Newsweek’s Mission

The following guest post is submitted by reader Brett McDonald.  Thanks for these insights, Brett.  Send your guest post to [email protected]

I was excited when I saw that Newsweek’s Oct. 8, 2007 issue featured Mitt Romney.  However, while reading the story, my excitement turned to disappointment and frustration as I continually read bold conclusions and loaded premises without the expected accompanying support.  The picture painted of Romney with the aid of these claims is of a weak, unprincipled, confused, charlatan (the authors do leave room for the notion that he may be sincere).  However, the problem is that these same damning claims that paint this picture for the casual reader are completely unsupported by argument.    Rather than attempt to deduce these authors’ motives (although I think they are apparent) I will confine myself to pointing out their flawed conclusions.

Where’s the Argument?
1) Mitt Romney lived with contradictions in his life as a teenager:
According to Newsweek, the fact that Romney attended high school in Michigan and was “the only Mormon” some of his classmates knew, leads to the conclusion that he lived a life of “contradictions.”  This conclusion is supported with no other facts or factual arguments.  Indeed, just what these contradictions are is never pointed out.  

2) Mitt Romney has not disclosed the “full story” of his faith and family:
According to Newsweek, Romney is “reluctant to keep talking about the full story of his faith and family.”  Once again, this conclusion finds no support in the story.  Perhaps the authors thought that Romney’s ignorance concerning the present state of his old childhood church is evidence that he has not disclosed his full story?  Not only is this claim unsupported in the article, it seems to be contradicted by Romney’s campaign.  Indeed, I would argue that Romney’s family has played a more prominent role in his campaign then any other candidates.  Between the new Ann Romney website (http://www.mittromney.com/Ann-Romney/) and the “Five Brother’s Blog” (http://fivebrothers.mittromney.com/) it seems Romney is eager for voters to get to know the “full story” of his family.

3) Mitt Romney has failed to live up to the high principles of his faith and family:
Newsweek argues that since Romney is reluctant to keep talking about his faith and family “he seem[s] to be failing to live up to the high principles of either.”  This charge is baffling considering Newsweek’s later admittance that his many successes “sprang in part from the values taught him by his father and reinforced by his faith.”  So, according to Newsweek, Romney’s values have infused his personal and career successes, but since he won’t talk in depth about every doctrine in Mormonism he is failing?  The absurdity of this argument cannot be overstated.  What other candidate is asked in-depth questions about the doctrine of their professed religion?  When was the last time Newsweek asked Rudy Giuliani his views on transubstantiation?  Romney emphasizes what matters in the public sphere, Newsweek is not a religious publication and Romney is not engaged in missionary work for the LDS Church.

4) Mitt Romney won’t “look to” or acknowledge his “true” history.

Perhaps the most unsubstantiated conclusion of this article is the following:

So what kind of president would Mitt Romney be? It often seems that Romney himself doesn’t know. More disturbing, he is also unwilling to truly look to his own history for the answer.

In connection with this charge Newsweek alleges:

Romney has downplayed both his religion and his own family history. Instead, he has talked up his résumé as a private-sector “turnaround artist” who reversed the fortunes of troubled companies and the faltering Salt Lake City Olympics and now can come to his party’s—and country’s—rescue.

So, according to Newsweek, Romney’s successful career in the private sector, his academic excellence, Olympic leadership and recent record as Governor are not the history we should look to in order to discover the type of president Romney will be.  Instead, we should look to the history and belief of the Mormon people generally?  Really?  Newsweek would have us look to the collective history of 13 million people to deduce the kind of president Mitt Romney would be?  Once again, not only is this proposed idea absurd, it has not been applied to any other candidate.

While I do not expect magazine articles to rise to the level of scholarship, I do generally expect claims and conclusions to be backed up by supporting evidence and argument.  This article failed to do so and therefore its claims ought to be rejected by voters.