Baptist Pastor Says Mormonism is a Cult, Perry Campaign Spinning Like a Top

I’ve been hearing ‘spin’ on Rick Perry’s response to Baptist Pastor Robert Jefress’ introduction of him at the Values Voter Summit and his “Mormonism is a cult” comments.

What was initially reported on Friday (Oct 7th) differs from the quote I’ve heard the media air for the last two days:

Perry campaign spokesman, Mark Miner, emailed Perry’s response to FOX News: “The governor doesn’t agree with every single issue with everyone he knows or supports his candidacy. He is running for president to get our economy back on track and create jobs. Those are the real issues that matter to people.”

I appreciated reading Jennifer Rubin’s article yesterday in the Washington Post. She sets the record straight:

Religious bigotry on display

But the big news was not the vote itself [at the Values Voter Summit]. On Friday, the appearance of Pastor Robert Jeffress set of a chain of events that may be remembered long after the vote results are forgotten. Jeffress in his introduction of Perry voiced his previously known anti-Mormon views. Afterward, he doubled down in remarks to reporters. First the speech:

Do we want a candidate who is skilled in rhetoric or one who is skilled in leadership? Do we want a candidate who is a conservative out of convenience or one who is a conservative out of deep conviction? Do we want a candidate who is a good, moral person — or one who is a born-again follower of the lord Jesus Christ?”

Then he told Politico:

Texas evangelical leader Robert Jeffress, the megachurch pastor who introduced Rick Perry at the Values Voter Summit, said . . .he does not believe Mitt Romney is a Christian.

Jeffress described Romney’s Mormon faith as a “cult” and said evangelicals had only one real option in the 2012 primaries.

“That is a mainstream view, that Mormonism is a cult,” Jeffress told reporters here. “Every true, born-again follower of Christ ought to embrace a Christian over a non-Christian.”

Asked by Politico if he believed Romney is a Christian, Jeffress answered: “No.”

The Christian leader warned that in a general-election race between Romney and Obama, he believes many evangelicals will stay home and leave the GOP nominee without their votes.

Remember, Rick Perry did not distance himself from the pastor’s introduction. Instead, he thanked the Baptist Pastor for a “very powerful introduction” and added “he knocked it out of the ballpark.”

Rubin continues…

The initial response by the Perry team was pathetically insufficient. Perry spokesman Mark Miner threw out this bit of moral vacuity: “The governor doesn’t judge what is in the heart and soul of others.” But what about the words? Is he mute on expressions of overt prejudice? Does he reject the comments as bigoted? Miner e-mailed me on Friday afternoon: “As I said, the governor does not believe Mormonism is a cult. [*Said? That isn't what he originally said.] The governor doesn’t get into the business of judging other people’s hearts or souls. He leaves that to God. The governor’s campaign is about uniting Americans of all backgrounds behind a pro-growth, jobs agenda for this country.” In other words, when presented with such overt prejudice (and the potential loss of evangelical support), Perry went mute. While Perry did not select Jeffress to introduce him, he did approve the choice.

Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, on Friday afternoon, tweeted: “A number of my close personal friends are Mormon. I find Pastor Robert Jeffries’s intro of Gov. Perry totally offensive and repugnant.” That was the voice of moral clarity sadly missing from Perry’s response.

(*My emphasis and insert)

An interesting note… Shortly before Perry entered the presidential race, he organized a controversial day of prayer in Texas in which about 20,000 people attended. Guess who helped him? Jefress.

A spokesman for the Perry campaign was quick to point out that conference organizers chose Jefress to introduce Perry at the VVS. As Nate pointed out in his article, Dallas-based Jefress’ reputation was well known. And, as Rubin stated, Perry approved Jeffress’ introduction. Too cozy by half…

Perry laid the religion egg. For appearance sake, looks like he is now sauntering away from it. Behind the scenes, some think he is tending the incubator:

Scott McLean, a political scientist at Quinnipiac University and presidential election analyst, told that he believes the Perry campaign orchestrated Jeffress’ attack on Romney’s faith “to test the waters.” He said he expects Perry surrogates to launch more under-the-radar attacks on Romney’s faith to make Romney look less attractive.

We’ll hear more about this issue Tuesday night at the presidential debate. Whrrrrrrr…

Have other GOP candidates risen to Governor Romney’s defense?


Romney Burnishes His Defense Credentials

Mitt Romney had a big weekend, a lengthy weekend at that. Between Thursday and today he has done no less than five fundraisers, one of which was for his PAC, gave two high profile speeches, had three media appearances, and did at least one interview. He was even spotted by an excited Twitterer running laps around the Reflecting Pond Sunday morning. Besides the jogging, Romney’s spent much of his time this weekend discussing National Defense, and due diligence requires this to be topic be covered.

My first impression when hearing Romney speech to the Values Voter Summit is that he spent more time than usual discussing foreign matters. It was indeed more Defcon than Socon. Not surprising because he is apparently not allowed to talk about such issues or forever be labeled a panderer. After taking a glance at it his speech again I’m seeing that he spent nearly half of his speech addressing foreign policy in one way or another, though his more meaty remarks were reserved for his speech to the Foriegn Policy Initiative Luncheon. His speech, or “conversation” at the FPI differed also in that he used no teleprompter or notes.

Jennifer Rubin of Commentary Magazine gives a thorough review of the Romney’s appearance at FPI. She notes:

[Romney] appeared more relaxed and fluent than he had on the campaign trail. Without a fixed script (or any notes), he was able to demonstrate some impressive grasp of details while setting forth his big-picture critique of the Obama foreign policy. He gave credit to the president for his willingness to stick to a winning strategy in Iraq and for not “yanking all the troops out,” as he had promised during the campaign. But that is where his praise ended.

It was in many ways a surprising outing for Romney, demonstrating more depth and verve than many in the room could recall from the campaign. Whether that message resonates outside the room, with the larger conservative community and with elected leaders, remains to be seen. But certainly we will hear more from him in the future.

Rubin echoes what others have also said recently. Basically, that they hadn’t heard or seen this side Romney before. He is, and has been, underestimated on his “grasp of details” concerning national defense. Unlike the like social (abortion, same-sex marriage, stem-cell research) and economic issues that were on front and center during his tenure as Massachusetts Governor, there was only one instance that gave us a peek into what a President Romney might be like when faced with foreign issues: Romney Denounces Khatami’s Visit to Harvard, Declines to provide escort, or offer state support for trip.

At FPI, Romney also rapped President Obama on being soft about defending American values around the world, his misguided decisions on Honduras, Iran, Europe, and Israel, his efforts to win the global popularity contest, and his indecisive actions on Afghanistan. Not to be left out is praise that Romney gave President Obama on continuing with a winning strategy in Iraq, notably in contrast to his campaign promises to “yank all the troops out”.

If Romney is the work-a-holic that I know him to be, you can bet that he is furiously studying up on foreign policy with advisers and by reading anything and everything on the subject. With McCain and Giuliani out of the pool of potential 2012 candidate there is huge opening for someone to pick up the Defcon Mantra and shore up that leg of the 3-legged stool, and Mitt has his eye on it.

Case in point, the title of his book to be published in March: No Apology: The Case for American Greatness. An obvious dig at Obama and his habitual apologizing for us terrible Americans while abroad. You can bet there will be much in the book in regards to foreign policy. And a book is the perfect way to let the public at large get some insight into what he knows and understands on the subject. Heads will start turning.
Cross-posted at