Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Did Romney Access His Credentials As Mormon Bishop To Answer Gun Control Question In Second Presidential Debate?

Romney answering question about controlling AK-47 assault weapons during second presidential debate- Was his answer "heaven-sent"?
There was a moment in the second presidential debate that struck me as most odd.  I think I have finally managed to explain it by referring back to the time that Romney served as a Mormon Bishop. . .

. . .  How do we get from here to there?

Well that was more or less my question when I was listening to the debate: What kind of leap was Romney making when he answered an audience member’s question about gun control?

The Gun Control Question

Nina Gonzales asked the gun control question first of President Obama, whose turn it was to take the next question.  When Obama finished answering moderator Candy Crowley restated it to put it before Mr. Romney.

Ms. Gonzales’ question and Ms. Crowley restatement were as follows:
Ms. Gonzales: President Obama, during the Democratic National Convention in 2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. What has your administration done or plan to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?

Ms. Crowley: Governor Romney, the question is about assault weapons, AK-47s.
The Answer?

Now admittedly we’ve had a number of issues that people would just as soon dance around or avoid entirely in this election if they can: Global weather change, Guantanamo detentions, drug legalization (See Brian McFadden’s October 21, 2012 “The Strip”).  Given the strength and inflexibility of the gun lobby, gun control is no doubt another of these.

But where did Romney go in his dance?  He went to the importance of two-parent households and not having babies before getting married!  (Presumably that translates into not having sex or only having very careful sex before getting married given Romney’s stance against a woman's free choice when it comes to abortion rights.  Presumably it also means government encouragement of the forgoing, given that Romney was answering the gun control question in the context of explaining why he should be president.)

Government encouragement of two-parent households to limit the availability of AK-47 assault weapons?

Obama danced a little in his response but not that much.  He referred implicitly to being governed by the Supreme Court’s recent rulings by saying that: “we're a nation that believes in the Second Amendment.”   That’s pretty direct.

Romney actually cited back to part of Obama’s response when he went off on his tangent about having babies when you are not married.  Indeed, Obama had spoken of having “a broader conversation” about reducing impulses to violence in the culture (and he even mentioned “faith groups” in this regard) even as he spoke about taking guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill:
And so what I'm trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced, but part of it is also looking at other sources of the violence, because frankly, in my hometown of Chicago, there's an awful lot of violence, and they're not using AK-47s, they're using cheap handguns.

And so what can we do to intervene to make sure that young people have opportunity, that our schools are working, that if there's violence on the streets, that working with faith groups and law enforcement, we can catch it before it gets out of control?

And so what I want is a — is a comprehensive strategy. Part of it is seeing if we can get automatic weapons that kill folks in amazing numbers out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. But part of it is also going deeper and seeing if we can get into these communities and making sure we catch violent impulses before they occur.
But consider where Romney went with it when invited to participate in that broader question.

First he referred back to President Obama’s concept of being attuned to the culture of communities to catch violent impulses before they manifest:
What I believe is we have to do as the president mentioned towards the end of his remarks there, which is to make enormous efforts to enforce the gun laws that we have and to change the culture of violence we have. And you ask, how are we going to do that? And there are a number of things.
The “number of things”?

Obama had mentioned (in conjunction with the need for opportunity) the nation's schools should be working and Romney quickly endorsed having good schools (We were able to drive our schools to be number one in the nation in my state” - Fact checking: Romney didn't do that `driving') saying:
    . .  we'll give people the — the hope and opportunity they deserve, and perhaps less violence from that. 
But it was where Romney went quickly after that and the depth and amount of time he spent with the idea indicated it might all have been heartfelt even as he tried to cover multiple bases (two-parent households are “not always possible):
But let me mention another thing, and that is parents. We need moms and dads helping raise kids. Wherever possible, the — the benefit of having two parents in the home — and that's not always possible. A lot of great single moms, single dads. But gosh, to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone — that's a great idea because if there's a two-parent family, the prospect of living in poverty goes down dramatically. The opportunities that the child will — will be able to achieve increase dramatically.

So we can make changes in the way our culture works to help bring people away from violence and give them opportunity and bring them in the American system.
Where did this come from?  Obama wants to pay attention to how people are behaving in their “communities” but Romney wants to have a conversation with us all about having babies and what kind of families we are forming that . .  (is he really saying this?). .  may or may not (depending on the number of parents?) be part of the “American system”?

A Heaven-Sent Answer?

I believe I found my answer the other day.  I was about halfway through watching PBS Frontline’s “The Choice 2012,” a two hour documentary (Frontline does one every four years) interweaving the biographies of the two presidential candidates.

What I believe is my answer came when the documentary covered Romeny’s being ordained as a Mormon bishop.  (He served four years.) Here is what I heard:
NARRATOR: He would spend 20 to 30 hours each week helping other Mormons handle their most personal problems;— debt, sickness, unwanted pregnancies, and failing marriages.

CLAYTON CHRISTENSEN, [Romney's] Friend: The responsibility to helping them resolve their difficulties and recommit to each other falls on the shoulders of the bishop.

NARRATOR: At first, Bishop Romney was viewed by some as inflexible, what Mormons call an “iron rodder.”

SCOTT HELMAN [The Boston Globe- Co-Author, The Real Romney]: Some people describe him as being very much out of that hidebound tradition, where you know, he’s telling women that they cannot have an abortion. He’s telling single women to give up their children for adoption because the Mormon church does not encourage single parenthood, that he’s resistant to calls for changes within the church for more liberal policies, especially towards women.
The documentary suggested that Romney, confronted with real world family problems ultimately “thawed a bit” but that idea that “single women” should “give up their children for adoption because the Mormon church does not encourage single parenthood” sounds an awful like the idea Romney accessed on the stage of the second presidential debate when he told the nation how we should address the availability of AK-47 assault weapons on the streets.  I am not comfortable with the “broader conversations” Romney seems a little too eager to have.

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