With pastor and denominational leader Mike Huckabee, surging in the polls and Mitt Romney giving a widely anticipated speech on his Mormon faith, Bill Moyers and Kathleen Hall Jamieson are joined by scholar Melissa Rogers for a discussion of religion in politics.
BILL MOYERS: Welcome to the Journal. For those of us who were around in 1960, we experienced a sudden flashback this week with Mitt Romney's speech about his faith as a Mormon. Watching Romney, I couldn't help but remember the day John F. Kennedy went before an influential audience of Southern Baptist preachers to answer their opposition to a Catholic president. In those days the separation of church and state was still an abiding American principle. And Kennedy was fighting a deep bias that he could not be loyal to both the church and the Constitution.
Further back in 1928 the first Catholic ever to run for president, Al Smith, lost his race in no small part because of public fears that he would be in the pocket of the Pope. Said a prominent Methodist bishop at the time, "no governor can kiss the papal ring and get within gunshot of the White House." So Kennedy's campaign was now riding on his every word.
JOHN F. KENNEDY, 1960: Because I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected President, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured--perhaps deliberately, in some quarters less responsible than this. So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again--not what kind of church I believe in, for that should be important only to me--but what kind of America I believe in.
I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute--where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishoners for whom to vote--where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference--and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.
I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish--where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source--where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials--and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.
BILL MOYERS: That was John F. Kennedy in 1960. Now, in Texas, it's Mitt Romney, the Mormon, whose faith has him on the hot seat. Christian conservatives are saying Mormons are a cult with strange beliefs, that Romney's faith is the wrong one for the White House. He went to Texas and felt the need to answer.
MITT ROMNEY, 2007: Almost 50 years ago another candidate from Massachusetts explained that he was an American running for President, not a Catholic running for President. Like him, I am an American running for President. I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith.
Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin.
As Governor, I tried to do the right as best I knew it, serving the law and answering to the Constitution. I did not confuse the particular teachings of my church with the obligations of the office and of the Constitution – and of course, I would not do so as President. I will put no doctrine of any church above the plain duties of the office and the sovereign authority of the law.
BILL MOYERS: We'll be back a little later in the broadcast to talk about religion and politics. But, first, let's explore some issues of politics in the media.
With me is a long-time colleague whom you've seen frequently on my broadcast during political years since 1992. Kathleen Hall Jamieson is a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the director of its Annenberg Public Policy Center and the co-author with Brooks Jackson of this book, Unspun: Finding Facts In A World Of Disinformation.
Welcome to The Journal.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Thank you.
BILL MOYERS: Good. You've been looking this year at how the new media, the Internet, the blogs, the Web-- YouTube, MySpace, Facebook-- have been affecting politics. What have you found so far?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Well, first, there's more information available than there ever has been, and it's more easily retrievable. So we can, within minutes, locate candidates' issue positions, contrast them to other positions, search news interviews with the candidates where they're held accountable for discrepancies between past and current positions. We can get contextual information, also largely gotten from news. And you can hear in the candidates' own voices their arguments for those issue positions, sometimes at great length. Greater than you're going to find in ads. Or greater than you're going to find in news.
BILL MOYERS: What's your favorite site?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: My favorite site for that is the You Choose site within YouTube, which you get to by finding-
BILL MOYERS: You Choose--
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: It's You Choose within YouTube. So you search YouTube, the word "YouTube" through your-- regular search engine, Google, for example. And then search You Choose, and you'll find the candidates' logos, names, and the issues that you want to match them on. Pick the issue. Pick the candidate. You get exposition of issue positions and you can find out where they stand with specifics.
MITT ROMNEY: I support the President in his efforts to stabilize the population of Iraq.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: You can then go candidate to candidate and contrast the candidates.
BARACK OBAMA: It's time to admit that no amount of American lives can resolve the political disagreement that lies at the heart of someone else's civil war.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Getting the candidates' own voice explaining what the candidate will do gives you useful important information. You can then also search same site or elsewhere on the Internet. You can go right to the news sites and get the candidates being interviewed on the Sunday talk shows, for example, Sunday interview shows.
MIKE HUCKABEE: In 2005 I signed a bill that didn't allow illegals to get driver's licenses.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Substantive exchanges about substance. You can retrieve debates that you didn't get to watch. And you can look question by question at things that you care about. All of that made possible through new technology. We would have thought that that was nirvana 15 to 20 years ago because you could still get to it. But you had to work and you had to have a VCR that worked really hard.
BILL MOYERS: Most people don't even know what a VCR is anymore, right?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: That's right.
BILL MOYERS: Yeah, that's the positive side.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: That's the positive side.
BILL MOYERS: But there's a very dark side to this, too, right?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: There's a dark side as well. The misogyny that is present on the Internet right now about Hillary Clinton is, I think, something worthy of public discussion. There are Internet sites, for example, sites on Facebook--
BILL MOYERS: What is Facebook, for my audience?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Facebook is a place that was originally designed for college students to go and post information about themselves, to talk with each other -- in which groups are formed that post-- people post pictures of themselves and they talk with each other on wall postings. And so you could form a group that would say this is the Bill Moyers discussion group about something on Facebook. And it might have a perfectly fine discussion about anything that we're talking about tonight. Or you could, you know, post a discussion group that says things that I have difficulty even talking with you, even privately much less in public.
BILL MOYERS: Because of the language, the words that are used.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Because the words and because the graphic images, the images that are manufactured to be placed in these sites are such that you wouldn't want to be associated with them in any way, nor would I. And they contain such things as graphic representations of what a donkey should do to Hillary Clinton. They contain language suggesting various sexual acts in relationship to Hillary Clinton. They reduce Hillary Clinton to various sexual body parts. They engage in characterizations of her in relationship to her policies. They're nothing but name calling in relationship to all of those categories of language. And so if you came home when you were, oh, say, a 15-year-old boy from school. And you said to your mother "Let me give you some of my language for the day," and you repeated any of those words, you know, your mother would have been shocked.
BILL MOYERS: Here are some of the entries from Facebook, you know? "Hillary can't handle one man; how can she handle 150 million of them? Send her back to the kitchen to get a sandwich. She belongs back with the dishes, not upfront with the leaders." It goes on and on like that. I mean, and it is fairly misogynist, but it isn't just the Internet. I mean on Rush Limbaugh, he talks about Clinton's testicle lockbox. MSNBC's Tucker Carlson says there's just something about her that feels castrating. One of his guests, a former spokesman from the Republican National Committee, Clifford May, says that if Clinton is going to appeal to women for support on the basis of her gender, at least call her a vaginal-American. I mean, in fact, isn't the sexist vilification of Hillary Clinton being set by the mainstream media?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: It's being set by both. The mainstream media has a much larger audience. When you look to the size of the groups that have this sort of vulgar, gross language on them about Hillary Clinton, their membership is actually very low. Where mainstream media can reach that number of people with the first second that it's articulated. Underlying this is a long-lived fear of women in politics. For example, we know that there's language to condemn female speech that doesn't exist for male speech. We call women's speech shrill and strident. And Hillary Clinton's laugh was being described as a cackle--
BILL MOYERS: Cackle.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: --and why we're looking at a laugh and whether it's appropriate or not is of itself an interesting question. We also know that underlying many of these assertions is the assumption that any woman in power will, by necessity, entail emasculating men and, as a result, a statement of fundamental threat.
So, why shouldn't you vote for Hillary Clinton? Well, first, she can't be appropriately a woman and be in power. She must be a man. Hence, the site that says Hillary Clinton can't be the first woman president; Hillary Clinton's actually a man. But also explicit statements that suggest castrating, testicles in lockbox. She's going to emasculate men. It's a zero-sum game in which a woman in power necessarily means that men can't be men.
BILL MOYERS: And you can't use your uterus and your brain. That's the old argument, right? You can't be caring and tough. That's the old argument against women, right?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Well, and at one time there was actually an argument that if women became educated, they would become infertile. There was also, for a long period of time, serious penalties for women who tried to speak in public. And the residue of this is a language that suggests that women in power cannot be women and be in power. And as a result, as Hillary Clinton certifies herself as being tough enough to be president, competent enough to be president, these attacks say then she can't be president because she's not actually a woman. And you can't trust someone who is that inauthentic. So underlying this and underlying the vulgarity and underlying the assertions of raw sexual violence is deep fear about a woman holding power.
But I'm not sure that it's only about that with Hillary Clinton because Hillary Clinton has been attacked as long as she's been in the public sphere. She came into national public awareness with the candidacy of Bill Clinton. Some of this coincides with attacks on liberals and Hillary Clinton as a liberal woman. Some of this coincides with original attacks when she was in the White House and what was framed as exercise of unelected power. And one of the questions that-- I find interesting is this hypothetical. Let's say if Elizabeth Dole was this far along in the polls for the Republican nomination. Would she be subject to the same kinds of attacks? And I think the answer is no.
BILL MOYERS: Let me show our audience some of those attacks. But let me also say that you can, as a scholar and historian and a journalist, discuss this avalanche of misogyny directed at Hillary Clinton without endorsing her campaign, right?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Yes.
BILL MOYERS: And you're not endorsing any candidate, as I understand it--
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: No, I'm--
BILL MOYERS: --nor am I.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Yeah, actually, I've been studying the way in which women are characterized when they move into leadership positions before Hillary Clinton moved into leadership position.
BILL MOYERS: And what was that book you wrote?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Book was called Beyond The Double Bind: Women In Leadership. And these kinds of attacks have actually been deployed against women as they began to run for public office in the United States before. So the assertion that a woman would have to be childless or she couldn't be voted into office because if she were in office, she would neglect her children. But a man elected to office would not neglect his children. Men were supposedly going to be taking care of children. Long-lived attack.
BILL MOYERS: Some of these attacks on her on the Internet actually exploit the Bible in order to reinforce old patriarchal ideas. Look at this one.
BILL MOYERS: When they talk about men, they have Ronald Reagan, cowboy. When they talk about Hillary Clinton or they depict Hillary Clinton, it's Hillary Clinton the witch.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: There's also, however, another way to read this piece. What is Hillary Clinton actually doing? Frightening Reagan conservatives a whole lot. One of the things I think that happens with many of these visual depictions is that the people who are producing them are trying to attach what scholars call negative affect to Hillary Clinton. And I know that's an odd concept for non-academics.
BILL MOYERS: Negative?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Affect. To the extent that you have negative feelings, have basic affect when you see something. If I can attach that to something, I can make you feel uneasy about it. I can increase the likelihood that you're going to vote against Hillary Clinton. So we know, for example, that if I show you a picture of someone who's smiling and feels comfortable and it's a pleasant video, that's that Reagan-
BILL MOYERS: Right.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: You think more positively of the person, even if you don't know who the person is. Then I show you a scary picture, an off-putting picture. You react negatively. You respond negatively. I can increase the likelihood that you'll say you'll vote against that person even if you know nothing about them.
So some of this is what we used to call visual vilification. But it's also attaching an emotional response to the picture to say feel uneasy, feel uncomfortable. And as a result, keep that emotional tag tied as you hear her explaining positions on issue. Keep that discomfort. Hold onto it till you go into the voting booth. Stay with that comfortable issue and comfortable image of Ronald Reagan.
BILL MOYERS: This is why some women whom I know and respect say, as much as they admire Hillary Clinton for her role all these years, they would rather see her not run next year because it's going to open up all of this animosity, vilification, and vituperation.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: One of the complications of this is we're moving into new linguistic territory. And we haven't found a way to discuss this. When a woman stands up and asks Senator McCain, "How do we beat the bitch?" and there isn't a clear statement by Senator McCain that that's not the way one characterizes, you know, my opponent on the Democratic side. And there's not a public commentary that surrounds it the way there was a public commentary about the statement by Imus or about the comedian from Seinfeld. Essentially what we say to the culture at large is that must be appropriate discourse to apply to a female candidate running for office — or at least this female candidate.
BILL MOYERS: It's okay to talk this way.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: It's okay to talk this way.
BILL MOYERS: Let me show the audience that particular-- it's at real time. It happened. Senator McCain was at public meeting. And this woman stood up and asked-- woman. Wasn't a man who asked him this question. Look at it.
WOMAN: How do we beat the bitch?
JOHN MCCAIN: May I give the translation?
BILL MOYERS: I know people don't like that word. I don't like that word. I'm using it only because it is out there. It's in common discourse on the Internet and you know, Senator McCain had the chance to say, "That's out of bounds. Don't ask me that question. Ask the question you want to ask differently and I'll answer it." But he didn't. He laughed. And he, in effect, gave it legitimacy.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Well, he looked uncomfortable and then he tried to find a way to reframe it, and he didn't reframe it very artfully. But those first seconds that you're showing on camera, you can see he's not very comfortable in that moment. And I wonder why the national audience didn't see that moment and feel that discomfort and ask the question, "Would you be comfortable saying about the woman who teaches your child, the woman who is your doctor, the woman who heads this corporation, you know, 'Well, how's the bitch doing today?'"
You know, where are the boundaries of when you will use that language and what does it mean? Was this a Hillary-specific comment? Or is this about women who get this far seeking the presidency? Or was this language that has been circulating in private circles for a very long time and now erupted into public? The people have heard it so often that they're not surprised by it? And as a result, they don't think we need to talk about it.
I think one way to reframe this is to ask: How would you ask a comparable question about a male candidate you really wanted to defeat? Where would you find comparable language to use?
BILL MOYERS: And where would you? There is no language of degeneration like this that describes men, is there?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Well, you could say, "How are we going to beat the bastard?" But it wouldn't carry all the same resonance of that word in the context of its use now.
BILL MOYERS: And you couldn't say, "How are we going to defeat the nigger?" How are we going to-- which is the word that was so common when I was growing up in the South. "How are you going to defeat the kike?" referring to Jews-- you wouldn't do--- that woman would not have done that, I don't think.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Well, and we have language is constantly open for discussion. We know what's appropriate and what's inappropriate by the way in which society responds, what our peer group responds, the community we turn to responds. And so when someone uses language that is considered inappropriate and there is a national discussion, we dampen down that use. That's what happened with Imus, who is now just coming back on the air. When something like this happens and we don't have the discussion, we move it in to acceptable use.
BILL MOYERS: But some of this stuff on the Internet about Clinton is just downright pornographic. Words are used, toxic words-- are used that I can't use and wouldn't use on the air. I mean, let me just show you some of the stuff we pulled off-- a montage we strung together from the web with using some of the worst comments about them, which would be offensive to people if we didn't bleep them out and still may be offensive. But take a look.
BILL MOYERS: I want to say how would I write this off as just Internet graffiti, the kind of stuff you'd find sometimes on the subway or you found on your high school gym wall. But I have to say it seems to me to have reached far beyond that.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: When you look at the number of members who identify with the sites that post these sorts of things, they're actually fairly small. One question is: How much social disapproval of this actually is there? Another is, within these communities, where is the capacity to talk back and ask where the boundaries of appropriate discourse would be? That is, is there a way to engage productively in the disagreement they want to express and have some substantive content attached instead of simply, you know, ad hominem, in this case I guess ad feminem, name calling?
BILL MOYERS: How does this make you feel as a woman?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: I think most of the professional women who see this happening have had enough professional experiences in their lives to realize that these sorts of sentiments are actually out there and have probably experienced some of these sorts of things. And the question it raises for me is, you know, as this happens nationally and as moderate Republican women become more aware of it, do they increase their identification with Hillary Clinton or not?
BILL MOYERS: Which came first, the episode with McCain from the woman who asked him that question or all the pornographic stuff about Hillary Clinton on the Internet?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: The material was on the Internet long before the McCain question. And these kinds of characterizations of Hillary Clinton go back to her emergence in the public sphere as the spouse of the Democratic candidate in 1992.
BILL MOYERS: So this is really unusual?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: It's un-- this amount--
BILL MOYERS: Unprecedented?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: This amount of content is unprecedented. But because the medium of the Internet is new, we don't know what would have happened with previous candidacies of women. So we can't go back and actually study it. The way we find that these kinds of characterizations of Hillary Clinton have been out there is to look to other forms of media throughout the 1990s where we do, indeed, find them. Hillary Clinton as dominatrix, for example, is one of the ongoing themes and one of the parodies on Rush Limbaugh.
BILL MOYERS: We share the same floor here with the BBC. And a BBC producer, I was talking about this with him the other day. He said, you know, this did not happen when Margaret Thatcher rose to power. Of course, the Internet was not a phenomenon then. But it did not happen even in the pubs, it wasn't said about Margaret Thatcher. What's different about the British culture and the American culture?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: What I remember being asked about Margaret Thatcher is who wears the pant in the family? And her husband, you know, basically is suggesting that he did. So a kind of light joking tone about - the question, you know, what is it like to have a female assuming power? But you've got to remember that Britain had a history of female leadership. You know, Elizabeth Rex is, you know, the queen that we all turn back to as, you know, the monarch that is an exemplar of exercise of power, including in times of war. The United States doesn't have a tradition, except an indirect one with Edith Bolling Wilson. And then with very strong first ladies with Rosalyn Carter, with Nancy Reagan, with Hillary Clinton.
BILL MOYERS: I covered the campaign in 1984 when Geraldine Ferraro was the Democratic vice-presidential running mate. I do not recall these kind of attacks on Geraldine Ferraro. There's something, as you say, unique in this present experience.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Or there's another possibility. There's a possibility that these kinds of attacks have always been there, but they were never posted in public space before. Is it possible that in these past environments, for example, with Margaret Thatcher in Britain or, for example, when women were running for governorships. When, you know, you saw, for example, Jean Kirkpatrick emerge as a Republican leader or Ann Armstrong, earlier than that. Perhaps these things were being said. But perhaps we didn't have any way of seeing them.
Perhaps the comments that you're reprising from public space elsewhere, largely on cable or on talk radio, were actually out there but we only had network evening news as a way of getting access to the political world. And they never would have gotten into that forum. So it's possible that nothing has changed except our access to a window on a part of a world. And that we haven't found a way to create boundaries around it and say within it, "Don't you want to have a different kind of discourse here? Do you really want to conventionalize this?"
BILL MOYERS: Hillary Clinton is not the only one running, of course. So let's turn to another phenomenon in the presidential election this year and that's the emergence of Mike Huckabee, Southern Baptist, former-- understudy to a televangelist, and now leading the Republican primaries in the polls in Iowa. Different subject. What's your take on the sudden emergence in the last few days of Michael Huckabee?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: I love the idea that a candidate without large amounts of money is able to break through in politics, because it suggests that there's something there that voters connect with that you can't purchase. And so that's my first response to it.
My second is I haven't seen a politician who has his talent to connect with voters since Ronald Reagan. If you just listen to him on radio, there is a communication sense, a sense of him as a communicator that telegraphs an immediate identification that's really very powerful. And the question is: Does that telegraphy distract you from asking questions about who he is and what he stands for? And if so it's a net political advantage. It may not be a net advantage ultimately in the translation of governance.
BILL MOYERS: Kathleen, stay around and let's come back in a few minutes and talk about religion and politics. But, first, this is the time in public television when we give viewers like you the chance to support this station.
[Bill Moyers talks with Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Melissa Rogers]
JOHN F. KENNEDY: I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for President who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters--and the church does not speak for me.
BILL MOYERS: Welcome back to The Journal and thanks again for your support of this station.
You've already met Kathleen Hall Jamieson, professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Director of its Annenberg Public Policy Center, and co-author with Brooks Jackson Of this book Un-Spun: Finding Facts In A World Of Dis-Information.
We're joined now by Melissa Rogers, founder and Director of the Center for Religion and Public Affairs at Wake Forest University's Divinity School. She once served as Executive Director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and as general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs.
I'm glad you could be here. Let's begin with what to me was the instructive paragraph in Mitt Romney's speech this week.
MITT ROMNEY: Given our grand tradition of religious tolerance and liberty, some wonder whether there are any questions regarding an aspiring candidate's religion that are appropriate. I believe there are. And I will answer them today.
BILL MOYERS: Do you think he answered the question, Kathleen, that do you think is appropriate to ask of a candidate's religious beliefs?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: No, I thought, in fact, the one question he said he was often asked, and he answered in the speech when he said, 'What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and a savior of mankind', is not a question that someone should have to answer.
I think you can ask a Quaker, for example, are you capable of being commander in chief? Or are you a pacifist? And if you've served in World War Two, as Richard Nixon had, the question really goes away. I think you can ask a Jew are you able if you're Orthodox to serve and act as president on the Sabbath. And I think when Joe Lieberman says, "Yes, my religion permits it," that's an appropriate question because it bears directly on governance. But, I don't think do you believe in Jesus Christ as the savior of mankind is an appropriate question or that it should be answered.
MELISSA ROGERS: I quite agree with Kathleen when she says that purely theological questions, questions that don't have a bearing on how a person would carry out their duties as president or questions about personal religious practices-- I don't think those are helpful to our process of choosing a president. And I think as we look at it, at the history, we can see that we've had wonderful political leaders who were devout people of faith. And we've had terrible political leaders who were devout people of faith. So, I don't think hearing about truly theological determinations or personal religious practices tell us anything truly important about the person and whether he or she would make a good president.
BILL MOYERS: I want to show you something that I've been looking at several times now. This is a question that was asked of all the republican candidates a week ago in the YouTube/CNN debate when they were taking questions from, quote, "ordinary people out there." And this question comes from one of my fellow Texans. Look at this.
MALE VOICE -- CNN/YOUTUBE DEBATE: This question will tell us everything we need to know about you. Do you believe every word of this book? And I mean specifically this book that I am holding in my hand--
ANDERSON COOPER: I think we've got a question. Mayor Giuliani?
MIKE HUCKABEE: Do I need to help you out, Mayor, on this one?
RUDOLPH GIULIANI: Wait a second, you're the minister. You're going to help me out on this one.
MIKE HUCKABEE: I'm trying to help you out.
RUDOLPH GIULIANI: OK. The reality is, I believe it, but I don't believe it's necessarily literally true in every single respect. I think there are parts that the Bible are interpretive. I think there are parts that the Bible are allegorical.
ANDERSON COOPER: Governor Romney?
MITT ROMNEY: I believe the Bible is the word of God, absolutely. And I try...I try to live by it as well as I can, but I miss in a lot of ways. But it's a guide for my life and for hundreds of millions, billions of people around the world. I believe in the Bible.
MIKE HUCKABEE: Sure. I believe the Bible is exactly what it is. It's the word of revelation to us from God himself. And the fact is that when people ask do we believe all of it, you either believe it or you don't believe it. There are parts of it I don't fully comprehend and understand but I'm not supposed to, because the Bible is a revelation of an infinite god, and no finite person is ever going to fully understand it. If they do, their God is too small.
BILL MOYERS: What do you think about that?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: I think, first, that demonstrates that Huckabee is a very savvy communicator who reframed a question very effectively. But, I think when the person's asked that question said, "Believe, the way you answer this will tell me everything you need to know," I would guess that person doesn't believe who's asking the question that the Bible should be believed word by word. And the inference that you're being asked to embrace is that if one of the candidate's said, "Yes, I literally believe every word," that person should be disqualified as president.
MELISSA ROGERS: Well, if that was the implication, I mean, I don't think we should-- qualify or disqualify people based on their readings of the Bible on purely again, these are purely theological matters. Religion is particularly relevant when it has bearing on policy matters. Whether we should teach, for example, intelligent design, in our public schools. If religion bears on that issue, we should know about it. But, how one reads the Bible, what-- you know, what way in which one reads the Bible or which sacred text one embraces-- these kinds of parsings I just don't think move us forward.
BILL MOYERS: Do you think there is room in Mitt Romney's America for nonbelievers?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: I heard one passage of the speech and I was troubled by it. It's the passage toward the end of the speech in which he says, 'and you can be certain of this' ...
MITT ROMNEY: And you can be certain of this: any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty has a friend and an ally in me. And so it is for hundreds of millions of our country men. We do not exist without a single strain of religion rather we welcome our nations symphony of faith.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: I would have liked to have heard that person who doesn't kneel to the Almighty also will have a friend in whoever is the president. Because the president doesn't distinguish between believers and unbelievers when he acts as president.
BILL MOYERS: It's awfully hard for a lot of people who are believers to admit that the First Amendment protection of religious liberty includes the right not to believe.
MELISSA ROGERS: I mean, that's the soul of religious freedom — the freedom to choose or reject God. And, really, if we're honest with ourselves, those of us who believe in a Christian faith, there's no real evangelism without recognizing that a person has a freedom to either respond to God's call or to reject God's call. That's a personal decision that is made. And we always have wanted in our country, and in our best have always tried, to ensure that we protect both the freedom to choose religion and the freedom to reject religion.
BILL MOYERS: Why do you think Romney made this speech now?
MELISSA ROGERS: Well, of course, the speculation is that because Huckabee is rising in Iowa and using appeals to religion and making references to his own Evangelical faith that Romney felt he needed to respond in some way and that this was, you know, the time to do it before the Iowa caucuses. The campaign says, that's not it and that they made this decision before various polls came out showing Huckabee taking the lead in Iowa.
BILL MOYERS: Here's the paradox to me Romney strikes me as a man who wouldn't be talking about these things if he didn't have to. I mean, I don't think he goes around with his religion on his sleeve. I think he's being forced to talk about this even though it really goes against his grain, don't you?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: The speech appears to be a speech reluctantly given. And - I think it's unfortunate that it had to be given, that they thought that it had to be given. I think it's unfortunate that these kinds of questions are being asked of candidates. And I think the appropriate thing is to ask the question that you began with. "What are the appropriate questions that one should ask?" And I think the appropriate questions are those to which you have a clear answer about governance. How this would affect someone in the Oval Office if they were president. When Romney was at the section of the speech in which he says, "These are the basic values that I share with you." He's not speaking as a Mormon. He's not speaking as a Christian. He's speaking as an American. Those are American values.
I think the problem is he's trying to straddle two different audiences. He's trying to speak to the Evangelical Christians whom he wants back. He's seeing his lead eroding and he wants to say to them, "You're being afraid of me needlessly." But, he doesn't want to speak for his church. He doesn't want to be put in that role because that would falsify his entire argument. But, at the same time, he's got to make that claim while also saying to the people who don't fall into faith tradition — may fall into other traditions — may not fall into a faith community at all — I would nonetheless be your president. He's hoping you hear both in the speech.
MELISSA ROGERS: What seems strange to me is that it doesn't have to take away from his belief at all for him to be a very strong supporter of a robust religious liberty that would recognize that people can embrace faith or choose to reject faith. We don't have to — as religious people — do not have to affirm atheism to affirm the rights of atheists. One can be deeply, deeply religious and fight tooth and nail for his neighbor or her neighbor whose mind or conscience has not been swayed in the same way.
So, in a way, I see some leaders today who want to beat their chest about their own religion and being reluctant to recognize the soul of religious freedom, which is this choice, this voluntarism to choose or reject religion when they don't have to go there. They don't have to do that. And their speech would be strengthened by recognizing that there's a liberty for which we all fight, which is the rights of conscience for everyone.
BILL MOYERS: You remind me that I think I see something different in this race that I haven't seen in the past. And as you were talking I was thinking about and ad that Michael Huckabee is running in Iowa. Defining himself as Christian leader. Let me show you that.
MIKE HUCKABEE: My faith doesn't just influence me it really defines me. I don't have to wake up everyday wondering what do I need to believe. Let us never sacrifice our principles for anybodies politcs. Not now not ever. I believe life begins at conception. We believe in some things, we stand for those things, we live or die by those things. I'm Mike Huckabee and I approved this message.
BILL MOYERS: So, here you have both Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney defining themselves by statements of faith in the heat of a political campaign.
BILL MOYERS: How important is it for us to know about their religious identity?
MELISSA ROGERS: Well, I think if something really contributes to a person's identity. It explains what makes them tick-- Mike Huckabee's history as a pastor is relevant to that extent. But, I think that this ad, for example, with the bold face capital letters "Christian Leader" begins to raise some questions. Such as, well, should our nation only have leaders who are Christian? Now, I think he had some exchanges with Chris Matthews where he's indicated that he did not believe that to be the case.
BILL MOYERS: Let's take a look.
MR. MATTHEWS: So there's no message there when we see the big sign, "Christian Leader." You're not saying you're more a Christian leader than anyone else running. You're just saying what? What's the point of mentioning it as a selling point?
MR. HUCKABEE: It's been interesting that a lot of people have tried to read something into that ad that's not there. What's there is this is who I am. I'm not saying anything about who somebody else is or who somebody else isn't. I'm trying to describe what I'm about, what drives my decisions. And that was the sole purpose of the ad.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: But, let me tell you that I think Huckabee's got a challenge. Because part of his biography is Baptist minister. And so, if you say what is his biography history? That is, you go to describe his life to you to tell you how he got where he got.
BILL MOYERS: His story.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: His story. Yes. Part of his story is that that's what he did for a living. We haven't had a minister who was a serious candidate for president before. Is he supposed to now take that part of his life and abstract it from his biography? At which point, people would say, "Why are you running away from your religious background?" What were you before you were governor? What are you trying to hide?
Now that he characterizes it as "Christian Leader" as opposed to minister or some other construction is a rhetorical choice. And that, of itself, is interesting. But, I think the fact of his background creates some constraints on him that are unique and interesting.
But, secondly, I think that ad is telling us something very important about why some people think that faith may be relevant in this context. What he's arguing here is that his pro-life stand on abortion comes from religious conviction. And as a result, he doesn't wake up wondering what his position is. That's an implicit attack on those candidates who've changed their position.
Which candidate has changed a position? Ah, that would be Romney. And as a result, he's using his religious beliefs to warrant a claim about consistency on an issue that, in fact, does have political implications in two ways. The president can support a constitutional ban on abortion. And a president can appoint justices that the Supreme Court -- nominates for justice of Supreme Court who are pro-life rather than pro-choice. The relevant policy intersection is to ask those two questions.
But he gets some ballast at arguing that his faith gives him consistency and he invites the inference he'll be more pro-life as president than some other person who doesn't have that background. And I'm not sure that's an illegitimate inference.
BILL MOYERS: That's interesting because a number of Evangelicals have told me they think Huckabee is different from other Christian conservatives who have played prominent roles in politics in recent years. And that he's trying to show us there's a different way to be conservative and Christian in politics. Do you see that?
MELISSA ROGERS: I see that. And I think he's cut an important-- he's cut a really great profile in some respects in that he has said, "My religion does influence my policymaking. But, it doesn't just influence my policymaking on abortion and gay marriage," which tend to be the two issues that the Christian Right has focused on. But, he recognizes that religion and the Christian scripture can be applied to issues such as poverty, immigration and other issues. And environmentalism and the like. And that makes him very different from some other Christian candidates from the Christian Right.
And it's not limited to Republicans either. We also see Democrats talking about how their faith inspires them to act in certain ways on immigration or on poverty and the like. And these things, I think, are relevant. Although, they always have to be managed carefully.
BILL MOYERS: Timothy LaHaye, who is one of the most influential right wingers in the country, the architect that enormously saw a popular series of apocalyptic Left Behind novels — he's come out for Huckabee in a letter that's being widely distributed in Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire. And his letters say, quote, "America and our Judeo-Christian heritage are under attack by a force that is more destructive than any America has faced."
Listen to this. "Defeating the radical jihadists will require renewed resolve and spiritual by the Evangelical pastors in America." Not by all of us. But, by the Evangelical pastors. And if you listen carefully to Romney's speech, you see him echoing this line from Timothy LaHaye directed at the threat of Islamic jihadists.
MITT ROMNEY: The creed of conversion by conquest: violent Jihad, murder as martyrdom...killing Christians, Jews, and Muslims with equal indifference. These radical Islamists do their preaching not by reason or example, but in the coercion of minds and the shedding of blood. We face no greater today than theocratic tyranny, and the boundless suffering theses states and groups could inflict if given the chance.
MELISSA ROGERS: I think that clearly in this speech, and I've heard other things that Mitt Romney has said that reflect those ideas. I think it's unfortunate that when we try to turn this into a battle between Christianity and Islam. It does not help us. I think it hurts us.
BILL MOYERS: What's missing from all this talk about religion and politics?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Relevance to governance.
BILL MOYERS: Meaning.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Meaning an explanation for why these questions should matter in our assessment of who should be president.
MELISSA ROGERS: And a robust defense of religious liberty, I think. A defense of-- and an understanding that the spheres of religion and our American political sphere are different spheres. They're not the same. There are distinctions that we need to make. And that doesn't mean that a person of faith can't be an excellent American. And it also doesn't mean that a person who doesn't have a faith can't be an excellent American. Both can be excellent Americans. They're different spheres and we tend to be forgetting that, I think, in our politics today.
BILL MOYERS: Melissa Rogers and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, thank you for being with me on The Journal.
MELISSA ROGERS: Thank you.
BILL MOYERS: I enjoyed this discussion. That's it for this week. We'll be back next week. I'm Bill Moyers.