Mitt Romney Zings Perry on Mormon-Bashing -- Very, Very, Subtly

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 8 2011 10:25 AM

Mitt Romney Zings Perry on Mormon-Bashing -- Very, Very, Subtly

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CHARLESTON, SC - OCTOBER 07: Former Massachusetts Gov. and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney gives a foreign policy address to cadets at the Citadel on October 7, 2011 in Charleston, South Carolina. Romney spoke about the war in Afghanistan and other military topics. (Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images)

Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images

Yesterday, reporters perked up when they heard Dr. Robert Jeffress introduce Rick Perry by mentioning that he was a "GENUINE follower of Jesus Christ." When Perry took the stage, he thanked Jeffress profusely: "He really knocked it out of the park!"

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

By coincidence, Mitt Romney spoke to the Values Voter Summit right shortly after Bill Bennett -- who pointedly used his speech to criticize Jeffress. "Do not give voice to bigotry," he said. "Do not give voice to bigotry." Romney was introduced by Jay Sekulow, the conservative attorney who materializes in front of SCOTUS or Fox News cameras whenever the ACLU rears its head.

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"How about that Jay Sekulow?" asked Romney. "Speaking of hitting it out of the park, how about that Bill Bennett?"

No one else had said "hitting it out of the park." It was not in the prepared text of the remarks. an extremely subtle reference. I expect that's all Romney will say unless he's caught in a scrum. Before he left, though, he said this:

Our values ennoble the citizen, and strengthen the nation. We should remember that decency and civility are values too. One of the speakers who will follow me today, has crossed that line. Poisonous language does not advance our cause. It has never softened a single heart nor changed a single mind. The blessings of faith carry the responsibility of civil and respectful debate.  The task before us is to focus on the conservative beliefs and the values that unite us – let no agenda, narrow our vision or drive us apart.

More subtlety: It was Bryan Fischer, the America Family Association's fire-breathing radio host, who gave Jeffress one of his less combative interviews yesterday. Fischer took the podium and did not disappoint.

"The next president," he said, "needs to be -- I'm speaking generally here -- needs to be a man of sincere, authentic, genuine Christian faith." Later: ""We need a president who believes in the same creator that the founders believed in," the God of "the Old Testament."

The rapidity with which we've come to hear talk like this and realize it's about Romney, and not Obama, has been something to behold.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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