The Other McCain

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Axelrod’s Nixonian Manipulations: Tax Flap Is About Mitt’s Mormon Millions

Posted on | July 24, 2012 | 63 Comments

Back in March, when the fight for the Republican Party nomination was still very much in doubt, I warned that the “electability” arguments made on behalf of Mitt Romney were apt to be falsified by a liberal media that would not hesitate to make Romney’s Mormonism an issue:

If they can’t beat Romney with the “greedy Wall Street 1-percenter” class-warfare argument, the Democrats will not hesitate to Do Whatever It Takes to Win.
If Romney gets the nomination and we reach late September with Romney leading the polls, what do you think the Democrat-Media Complex will do? Whatever It Takes to Win, sweetheart.
Can’t you see the five-part New York Times series on the history of Mormonism? Can’t you see Brian Williams on NBC Nightly News and David Gregory on Meet the Press doing Serious Journalism about all the beliefs and practices of the LDS, and ponderously asking What It Means for America?

That was March 6 — Super Tuesday — and I continued pointing out recurrences of the “Mormon Mitt” meme over the ensuing weeks. The closer Mitt came to clinching the GOP nomination, the less secretive the Democrat-Media Complex became about their belief that Romney’s religion would be a general-election vulnerability.

As I predicted in March, however, playing the Mormon card would be a last-ditch measure, to which the media and the Obama campaign (but I repeat myself) would resort only after the class-warfare argument failed. What I didn’t expect in March was that the class-warfare argument would fail as early as it apparently has, and that Democrats would arrive at their last ditch by late July.

The Obama campaign invested many millions of dollars in TV ads hammering Romney as a rich guy who outsourced jobs to China, blah blah blah and . . . Nothing. Zero. Zilch. The RCP poll average hasn’t shifted noticeably in Obama’s direction, his campaign spending is out of control, Obama stepped on a land-mine with his “you didn’t build that” gaffe, and the major swing states are still in play for the GOP.

If things keep going on the current path, Obama’s looking like a certain loser on Nov. 7. It is thus a curiously timed coincidence to see John Heilemann of New York magazine speculating that the reason Romney won’t release his tax returns is because . . . MITT’S A MORMON!

The depth to which Romney has dug in his heels has naturally provoked a welter of speculation about what in God’s name is in the returns—and just how bad it could be. . . .
My own guess, however, is that apart from one or more of these elements, what the Romney tax returns would lay bare is the extent of his donations to his church. In this case and all others, charitable donations are something to be proud of, an entirely honorable thing. But for a candidate who has taken extravagant pains to avoid discussion of his supremely prominent role in contemporary Mormonism, the idea of a wave of news stories detailing the tens of millions of dollars that he has given to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — surely making him among its most generous funders in the modern era — must be a kind of nightmare. . . .
One sign that this issue is weighing on Romney’s mind was the performance that his wife, Ann, turned in on Good Morning America last week. In an uncomfortable exchange with Robin Roberts about her husband’s position on the tax returns, Mrs. Romney said, “You should really look at where Mitt has led his life and where he’s been financially. He’s been a very generous person. We give 10 percent of our income to our church every year. Do you think that is the kind of person that is trying to hide things?”

Heilemann expresses this as his “own guess,” but then immediately points out how Ann Romney’s Good Morning America interview “was seen in Chicago,” i.e., by the Obama campaign:

[I]t suggested that, far more than Bain, the question of the tax returns is getting under the Romneys’ collective skin. That is certainly how it was seen in Chicago. And that is why, though some combination of Team Romney’s attacks on Obama, the Olympics, and the nominee’s selection of his running mate may have the effect of shifting the subject, the effect will only be temporary. For beyond what Chicago is gleaning from its polling and focus groups, the president’s people see in the issue of the tax returns a way to get inside his head.
“One of the things we learned during the Republican primaries is that you can rattle Romney more easily than people think,” says a senior Obama strategist. “And when he’s rattled is when he makes mistakes.”

Reverse-engineering Heilemann’s article permits us to understand what this “controversy” is really all about. The media have made a big deal about Romney’s tax returns at the behest of Obama campaign. Heilemann and others spent weeks singing in unison from this particular hymnal, eagerly and shamelessly doing David Axelrod’s bidding. And why does Obama’s campaign team want those IRS documents (which they’ve obviously already seen themselves) made public?

For the exact reason that Heilemann suggests: Because Romney’s tithing makes him one of the leading funders of Mormonism in the entire history of the LDS church.

Heilemann’s sycophantic stenography conveys Axelrod’s purpose: Mitt isn’t “hiding” anything that Axelrod doesn’t already know about, OK?

It would be a violation of federal law for Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to provide copies of Romney’s tax returns to the Obama campaign, but when has Geithner ever shown any reluctance to violate federal law? Does anyone really believe that Obama’s re-election campaign is more scrupulously law-abiding than Nixon’s historically notorious Committee to Re-Elect the President?

Hell, no.

Axelrod and his henchmen know exactly what’s in Romney’s IRS returns and have a strategic purpose in mind for this information, but they also know that they can’t use it unless Romney himself releases those documents. And they’re so eager about this that they are unable (or perhaps consider it unnecessary) to conceal their intentions from friendly liberal reporters like John Heilemann.

So when I woke up this morning and saw Heilemann on MSNBC telling Joe and Mika what political use the unreleased IRS documents would serve for the Obama campaign, I knew that this was like a strategy memo straight from David Axelrod: If, as some have urged, Romney were to release a full decade of his tax returns, we would learn that Romney’s cumulative contributions to the Mormon church have added up to a Very Large Number. Imagine the reaction if the New York Times could publish this headline:


Getting that Very Large Number into the public domain is what this media-generated controversy is really all about.

Whatever else is in Romney’s IRS file is incidental to Axelrod’s strategic purpose of using the tax forms to make Mitt’s Mormonism a Legitimate News Story, to justify all those “in-depth reports” and “investigative series” about the LDS church.

And they think we’re too stupid to see what they’re doing.



63 Responses to “Axelrod’s Nixonian Manipulations: Tax Flap Is About Mitt’s Mormon Millions”

  1. Red
    July 25th, 2012 @ 9:50 am

    That’s one way of looking at it.

  2. Saul
    July 25th, 2012 @ 10:10 am

    Last year, when Stacy was campaigning for Santorum and against Romney, he said he had “studied” Mormonism and determined it was a “cult.” The word “cult,” of course, has  little objective meaning beyond “I don’t like your religion.” 
    As evidenced by yesterday’s post about Romney’s place in the ranks of the church’s financial suppoters, Stacy’s scholarship as a self-proclaimed student of Mormonism is somewhat below the graduate level, to put it nicely.
    You didn’t see Stacy talking during the primary about how Santorum’s much more explicit linking of his religion to his politics would be a vulnerability in the general election. Nor did you see Stacy predicting Democrats would seek to queer voters on Santorum by talking about the doctrines of transubstantiation and papal infallibility, and the history of pedophile priests. 

    No, Stacy is acting less like a disinterested political analyst and more like someone with a personal animus towards Mormonism. Now, as he did during the primary, he’s dressing it up by projecting it on the Democrats. It’s the classic concern-troll gambit.

    This comment thread has demonstrated once again that no matter what stripe of Christian you are, you can always find another Christian who wants to excommunicate you. That’s ingrained in the history of Christianity — especially American Christianity. The Puritans came here because they were persecuted as heretics by the Anglican church — and then they turned around and persecuted the Quakers as heretics. There are Baptists who say Catholics aren’t Christians. There are countless pastors who disavow the Christianity of anyone who interprets the Bible less literally than they do. 

    Fortunately for you and me, our salvation is in the hands of the Savior, and not those of PW or Bob.

  3. Pathfinder's wife
    July 25th, 2012 @ 10:33 am

    Well, how would you look at it then?

  4. Pathfinder's wife
    July 25th, 2012 @ 10:34 am

    Well, Saul, I would never desire to have your salvation placed into my hands.
    I’m afraid it is too big a task for a poor sinner such as myself.

  5. Red
    July 25th, 2012 @ 11:46 am

    I’m not interested in locking horns with you over whether or not Mormons are Christians or which practitioners of Christianity are getting it right. You’ve demonstrated already that your mind is made up as to who you think the latter day saints are and how they rank on the Christian scale and you are certainly entitled to your view.

  6. Red
    July 25th, 2012 @ 12:07 pm

    Were you referring to this excerpt?

    “Furthermore, having studied the subject some years ago, I can attest that many Christian theologians agree that Mormonism should be categorized as a cult. In defense of Mitt Romney, however, I’ll say that liberalism is also a cult, and it’s liberalism that’s taking America to hell in a hurry, so you can judge for yourself which cult poses the greater danger in 2012.”–Newt Staffer Fired For Mormon ‘Cult’ Comment Got Raw Deal, Source Says

    Some factions of Christianity are going to have that stance. One man’s church is another man’s ‘cult’. Secularists and atheists pretty much think that all religion is a cult so what do you do? 
    Stacy made it clear he was pro-Santorum from the get-go so at this point, his coverage may be more ABO than anything. If Santorum became the pick instead of Romney than we would be seeing more persistent attacks on Santorum’s faith from Democrats. 
    All around I think it’s just an ugly tactic attacking one’s faith. Instead of ‘pot meet kettle’ it’s ‘splinter meet moat’. 

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