Moral Midget of the Month Award

… goes, not to Rick Perry – though his integrity is so minuscule you’d need an electron microscope to see it – but to Mitt Romney. How low to the ground do you have to be to allow your ancestral faith to be insulted and not hit back?

… goes, not to Rick Perry – though his integrity is so minuscule you’d need an electron microscope to see it – but to Mitt Romney. How low to the ground do you have to be to allow your ancestral faith to be insulted and not hit back?

Contrast Benjamin Disraeli, a baptized Christian and a faithful member of the Church of England but a Jew by ancestry, taunted about his Jewishness by an Irish opponent: “Yes, I am a Jew. And when the ancestors of the right honorable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon.”

Now, that’s the way it’s done. But the Boneless Wonder doesn’t have it in him. It’s not that Romney has any scruples about fighting dirty: his attack on Perry over immigration was about as raw as they come. But Romney is a coward and a bully. He knows the mob isn’t on his side about Mormonism, so he’s prepared to absorb the insult to his religion rather than make it an issue.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

21 thoughts on “Moral Midget of the Month Award”

  1. Wow. Mark, I usually love your posts here, but this one is so far off base it’s not even in the ballpark.

  2. I sympathize with Romney’s desire to downplay the religious aspects of the campaign. “Honor” of the sort described by Professor Kleiman here causes a lot of trouble. The desire to turn the other cheek is truly honorable, even if one suspects that Romney wouldn’t be doing it were it not also politically expedient.

    1. …even if one suspects that Romney wouldn’t be doing it were it not also politically expedient.


      Romney will say and do anything to be President.
      There hasn’t been a candidate with this much Zelig in him since Rome fell…
      The real question is: Does Romney’s charming insincerity intersect with our country’s zeitgeist?

      The country may be ready for an “honest-to-god-bullshitter”, as distinguished from the long line of artless bullshitters, we’ve been “revolving” in and out of the Oval Office.
      The peeps are always looking for simple slogans to hang their chads on…
      And Romney’s Faustian politics has a position for ever counter-position.
      The guy’s a true genius whose strategy (a hall of mirrors) is Harvard brilliant.

  3. As Mark pointed out, Romney was willing to attack Perry on the latter’s not being vicious enough on the children of illegal immigrants. Oh, and Romney violated the ‘sacred’ GOP stance on States’ Rights (i.e., that perhaps Texas should have policies different from other states).

  4. Well, according to google, this seems to be the actual quote, but I am sorry that Mark spoiled my pleasure over the version that I have long cherished, which went something like: “… and when the ancestors of the right honorable gentleman were blue-painted savages running through the woods of an unknown island … “

  5. Daniel O’Connell wasn’t an anti-semite, and didn’t attack Disraeli on account of his Jewishness — even though Disraeli smeared O’Connell as a traitor, and for his Irishness. (O’Connell attacked Disraeli as a thief and a liar.) They disliked each other for political reasons, among others — Disraeli was opposed to Irish independence.

    O’Connell’s entire quote can easily be found on the intertubez, and you can decide for yourself.

    As an aside, I’ve always thought that, once Disraeli went to the whole temple of Solomon thing, O’Connell should have talked about his Druid ancestors who built Stonehenge while Disraeli’s were still desert goatherds. (Since both are based on fictional foundations, I think it’s even-handed.)

    1. Here’s what O’Connell actually said:

      When I speak of Mr. Disraeli as a Jew, I mean not to taunt him on that account. Better ladies and gentleman than amongst the Jews I have never met with. They were once the chosen people of God. There were miscreants among them, however; and it must certainly have been from one of those that Disraeli descended. He possesses just the qualities of the impenitent thief who died upon the Cross, whose name must have been Disraeli. For aught I know, the present Disraeli is descended from him; and, with the impression that he is, I now forgive the heir-at-law of the blasphemous thief that died upon the Cross.

      I think that’s anti-Semitic enough to be getting along with, though of course my political sympathies on the “Irish Question” lie with O’Connell rather than Disraeli.

      1. Is Mark’s antisemitism radar a bit anachronistic? It would certainly qualify as antisemitism today, but I’m not sure it would do so in the middle of the 19th century. But then again, it might.

        1. Why was O’Connell referring to him as a Jew at all? Or why the “once the chosen people of God”? My reading is that O’Connell was disingenuous here.

  6. No one can top how Hilaire Belloc handled this sort of thing. When he was running for Parliament and a member of the crowd denigrated him as a “papist” he said

    Sir, so far as possible I hear Mass each day and I go to my knees and tell these beads each night. If that offends you, then I pray God may spare me the indignity of representing you in Parliament

  7. I have to side with the crowd on this one; Romney did the right thing in ignoring an attack against his religion. A reality based analysis would have praised the usually feckless Romney for doing something that displayed character.

  8. Romney doesn’t have to fight back, Mark. The pastor’s comments were so offensive that he doesn’t have to say a single word.

  9. If Disraeli’s retort (in Mark’s telling) was “the way it’s done,” does Mark mean he thinks the appropriate response from Romney would be to attack Perry for being an evangelical Christian?

    I’m also with the crowd here, especially Bird Dog. Morally and politically, rising above such comments is the way it should be done.

  10. ‘Legend has it that during one of Lyndon Johnson’s congressional campaigns he decided to spread a rumor that his opponent was a pig-fucker. LBJ’s campaign manager said, “Lyndon, you know he doesn’t do that!” Johnson replied, “I know. I just want to make him deny it.”‘ (Kevin Drum)

    Back them, contesting Johnson’s smear would have been playing his game. Today,contesting the pastor’s smear would be playing his [and Perry’s?] game. Better to ignore it and keep on course.

  11. There are two issues here:

    1. Jeffress’s insult to Romney’s religion.
    2. Jeffress’s suggestion that a candidate’s religion ought properly to be a voting issue, with Christians (however defined) voting only for other Christians.

    Both are deplorable. Both should have been rejected by all the candidates, not just Romney. But Romney in particular had an obligation to stand up, if not for his beliefs (which may be entirely hypothetical) but for his church and his ancestors. “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”

    Romney’s failure to do so was – yes – dishonorable. “Honor” has been the excuse for infinite bad behavior, but it was also honor that led those JAG lawyers to put themselves on the line by standing up against torture. Eventually, you have to say, with Olaf glad and big, “There is some sh*t I will not eat.”

  12. (Dr. Robert Stadler? Or maybe Mark Kleiman)

    The Robert Stadler Story: The Moral Fall of a Man Who Knew Better
    by Edward W. Younkins

    There are many villains in Ayn Rand’s masterpiece, Atlas Shrugged. However, her ultimate villain by far is Dr. Robert Stadler – a man who knew better. Robert Stadler is a villain and a man of stature who once possessed some excellent qualities. A man of great intelligence, Stadler early in the novel loved ability in others, hated ineptitude, exhibited no envy of others, and was focused on achievement. Throughout the novel he increasingly becomes an irrational power-luster who wants unlimited funds for his laboratory in which he will seek pure knowledge without the requirement of producing anything of practical use to people. Stadler, a famous and brilliant physicist and mentor of Ayn Rand’s greatest hero John Galt, sells his soul to the state. Stadler’s guilt and breach of morality are beyond forgiveness because of his great virtues and the fact that he knew what he was doing. Robert Stadler, a once great man, deliberately becomes evil through his own free will.

    The character of Robert Stadler has many times been compared with Alan Greenspan who left Ayn Rand’s Objectivist circle to enter politics eventually becoming an “economic czar” as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. Of course, Greenspan can be viewed as only one of several modern-day Robert Stadlers.[i]

    Robert Stadler, Director of the State Science Institute, is a Plato-like character who holds a theoretical versus applied science split. He is a cynical and brilliant theoretical physicist and intellectual elitist who believes that most people are corrupt, stupid, and incapable of virtuous behavior and that only a rare handful of men are open to reason. Stadler is contemptuous of applied science and material production. He is a thoroughgoing Platonist who thinks that the human mind, reason, and science exist on a higher realm that has nothing to do with life on earth.

    According to Stadler, the mind has its own higher and better abstract dimension divorced from practical applications in the world. He is disdainful of the notion that the purpose of science is to develop technologies to improve man’s life on earth. Stadler is not concerned with practical products of technology and refers to them as “gadgets” or “plumbing.” For example, with respect to Galt’s motor, Stadler is only concerned with the extraordinary theoretical breakthrough the inventor made in the field of energy and not with the practical applications of such a motor which, to him, is just another gadget. Like Hamlet, Stadler is content with his abstract isolation.

    Stadler resorts to the extortion of citizens to finance his theoretical noncommercial projects. Why would a man with such a great mind tragically turn to the use of brute force to get the funding he desires? The answer is that Stadler concludes that his work must be sustained through government force because he thinks that reason is impotent in the world. Because he wants unearned material wealth for his laboratory, he aligns himself with the statist brutes and looters and their barbarous methods. Stadler thinks that the role of the mind is to deal with a higher realm of reality that is divorced from this world and that, therefore, the mind is inefficacious in dealing with this world. He deduces that brute bodily power is dominant in a world in which most people are irrational, emotional, and impervious to reason. Because most individuals can’t appreciate science, he needs a state-backed science institute to force people to finance his research. John Galt recognizes that Stadler, his former professor at Patrick Henry University, is a traitor to the mind and breaks with him when he endorses and joins the State Science Institute. At one time, Stadler would say that the phrase “free scientific inquiry” was redundant. He later insists that government is necessary to conduct scientific inquiry.

    Stadler, a man with a great mind, chooses to renounce the mind by throwing in with the force-wielders. Believing that the thinkers are his enemies, he seeks dictatorial physical power over others and, in the end, is destroyed by his own power-lust. Stadler is doomed once he turns his mind over to the brutes. He is destroyed because he mistakenly thinks that he can survive by joining the power-lusters. At that point, the men of the mind become his enemy alongside the looters who always were his enemy given that Stadler, at least in the beginning, was one of the thinkers. Ultimately, Stadler has nowhere to go. Toward the end of the novel he realizes that if Galt and the other men of the mind are victorious he will be repudiated as a traitor to the mind and if the looters win he will be shackled to the irrational brutes. At the end of the story, Stadler, the great mind who once yearned for other great minds, wants to have John Galt murdered!

    To gain power, Stadler makes himself invaluable to the government’s looter-politicians. He aligns himself with the looters even though he knows that reason and force are opposites. Stadler gets to the point when he views other people’s reason and accomplishments as threats. For example, Stadler knows that Rearden Metal is an excellent product, but does nothing to publicly recognize it or to save it because it would make the State Science Institute appear to be inept. If a private individual produces a new metal, while the State Science Institute’s metallurgical researchers have created nothing of such value, the public will question the need for the institute and Stadler’s funding will be put at risk.

    Stadler says nothing against and even supports the book, Why Do You Think You Think?, written by Dr. Floyd Ferris, top coordinator of the State Science Institute, even though he vehemently disagrees with the ideas espoused in it. Ferris’ book tells people to accept, adapt, obey, and follow those few who are the “thinkers” in the world. Accordingly, people are told to take orders, obey their superiors, and to not use their minds. Stadler promulgates these views in his efforts to gain and keep political power. He tells the public that too many people think too much and that they should leave the thinking to the few thinkers that exist in society of which he happens to be one. As one of the few people in the world concerned with knowledge, it follows that he should have political authority and power.

    Stadler’s sanctioning of the appalling Project X, a weapon that uses sound waves to cause mass destruction, symbolizes the total annihilation of his once great mind. Rather than leave the Project X demonstration or tell the public what he really thinks of it, he delivers a speech praising it. Through this endorsement, Stadler openly accepts the rule of the brutes.

    At the end of Atlas Shrugged, Stadler attempts to take personal control over Project X which was created through the use of his breakthrough ideas. When he drives to the Project X site in Iowa, he finds that the brainless politician, Cuffy Meigs, has already taken command of the horrific weapon. In the ensuing struggle, Project X is activated destroying everything and everyone for hundreds of square miles, including Stadler himself.

    Talk about justice! Stadler is killed by the machine that was created through the use of his theoretical research – a machine that was triggered by a ruthless looter-politician that Stadler had helped to empower. Stadler’s demise highlights his essential guilt. By sanctioning the looters, he delivered his mind into their grasp and ends up being destroyed by the state. Stadler, once a man of the mind with many virtues, turned against reason, logic, and morality. It is Stadler’s great qualities and virtues and the fact that he knew better that makes his moral fall all the greater.

    1. If I were copying and pasting large chunks of Rand’s text (adding no intellectual content to something that started with none), I wouldn’t sign my name either.

  13. “O’Connell should have talked about his Druid ancestors who built Stonehenge while Disraeli’s were still desert goatherds. (Since both are based on fictional foundations, I think it’s even-handed.)”

    I’m not sure where you’re going with this.

    Is your claim that Disraeli’s Jewish ancestors were goatherds, and NOT the same people who built Solomon’s temple? Or that Solomon’s temple never existed? Or what?
    The reason I’m confused is that I don’t know whether YOU understand the point regarding Stonehenge or not, specifically that Stonehenge
    (a) Is not in Ireland
    (b) Was built by Neolithic people
    (c) (And this is the important one) Was built before the Celtic invasion of Britain and Ireland. So it was NOT built by the Druids.

    Of course if one is willing to go all squishy and say that “Druid” refers generically to shamanistic priests, blah blah, blah one can make the statement mean anything. But we’re all kinda sorta academics here, and usually try to maintain important distinctions.
    The Romans, with no archeology or knowledge of the long history of Britain, may have believed that Stonehenge was built by Druids, but we know better and really shouldn’t be repeating this nonsense.

  14. Mark keeps his losing streak alive. Romney has made it clear that on the “issue” of Mormonism, he is going to rest on the speech he made in the 2008 campaign. There is no reason for him to expand on the subject.

Comments are closed.