We will return to Ryan. But first we have to get through Romney. This was the best thing about the Clint Eastwood warm-up: he ignored the red light and mumbled on for an extra seven minutes, sowing panic, as well as excruciation, in the control tower. All we lacked was a live feed to Romney—to Romney’s characteristic smile of pain (that of a man with a very sore shoulder who has just eased his way into a tight tuxedo). Perhaps this partly explains why the nominee remained so opaque and unrelaxed. He never came close to settling the question that all Marica must ask: is Mitt the kind of guy you’d like to have a glass of water with? At this late stage it’s time to remind ourselves of a salient fact. There is only one principle on which Romney has never wavered, and that is his religion.

He is a crystallized and not an accidental believer. You can see it in his lineless face. Awareness of mortality is in itself ageing (it creases the orbits of the eyes, it torments the brow); and Romney has the look of someone who seriously thinks that he will live forever. He is a Mormon—though he doesn’t like talking about it. And if I were a Mormon, I wouldn’t like talking about it either. Whatever you may feel about their doctrines, the great monotheisms are sanctioned by the continuities of time: Islam has 15 centuries behind it, Christianity has 20, Judaism at least 40. One of the dozens of quackeries that sprang up during the Great Revival, Mormonism was founded on April 6, 1830. The vulgarity and venality—the tar and feathers—of its origins are typical of the era. But there are aspects of its history that might still give us pause.

The first Prophet of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, had 87 wives, of whom the youngest was 14. Brigham Young, the second Prophet, was husband to 70; he also incited a series of murders (to quell intra-church rivalries). Mormons suffered persecution, and they retaliated—in 1857, for example, they killed 120 men, women, and children (the Mountain Meadows massacre). During the Civil War, the Mormons’ sympathies lay with the South, and unavoidably so, for they too dealt in human chattels; as one historian, Hugh Brogan, puts it, “Lincoln might as well have said of polygamy what he said of slavery, that if it was not wrong, nothing was wrong.” Not until 1890 did the church renounce the practice (though it persisted well into living memory); not until 1978 did a further “revelation” disclose that black people were the equals of whites—by which time Mitt Romney was 31 years old.

It may be that the heaviest item in the Mormon baggage is not its moral murk or even its intellectual nullity so much as its hopeless parochialism. “A man with a big heart from a small town,” they called him in Tampa. We don’t question the big heart; but we gravely doubt the big mind. The truth is that Romney, who aspires to lead the free world, looks ridiculous when he’s not in America. How can he bestride the oceans—the Latter-Day Saint with the time-proof face, who believes that the Garden of Eden was located in Missouri?

At the RNC it was Ryan’s oratory, not Romney’s, that inspired the rawest gust of triumphalism. And that rapture, we were told, would remain undiluted by the discovery, the next morning, that the speech was very largely a pack of lies. According to the campaign managers, there is “no penalty,” these days, for political deceit. When planning this race the Republicans envisaged a classic “pincer” strategy: they would buy the election with super-PAC millions, while also stealing it with gerrymandering and voter suppression (an effort that seems to be faltering in the courts). No penalty? Don’t believe it. Who will submit to being lied to with a sneer? The effects of dishonesty are cumulative. Undetectable by focus groups or robocalls, they build in the unconscious mind, creating just the kind of unease that will sway the undecided in November.

via Martin Amis on God, Money, and What's Wrong with the GOP – Newsweek and The Daily Beast.

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