Thursday, February 22, 2007

Strike One, Mitt

The best thing I can think to say about Mitt Romney is that he’s the most prominent politician named after a piece of baseball equipment since Spikes Washington and Protective Cup Roosevelt.

I guess the next best thing would be that he’s not George W. Bush.

And I guess it doesn’t matter because I won’t be voting for a Republican presidential candidate in 2008 under any circumstances, but Romney said something this week that didn’t sit well with me. Speaking to an audience of retirees in Florida, he said “One of the great things about this land is that we have people of different faiths and different religions, but we need to have a person of faith lead the country.”

Why is that, Mitt?

Why would you say that?

I would argue that we need to have a person of intelligence lead the country: a well-read student of history with a lifelong thirst for knowledge and an understanding of cultures other than his or her own. Someone, say, with more than a cursory knowledge of economics.

I would argue that a person of compassion would also be a good leader. This person would understand the old bumper sticker message that no one is free while others are oppressed. He or she would stand up for the unfortunate and reject policies that make life worse for those who don’t have it that good to begin with.

A person of conscience would be nice, too. This leader would make thoughtful decisions and have no hidden agenda. The rest of us could feel certain that our trust in this leader wouldn’t be betrayed.

I could go on and on, substituting all sorts of positive attributes: a person of justice, a person of respect, a person of not-batshit-insanity. The point is, when I think of the qualities that make a good leader, I think of actions, not beliefs.

I think of qualities that translate into benefits for everyone.

If a person of faith has these other characteristics, fine. Be intelligent, compassionate, accountable, just, respectful, and not insane, and I won’t care who or what you worship behind closed doors.

And by the same token, Mitt Romney, don’t pretend that a person of faith automatically has those qualities, and don’t pretend that a skeptic automatically doesn’t.

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