Yesterday Chelsea, today New Hampshire, tomorrow the world. Our globe-trotting, wisecracking Governor Mitt heads for Vatican City next Thursday to attend Archbishop Seán O'Malley's elevation to cardinal. How's he doing? The reviews are mixed and may be more about the observer than the observed. "During a political appearance in Tennessee last weekend, he was the only potential presidential candidate not to regularly engage reporters," keens Boston Globe columnist Brian McGrory:
He brushed past a few reporters without making eye contact . . .
He can be uncommonly thoughtful and occasionally eloquent, and his earnestness is often refreshing. He will never be corrupt. And yet his personality demands the kind of structure and order that will prove impossible in a presidential campaign, at least not in a successful one. Perhaps overthinking his father's downfall, he seems consumed by panic that he will say the wrong thing.
An incorruptible politician, and the columnist is carping about not getting enough eye contact? Another "Virginia Postrel moment" where style trumps substance? McGrory writes of "the typically tepid applause that [Romney] hears all around Massachusetts," but the Gov seems to be playing considerally better across the state line. Check out the scene at a St. Paddy's Day roast in Nashua this morning:
"Stepping out of the car, I bumped my head and broke my hair."
"When you can poke fun at yourself in a crowd that doesn't know you, I think it bodes well for him," the mayor said. "He's traveled all the highways and byways and now he's working into the towns. He knows how to run for president in New Hampshire."
"I'm at the forefront of some of the toughest issues in the nation that relate to the culture of our land," Romney tells Brian Lamb in a C-Span interview to be aired Sunday night. Will his Mormonism be an obstacle? He says no:
He said he ascribed to the beliefs of Abraham Lincoln, and a ''political religion" in the United States. ''It's our adherence to the laws of the land, to our oath of office". . . Romney said that other politicians perceived to have electability issues due to issues of religion -- such as John F. Kennedy, who was a Catholic, and Ronald Reagan, who was divorced -- had far less of a problem than many pundits had predicted [because] American voters care more about values than individual theologies.
''They get to know candidates. They learn about their positions . . . And they see whether they have the same values or not. And that sweeps away questions about someone's particular religion."
We're reminded of something Oriana Fallaci said re Pope Benedict XVI's recognition of the threat that Islamicism poses to Western civilization:
"I am an atheist, and if an atheist and a pope think the same things, there must be something true. It's that simple! There must be some human truth here that is beyond religion."
If a Mormon and a pope think the same things, does the same apply?