Background: Romney is losing ground in Iowa polling, and so he's going to deliver a speech this week on his Mormon faith and its relationship to a Romney presidency, hoping it will function as . . . well, as a Hail Mary, I suppose. Observers are falling all over one another to compare this to Kennedy's speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in 1960, where Kennedy stood up foursquare for the separation of church and state in America, assuring his audience that the White House would not be taking instructions from the Vatican.
(America has traveled a long road in 50 years, hasn't it--from Protestant suspicion of Kennedy's Roman Catholicism to widespread acceptance of Giuliani's Roamin' Catholicism? But back to the story:)
Milking the resonance that traveling to Texas will likely have for the historically untutored, Romney will be speaking at the Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M. Interesting choice: Perhaps the venue will have extra room for the audience where the books would be in a real library? I'm more inclined myself to think it's an unwitting signal to voters that, like the Bush Library, however fancy he appears on the outside, he's hollow on the inside.
The Carpetbagger rightly calls the rush to analogize Kennedy's speech and Romney's forthcoming speech "silly:"
Romney is facing an entirely different kind of challenge. He can’t deliver a similar Kennedy-like speech precisely because the same message is now Republican anathema. Nearly a half-century after JFK’s speech in Houston, many of today’s conservatives, particularly those in the GOP’s religious right base, abhor the very idea of church-state separation, which was the basis for Kennedy’s address. It’s not unusual to hear figures like James Dobson and Pat Robertson reject the constitutional principle’s very existence.
If Romney were to publicly argue that "the separation of church and state is absolute," as JFK did, he would be booed aggressively by conservative audiences that want more intermingling between religion and government, not less.
The Carpetbagger goes on to argue--correctly, I think--that Romney's speech is dead in the water before he's even delivered it, on both theological and political grounds.
Go read it.