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The Mouth on the Face of Mormonism? Print E-mail
By Francis J. Beckwith   
Friday, 28 September 2012

The U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-NV), like the Republican candidate for president, Governor Mitt Romney, is a Mormon.  Romney is scheduled to speak in Reid’s home state later this week. In anticipation of the governor’s visit, Senator Reid claimed in a recent Salt Lake Tribune article that many Nevada residents are Mormons and that “they understand that he [Governor Romney] is not the face of Mormonism.” Reid also said that he agreed with the judgment of another Mormon that Romney had “sullied” the reputation of the LDS Church because of the governor’s recent comments about the “47 percent.”

I am, of course, not a Mormon. But I did grow up in Nevada, and I know something about Senator Reid and how my own admiration for him has waned over the years. 

In 1970, when I was nine years old, I appeared in a political ad with Mike O’Callaghan, a prolife Democrat, who was running for governor of Nevada. On the same ticket, running for lieutenant governor, was a 30-year-old Harry Reid, a former student of O’Callaghan’s when he was a teacher at Basic High School in Henderson.  O’Callaghan and Reid won, and took office in 1971.  (O’Callaghan, a devout Catholic, died in 2004 as a result of a heart attack he suffered while attending 6:45 am mass at St. Viator Catholic Church, where my parents are also parishioners.)


      The author, center, in a 1970 ad for Mike O'Callaghan

In the early 1980s, after Reid had spent several years as chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, my parents hired Reid as their attorney after a Chicago company had broken a contract with them.  Reid represented them well.  Moreover, because many of us associated the much-beloved O’Callaghan with Reid, who like the late governor was a prolife Democrat, I voted for Reid when he ran for the U.S. Senate in 1986 against Democrat-turned-Republican Congressman Jim Santini. 

In the early 1990s, when I expressed to some Republican friends my admiration and respect for Reid, they told me that I was naïve. They said he was a ruthless politician. I didn’t believe them, since it was contrary to my own experience. But that began to change.

In the mid-1990s, I served as a Senior Fellow with the Nevada Policy Research Institute.  NPRI hosted a television show that was broadcasted in Reno. Because of an advertising arrangement with Reno Air, I was able to fly free of charge from my home in southern California to Reno to appear on the program. That arrangement didn’t last long.

NPRI also broadcast a one-minute commentary over Nevada radio stations several times a week. One of the commentaries (which, coincidentally, I wrote), entitled “Nevada Economics,” strongly criticized Senator Reid’s bad reasoning on economic matters in an interview that had been published days earlier in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.  

Within days of the broadcast, NPRI received word from Reno Air that the arrangement was over. The airline had been told in no uncertain terms by someone representing Reid that its sponsorship of the NPRI program comes with a “price.” (Or, as Tony Soprano might put it, “It would be a real shame if something happened to that nice little profitable airline of yours.”)


           When Harry Reid does not speak for Mormonism, especially about Mitt Romney

In 2004, a well known Nevadan, my high school classmate, was thinking about challenging Senator Reid, who was up for reelection that year. Soon after word of my friend’s deliberations leaked out, he received a phone call from a local advertising executive, who had been involved with some of Reid’s prior campaigns. The executive told him that if he ran against Reid that some private facts about his family would become public knowledge. This so emotionally disturbed my friend that he nearly passed out, ran to the toilet, and vomited uncontrollably for several minutes.  

Within the past couple of months, Senator Reid claimed that someone who had worked for Bain Capital, the company started by Governor Romney, told Reid that the governor had not paid any income taxes for ten years. Now that Romney has released those tax returns, showing that he had indeed paid taxes (as well as made generous charitable contributions), we now know that Senator Reid made a claim about a fellow Mormon that either he did not know was true or he knew was false. In any case, that makes Reid either morally negligent or a liar. Consequently, I am confident that Nevada Mormons understand that when Harry Reid moves his mouth the face of Mormonism is not speaking.  

Unfortunately, as I have come to learn over the years, this type of activity on the part of Reid and his lieutenants is more common than I could have ever imagined.  What started as a real admiration for a man who had been the student, friend, and political compatriot of one of my heroes, Mike O’Callaghan, has been transformed into sad disappointment.

 
Francis J. Beckwith is Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies, Baylor University. He is the author of Politics for Christians: Statecraft as Soulcraft, and (with Robert P. George and Susan McWilliams) the forthcoming A Second Look at First Things: A Case for Conservative Politics, a festschrift in honor of Hadley Arkes.
 
 
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Comments (13)Add Comment
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written by Jack,CT, September 28, 2012
Your article reminds me of when you're 18 and your old
"Uncle" reminds you that in twenty years you"Will not be a
Democrat'.I agree with all you said and found it very
refreshing.I also found it sad,sad how cruel Politics
really is!
Jack
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written by DS, September 28, 2012
OK, so Senator Reid is a nasty pol. What is the Catholic angle here?
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written by Rob, September 28, 2012
The Catholic Thing seems to be focusing on the GOP and repeating their message these days. Will the site go back to focusing on GOD instead of the GOP after the elections? I certainly hope so.

I get that Harry Reid is a ruthless politician and loathsome. Most politicians are pretty bad. Put not your trust in princes as the Psalms remind us.

In the meantime, I suppose I have to look for another six weeks of Beltway Catholics solemnly assuring us that Gov. Romney, who was pro-abortion and pro-homosexual marriage before turning his sites on the White House, is someone a Catholic should support. Let us hope they do not start telling us that Gov. Romney is a Christian...
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written by Mack Hall, September 28, 2012
The "Catholic angle" in this article is truth and justice. One might as well ask a Catholic biologist what the Catholic angle is in the oxygen / carbon dioxide exchange in green leaves, or ask a Catholic cop what the Catholic angle is in promoting safe communities for all.
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written by Athanasius, September 28, 2012
We have the most anti-Catholic administration in history that will stop at nothing to bring about an atheistic socialistic transformation to our country, complete with the trampling of our religious liberty. Along with this we have a supposedly Catholic minority leader in the House who clearly does not support core Catholic beliefs and a Senate majority leader who acts as noted in this article. And yet, they belong to a party that lectures the rest of us on "morality", and they claim to be the party who "cares". Many Americans seem to buy into this nonsense.

The Catholic angle here is to point out the duplicity of these leaders and not let them go unchallenged. I view this website as part of the public square, and we should discuss issues that are important to us as Catholics, even if they aren't always theological.

Rob, the key word in your assessment of Romney's positions on abortion and homosexuality is "was". I have heard Romney's explanations for changing his positions, and I believe Romney has sincerely changed his mind on these items.

While it is true that the Church is not partisan, it does have clear principles. And when one party has evolved to strongly be against several of these principles, it is appropriate to point this out, especially before an election. This is not blind loyalty to one party. It is looking at the reality of the current situation in the country and trying to apply our principles to it.

Yes, the Republicans aren't perfect, and we should call them on it when they go against our beliefs. But the fact is that right now, here in 2012, the Repubican party is by far much closer to Catholic principles than the Democrats.

I don't vote Republican. I vote pro-life. It just so happens that for the last 25 years voting pro-life has meant voting Republican. It also happens that voting to lift Americans out of poverty, voting to preserve traditional marriage, voting to promote free trade in the world to help lift other nations out of poverty, voting for educating our children according to traditional western civilization and values that recognize objective morality, and voting to promote both the Catholic principles of solidarity and subsidiarity have meant voting Republican. And the Democrats are proudly moving closer to the culture of death, government dependence, cronyism, and moral relativism each election.
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written by philfourthirteen, September 28, 2012
I agree with Athanasius and would point out one more thing. Even if Romney did change his position for political gain, at least you could say that the price of admission to the GOP is loyalty to pro-lifers. A number of Democrats have changed from Pro-Life to Pro-Choice because that is their admission standard.
I think that Francis wrote this article because Sen. Reid has fired the first shot(s) by questioning Romney's honesty about his taxes and questioning Romney's faithfulness to Mormonism. To me ad hominem attacks (or worse, slander) belong in a different category than changing your position on abortion.
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written by Devin Rose, September 28, 2012
Here's one Catholic who appreciates Dr. Beckwith writing this post. I didn't know any of that background, and it is helpful in understanding the character of Reid.
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written by Luci, September 28, 2012
I appreciate Mr. Beckwith's candor and can almost feel that disappointment angst and sadness when someone you thought you knew(perhaps because they were somehow connected to a rather unreputedly great individual is found to be someone altogether different,selfserving, and loathesome! Reminds of case of Dr.Martin Luther King and Rev Jesse Jackson's recollections Jackson made claims that he was much more integral to King's mission than he really was and made claims that those much closer to King say are false.

This article is a lesson for us all about being wary of "Wolves in sheep's clothing" or rather"politicians" in sheep's clothing!

I as just one Catholic person feel enlightened by this article to the true character of Mr. Reid but who is surprised? After his actions ? He hates Romney and it seems quite personal. Reid appears ruthless and..desperate for the Dems to win .. but for what? Why can't people see through self serving people? And the slippery slope to Socialism agenda?
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written by Luci, September 28, 2012
Athanasius you should send that long post above to the EWT^N's Raymond Arroyo and to the largest Newspapers in America and all parishes nationwide because that says it all really.
I don't know why or how those who "say" they are truly Catholic, OR truly Protestant, for that matter, can ever support some of the views professed at the Dem Convention and especially what happened with not wanting to include, and then taking a vote on, then voting down GOD! WOW! Has our society sunk this low? Sounds like the Fatima prophecies coming true. I am simply stumped and beyond sad as some above have said. These are tough days for all and sad days for the faithful.
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written by Jack,CT, September 29, 2012
Dear, Rob
There is our "Non Negotiables" at stake
in this election,the "Articles" that "The Catholic Thing"
publishes are only apropriate for what is happening in
America at this critical time.
Jack
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written by tiina aleman, October 01, 2012
just to be clear, romney has NOT relased 10 years of tax returns. he has released ONE year: 2011. promising to release the rest is NOT the same as actually doing it. please be accurate in your reporting of the facts.
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written by ProfPalefuddy, October 01, 2012
In Romeny's own assessment, he did not pay taxes. People who pay SSI, FICA, but no "Income Tax" on the remainder of their wage earnings don't pay taxes.

Romney didn't have Wage Earnings, SSI, or FICA taxes on all his "income", because his Income was from Capital Gains. He paid Capital Gains Tax not Income Tax. So Harry's statement may have been walking a fine line.

It is clear, the tax code needs to be revised. Romney has taken every advantage of our economy. He should share his tax information so we can all be like Mitt if he is so proud of his practices. He isn't proud, thus the hide game.
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written by Nevadan, October 01, 2012
Your assertion that Romney has released his taxes is true only to a point. He released 2010 earlier in his campaign, and 2011 a couple of weeks ago. In fact, 2011 was filed almost at the end of extension time, so it could have been changed to meet anything Romney said. Two years does not address the other 8 years that Reid is speaking of. Because so much of the campaign is about taxes, it would be instructive to us to see how Romney has paid his taxes (or not), as it will give us an insight into how he will form his policies.

As an aside, it sounds like Mr. Beckwith is mad because he couldn't get free plane rides anymore, and is choosing to blame it on Mr. Reid.

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