary in France, or teaching Sunday school as a church bishop?

The MSM shouldn’t allow Romney to hide behind “anti-Mormon bigotry” in refusing to answer questions about his beliefs – or buy into the fiction that asking such questions of a presidential candidate is imposing an unconstitutional “religious test.” As Riley puts it, “[i]t’s due diligence.”

Especially, as some suggest, the lack of truthfulness about Mormonism may go beyond Romney’s own personal problems with honesty.

In a column radio talk show host Bob Burney (weekday afternoons, WRFD, 880 AM in Columbus, OH) asks, “What has happened to the simple principle of telling the truth?,” referring to “notable change in the way the LDS Church presents itself to the general public, an effort that began sometime around the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City”:

Prior to that, there was not a readily-apparent effort by Mormons to identify themselves as a form of Christianity. … I remember a time when it was common for Mormons to be offended if you called them Christian. That was then.

Sometime around 2002 a very noticeable shift occurred. Suddenly they wanted to be accepted as a part of mainstream Christianity … [E]ven a peripheral study of Mormonism will reveal that the Jesus of Mormonism isn’t even in the same universe (literally) as the Jesus of orthodox Christianity. The Jesus of Mormonism is the “spirit child” of his “heavenly parents.” He is in no way part of a triune Godhead. …

At the same time, the official LDS Web site was totally overhauled and some of the more bizarre doctrines held by the Church were carefully hidden deep within the site – doctrines such as “the Fall” actually being a good thing … the ability to actually become a God and have your own planet to rule over … that Jesus and Lucifer (yes, Satan) were actually brothers. …

This is America. You can believe anything you want. … If you believe it, be proud of it – don’t try to hide it. …

[When presidential candidate Mike] Huckabee … wondered out loud to the veteran religion reporter Zev Chafets: “Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?” Well, that’s exactly what they believe! Several news outlets immediately accused Huckabee of attacking Romney’s religion. Blogs went berserk!

How did candidate Romney respond to someone revealing what his church actually believes? He said, “But I think attacking someone’s religion is really going too far. It’s just not the American way, and I think people will reject that,” Romney told NBC’s “Today” show. …

Does this have anything to do with Mitt Romney and his qualifications to be president? Everyone will have to decide that in his or her own heart. I just wish the Mormons, including Mitt Romney, would simply be more candid and tell us the straight truth about their religion.

And who ran 2002 Winter Olympics when the Mormons were busy repackaging their religion for public (read MSM) consumption? Romney.

The only way John Fund, Hugh Hewitt, Charles Krauthammer and other pundits can call people who are asking inconvenient questions (in other words, doing their jobs for them) “bigots” is to choose to remain ignorant by confined their “research” on Mormonism to marketing materials sanctioned by the Mormon Church. They have abrogated their responsibilities as journalists by not bothering to delve into the “doctrinal folklore” that Fund’s colleague Riley briefly touches on in his column – unwritten, passed orally from Sunday school teacher to future priests and missionaries. For instance, Fund once dismissed the “White Horse Prophesy” as a fantasy. Perhaps he ought to bestir himself to look further into it.

To answer Burney’s question, if a man can lie about his core beliefs he will lie about everything else – and Romney’s record of flip-flopping on abortion and other fundamental issues certainly bears this out. If the pundits weren’t so busy ascribing character flaws to people who balk at voting for Romney, the candidate’s reluctance to forthrightly discuss Mormonism – further, to lie about its doctrines (second item) – would have raised red flags a long time ago.

As Parker bluntly puts it: “Republicans can win back the hearts and minds of Americans. But they have to get real and get honest. Unlike the former governor of Massachusetts.”

Note: The Stiletto writes about politics and other stuff at The Stiletto Blog.

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