Commentary Magazine


When the Candidate Was a Bishop

Today’s front-page feature in the New York Times on Mitt Romney’s career as a leader in the Mormon Church has the feel of an article whose purpose was basically unfulfilled. Sheryl Gay Stolberg’s agenda seems to have been to dig up as much dirt as she could about the Republican’s activities. But unfortunately for the Times, she didn’t find much that would embarrass the candidate.

As much as Romney has been a familiar national political figure in the last several years, it may be many of us didn’t know that for a considerable period of time he was actually the lay head of the Mormon faith in the Boston area. But after reading the article, the reaction is, if this is the worst they can say about him, he’s not likely to provide Democratic opposition researchers with much fodder.

The one negative story the piece highlighted concerned Romney’s apparent opposition when a church member was contemplating an abortion. This elicited a stinging rebuke from a Mormon who is a feminist dissident within the church. While any discussion of abortion highlights the fact Romney has changed his position over the years, it may also reassure conservatives who don’t trust his current pro-life stand.

But everything else in the story paints a picture of a caring and involved churchman who showed both compassion toward congregants and support for others working for the church. It also portrays him as a take-charge leader, which is, after all, a characteristic needed in a president.

While this may disappoint a Times readership who may have read the story hoping for more juicy tidbits, it should reassure Republicans their frontrunner appears to be as squeaky clean as his image.