Watch Mitt Romney Explain How Jesus Will Reign for 1,000 Years When He Returns, in Jerusalem... and Missouri
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The incident, from a 2008 Romney appearance on an Iowa radio show, was also discussed by Mark Hemingway of National Review Online, who described,
"You and I share a common affection for the late Cleon Skousen," the radio host says. The former governor agrees, affirming Skousen was his professor and when the radio host professes his fondness for Skousen's book The Making of America, while he acknowledges he hasn't read it, Mitt quickly says "That's worth reading."
Hemingway provides some useful background on how fringe, in ideological terms, Cleon Skousen truly was:
"Skousen's Communist paranoia may have reached it's apotheosis in 1970 when the Mormon church and BYU in particular began receiving a tremendous amount of external pressure to change the church's policy on denying the Mormon priesthood to blacks. Skousen, then a professor at BYU, published an article entitled "The Communist Attack on the Mormons" and noted that critics were employing Communist tactics which were "distorting the religious tenet of the Church regarding the Negro and blowing it up to ridiculous proportions." The Mormon Church reversed course on its discriminatory practices in 1978 and began ordaining black men to the priesthood.
Later in the 70s, Skousen accused the Council on Foreign Relations and the Rockefellers of puppeteering the election of Jimmy Carter to pave the way for One World Government, his new favorite topic. Things got so bad that the Mormon Church eventually issued an official communiqué distancing itself from Skousen's organization, the Freemen Institute."
But what does it mean? How much weight should we give Romney's endorsement of Skousen's writing? Hemingway opines,
"...in the video Governor Romney demonstrates more than a passing familiarity with Skousen's work...
I sincerely doubt that Mitt Romney believes anything near as outlandish as many of the things Cleon Skousen espoused, and to be fair Skousen wrote on numerous topics with wildly varying degrees of intellectual sobriety. In fact, as the radio host in the YouTube video notes, Skousen's writings on original intent and the U.S. Constitution in The Making of America are compellingly argued, and to this day are often cited by conservatives unaware of Skousen's more checkered writings."
Hemingway seems, however, to be unaware of Skousen's virulent views on slavery evinced in The Makings of America, and his treatment elides the context of Romney's plug for Skousen--the Second Coming which, as we well know, drags in the battle of Armageddon. Skousen's eschatological views don't get much notice, but Mitt Romney would seem to hold them in high regard.
But there's another side to the story. As Talk To Action co-founder Frederick Clarkson noted back in 2007, Mitt Romney drags some troublesome liberal baggage along with his penchant for Cleon Skousen:
He has not received as much support from the religious right as he had hoped. He has sought to be acceptable to conservatives and at the same time not-too-scary to moderates. He has also emphasized his recent conversion from being prochoice to being prolife, and sought to obscure his past support for gay and lesbian civil rights while emphasizing his position opposing marriage equality. During the recent GOP candidate debate in Florida, he refused to say, as he once did, that he looks forward to the day when gays and lesbians can serve openly in the military. Many -- especially many of us who live in Massachusetts -- take him as having few, if any, deep convictions. And (as far as I know) with the exception of Paul Weyrich, no major religious right leader is supporting him."
It's easy to envision Romney, as a candidate, pandering to the ideological fanaticism that has gripped the Republican Party and, were he to win the nomination, picking a true believer such as Michele Bachmann as a running mate, to shore up his evangelical base. And, in that context, Romney's penchant for Cleon Skousen might not be such a liability; it might even get him onto the Glenn Beck show.