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Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Glimpse Into Mitt Romney\'s Mormon Faith


Mitt Romney often keeps his activities as a devout adherent of the Mormon faith at some distance from the press, but on Sunday his campaign aides let a pool reporter attend services near his vacation home in Wolfeboro, N.H. The report by the pool reporter, McKay Coppins of Buzzfeed, contains some interesting observations of the Romney family and the service, as excerpted below, as filed:

Good Sunday morning.

“Following an hourlong drive from their Concord, NH hotel, your pool arrived in Mitt Romney's Wolfeboro neighborhood at about 9:00 am. After getting swept, we joined the Romney motorcade at 9:50 and are en route to a Mormon church service nearby. Campaign aides say reporters will be allowed into the service with the governor. We haven't seen him yet.

(As luck would have it, your pooler is a Mormon who regularly attends church services â€" though generally not with secret service. Should be fun.)

Romney arrived at church at about 10 am just as the service was beginning. He was accompanied by his wife Ann, as well as his son Tagg's family (wife and 6 kids).

In the parking lot, Romney was greeted by an elderly couple.

“Welcome back,” the woman said, giving Romney a hug.

“Thank you,” he said, smiling broadly.

The family then made their way into the chapel, and sat toward the back of the congregation of less than 100. A member of the “bishopric” was making announcements, including an upcoming trip to the Boston temple, and a local young man who's been called to serve as a missionary in California.

Romney, wearing a navy blue suit, white shirt, and blue tie, sang along to the opening hymn, “How firm a foundation.”

After a second hymn, “He died, the great redeemer died,” young men clad in white shirts and ties passed out the sacrament - small pieces of white bread and cups of water that symbolize the flesh and blood of Jesus, similar to Catholic communion. Taking the sacrament is a sign of repentance for sins committed in the past and a commitment to follow the commandments in the future.

Romney, Ann (wearing a long pink patterned skirt and a white blouse) and everyone in Tagg's family took the sacrament. At one point, the boy passing out the bread moved in before Gov. Romney got to take it, and Tagg signaled for him to return so he could partake.

After sacrament, a woman in the Marriott family performed a song, and then a 20-something Marriott woman came to the pulpit and told stories about the mission she returned from in May. (It's customary for returned missionaries to give “homecoming talks” after their missions.)

Romney appeared to pay close attention throughout her talk, looking down at his lap very occasionally (possibly at his iPad, which he had with him when he walked in.) Ann, meanwhile, took tur ns holding different young grandkids on her lap. Tagg also retreated to the back of the chapel at one point to gently bounce one of his sleeping newborns.

By popular demand (aka my editor, Ben Smith) the returned missionary from the Marriott family (named Ali) split her mission between Oakland, CA and St. George, Utah. It was 18 months long, as is customary for women's missions; men serve for two years.)

As the service progressed, Gov. Romney took one of his grandkids, Johnny, on his lap and flipped through a picture book with him.

Meanwhile, Ali's mother, Julie Marriott, gave a talk about following the guidance of the holy ghost, a pillar of Mormon doctrine that holds that God gives individuals “personal revelation” to better their lives and help those in need.

After the talk, a choir director came to the pulpit and said that he would like to invite volunteers to join the women's choir that was about to sing. Gov. Romney looked over at h is wife and gave her an encouraging nod, after which Ann stood with Tagg's wife, Jen. They joined about 40 women (virtually everyone in the congregation) on the stand, and sang “Because I have given much” - a popular Mormon hymn about using whatever blessings one has even given to help others. The lyrics include: “I shall divide my gifts from thee with every brother that I see, who has the need of help from me.”

After the choir was done, Ann and Jen returned to their families, and Gov. Romney smiled at his wife.
Addition to one of the earlier reports: A campaign aide points out that Gov. Romney uses his iPad to read scriptures, which could explain why he glanced down at his lap a couple time during the service. (It's true that there are a number of apps that contain a complete compilation of Mormon scripture, including the New and Old Testaments, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. But your pooler wasn't close enoug h to see what he was looking at.)

The final speaker at the sacrament meeting (that's the name of the first hour of Mormon services), was an older gentleman who also belonged to the Marriott family named Richard. He said he'd been coming up to Wolfeboro every summer for 70 years. He mostly told stories about his time summers spent here, and how he's seen the Mormon congregation change over the years.

Romney and his wife continued to pay attention, looking away only to occasionally entertain one of their grandchildren. When the speaker finished, the congregation sang the hymn, “I Need Thee Every Hour,” which is about turning to Jesus to resist temptation, and find peace amid trials. Romney sang along intently. A woman then gave the closing prayer, asking for God's guidance throughout the rest of the day. When the prayer ended, Romney wiped his eyes, and then stood to shake hands with a man he appeared to know. (Pooler wasn't close enough to see whether he was e motional, but he was smiling when he greeted his acquaintance.)

The congregation didn't seem particularly star-struck by Romney's presence, and no mention was made of it throughout the service. The pool was then ushered out, and informed that Gov. Romney would be attending Sunday School after the meeting, which was not open to press. We're currently holding in a van in the church parking lot.

To answer a good question by Michael Finnegan, of the LA Times: No cameras (stills or TV) were allowed inside the service, though the campaign did allow photos of the family as they entered the chapel. We're now holding outside, and photographers plan to take pictures/get footage of the family leaving.”

Media Hunt for Shirtless Photo of Ryan


As soon as the mainstream media's frenzied focus on Mitt Romney's vice-presidential pick began to slow last weekend, another pursuit began â€" albeit one that was decidedly less high-minded.

That chase moved full speed ahead on Friday with the publication by the Web site TMZ of the only known shirtless photo of Mr. Romney's designated running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, whose purported six-pack abs and body fat count of 6 to 8 percent set bloggers abuzz. (“Ryan ‘Fit' for Office,” the Drudge Report said admiringly.)

But TMZ seemed slightly disappointed with its scoop, all but ensuring that the hunt for new photos of a bare-chested Mr. Ryan will go on.

“While Ryan's bod ain't bad in the pic,” TMZ reported, “sources close to Paul's abs tell us Ryan has totally transformed his midsection in the past couple of years … and now he's totally shredded with a killer six-pack.”

The question is does anyone really care?

“There was all that mystery about what does this man look like under that tent of clothing he's got on,” said Larry Hackett, the editor of People. But Mr. Hackett recalled an old creed of the magazine's founding editor: Politicians are lowest on the list of the celebrities that people want to read about.

Perhaps Mr. Ryan would be better suited for a magazine like Men's Health. Its editor, David Zinczenko, said he would entertain the idea. “It's probably a good excuse for some fun puns, like asking: ‘How fiscally fit is he really?' ”

Giuliani and Santorum Assail Biden for Virginia Speech


WASHINGTON - Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. came in for an unapologetic drubbing on Sunday from two prominent Republicans for suggesting last week before a largely African-American audience that the policies of a President Romney would unshackle Wall Street but put some Americans “in chains.”

In turn, an Obama spokeswoman tried to turn the focus to language used by Mr. Romney himself.

But on Sunday, Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor, bluntly questioned Mr. Biden's stability.

“Oh, no, I don't think he's nuts,” he said on CBS's “Face the Nation.” “I'm just saying I wonder if he's got the kind of balance - probably what I should have said is the balance to be president of the United States.”

He added: “This guy is like one gaffe after another, and he's a - he's a joke on late-night television.”

Rick Santorum, a more recent presidential hopeful, was no less direct. The former Pennsylvania senator, who now supports Mitt Romney despite their sometimes bitter fight for the nomination, suggested that Mr. Biden was “playing the race card” by evoking a slavery-era image.

Such language, he said on CNN's “State of the Union,” was “horrendous” and Mr. Biden should apologize. But, Mr. Santorum added, the remarks reflected “exactly the tone of this campaign.”

The Boston Globe called in an editorial over the weekend for Mr. Biden to apologize.

Even Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, said Sunday that the vice president's remarks had been “indelicate,” but he forcefully rejected the notion that they had a racial undertone. “There's not a racist bone in Joe Biden's body,” he said on NBC's “Meet the Press.”

On Sunday, Mr. Obama's deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter, also suggested that Mr. Biden might have chosen bet ter words but insisted that his point â€" that “we cannot go back to the days where taxpayers end up bailing out people because of their own reckless behavior” - remained valid.

Speaking on CNN, she then turned her fire on the Romney campaign.

“If we want to talk about words on the campaign trail that are poor choices of words, let's talk about Mitt Romney's, when he has been traveling for the last two years basically calling the president un-American, saying that he wanted to - the president wanted to make it a less Christian nation. Those are poor choices of words, and that is, you know, that we find completely offensive.

“So this faux outrage by Mitt Romney, complaining and whining about the tone of this race, is really completely hypocritical.”

Mr. Biden has been drawing criticism from Republicans ever since he began in a speech in Danville, Va., by saying: “Romney wants to let the â€" he said in the first hundred days, he's going to l et the big banks once again write their own rules, unchain Wall Street. They're going to put y'all back in chains.”

At the time Mr. Biden spoke it was not clear that people in the audience were offended; indeed, some laughed. But that did not help Mr. Biden escape the subsequent pounding.