Moving on, we then had an interesting exchange with Governor Romney:
MR. MATTHEWS: Governor Romney, what do you say to Roman Catholic bishops who would deny communion to elected officials who support abortion rights?
MR. ROMNEY: I don’t say anything to Roman Catholic bishops. They can do whatever the heck they want. (Laughter.) Roman Catholic bishops are in a private institution, a religion, and they can do whatever they want in a religion. America —
MR. MATTHEWS: Do you see that as interference in public life?
MR. ROMNEY: Well, I can’t imagine a government telling a church who can have communion in their church. I can’t — we have a separation of church and state; it’s served us well in this country.
MR. MATTHEWS: Okay.
MR. ROMNEY: This is a nation, after all, that wants a leader that’s a person of faith, but we don’t choose our leader based on which church they go to. This is a nation which also comes together. We unite over faith and over the right of people to worship as they choose. The people we’re fighting, they’re the ones who divide over faith and decide matters of this nature in the public forum. This is a place where we celebrate different religions and different faiths.
Of course, the government shouldn’t tell the Catholic Church what to do. But they can certainly take away the church’s tax exemption for getting involved in politics. As George Carlin once said, if the church wants to meddle in politics, let them pay the entrance fee like everyone else.
I like Romney’s idea that what’s important is that our leaders believe in something for no particular reason, but the specifics of that faith aren’t so important. What a charming fellow.
Governore Hucakabee, however, was less impressed:
MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Governor.
Governor Huckabee, you’ve criticized Governor Romney for saying his faith wouldn’t get in the way of his public life, his governing. Do you want to back that up tonight?
MR. HUCKABEE: I’ve never criticized Governor Romney for that.
MR. ROMNEY: Thank you! (Laughs.)
MR. HUCKABEE: I’ve said in general, and I would say this tonight to any of us, when a person says my faith doesn’t affect my decision- making, I would say that the person’s saying their faith is not significant enough to impact their decision process. I tell people up front my faith does affect my decision process. It explains me. No apology for that. My faith says, “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.”
Chris Matthews cut him off at this point for some more badgering. Which is a pity. I was hoping Hucakbee would explain precisely what it means that his faith affects his decision process. What decisions would he make one way if he were an atheist, that he makes differently because he has faith?
So Romney thinks it is important to faith in something. Huckabee thinks it’s important to let your faith influence the decisions you make as an elected leader. Senator Brownback, what’s your view of the matter?
SEN. BROWNBACK: Chris, this is a key point, I think. And I think it’s a key point for the country, because we’ve had 40 or 50 years now of trying to run faith out of the public square. And we’re a nation of faith, as my colleague Senator Lieberman, a Jew, says. America’s a faith-based experiment as a country. We should celebrate and invite faith. And our motto is, “In God We Trust.” This isn’t something that divides, this is something that pulls together and lifts us up. And it’s key. And it’s important. We shouldn’t be trying to run it out of the public square, we should invite it in and celebrate it.
Senator Lieberman’s Jewish? Who knew?!
Have faith in something. Let that faith influence your decisions. Celebrate your faith in public. Quite the little progression.
Moving on, here’s Duncan Hunter following Tancredo’s lead on global warming:
MR. VANDEHEI: Congressman Hunter, Kenyu Thomas (sp) from Honolulu, Hawaii, wants to know if you watched Al Gore’s environmental documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.”l (Laughter.)
REP. HUNTER: No, I didn’t watch it. But, you know, I think that global warming and the need to be energy independent gives us a great opportunity. I think we should bring together all of our colleges, our universities, the private sector, government laboratories and undertake what for this next generation will be a great opportunity and a great challenge to remove energy dependence on the Middle East and at the same time help the climate. I think we can do that.
We need to take taxes down to zero for the alternative energy sources.
We need to make sure that all the licensing from our laboratories goes to the private sector, goes to the American manufacturing sector for these energy systems. I think we can do it.
Interesting. Two of the most conservative candidates taking a soft line on global warming. Instead of decrying it as a hoax, as people like James Inhofe and Tom DeLay do, they change the subject to the importance of energy conservation. Looks like progress to me.
Stem cells were up next. The theme here was: Embryonic stem-cells are bad and unnecessary because adult-stem cells cna give us everything we need. Let’s sample the responses:
MR. ROMNEY: Altered Nuclear Transfer creates embryo-like cells that can be used for stem cell research. In my view, that’s the most promising source. I have a deep concern about curing disease. I have a wife that has a serious disease that could be affected by stem cell research and others, but I will not create new ebryos through cloning or through embryo farming because that would be creating life for the purpose of destroying it.
SEN. BROWNBACK: It will not — with all due respect to Mrs. Reagan and her desires here, I’ve studied this matter a great deal. We are curing and healing people with adult stem cells. It is not necessary to kill a human life for us to heal people, and we’re doing it with adult stem cell work and it’s getting done.
MR. GILMORE: We can’t create people in order to experiment with people.
MR. HUCKABEE: I would concur. I don’t think it’s right to create a life to end a life. That’s not a good health decision.
REP. HUNTER: No. I’d like to show Mrs. Reagan the alternatives, which are adult stem cells.
Well, that’s all pretty clear. But doesn’t anyone think this issue is more complciated than the answers so far suggest?
MR. THOMPSON: There’s so much research going on, Chris, you cannot answer that question yes or no. There’s research currently going on right now at the Waisman Center in Madison, Wisconsin, that’s going to allow for adult stem cells —
MR. MATTHEWS: Right.
MR. THOMPSON: — to become pluripotent, which will have the same characteristics of embryonic stem cells. So you do not have to kill an embryo.
Pluripotent? Now where’d the guv’ner learn a big word like that? You really had to see the debate to get the full effect. You just had to hear Thompson’s stern, lecturing tone.
McCain then came out unambiguously in favor of stem-cell research. Coupled with his support for evolution, that officially makes him the only non-crazy candidate on the stage. Faint praise indeed.
Rep. Paul, what do you think?
REP. PAUL: Programs like this are not authorized under the Constitution. The trouble with this — issues like this is in Washington we either prohibit it or subsidize it.
MR. MATTHEWS: Right.
REP. PAUL: And the market should deal with it and the states should deal with it.
Have I mentioned recently how much llibertarians bug me? Giuliani then gave a typically squishy answer for this kind of question. Happily, Rep. Tancredo was there to bring everything back to normal:
REP. TANCREDO: There are billions of dollars going into this research right now. It does not require me taking money from federal —
MR. MATTHEWS: Okay —
REP. TANCREDO: — from taxpayers in the United States to fund it and — because it is morally, I think, reprehensible in certain ways.
Which ways would those be, Mr. Congressman? So, with a handful of exceptions, it would seem the Republicans are officially pro-suffering, disease and death. How’s that for framing?