In his loftily phrased excoriation of Sen. Mitt Romney, Ralph Hancock not only misses the boat, but falls in the drink.
As have many, including President Donald Trump, Hancock seriously misunderstands Sen. Romney’s affirmation that it was his “oath before God” that compelled him to vote for removal in the Trump affair. The false interpretation is that Sen. Romney was claiming his belief in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints required him to make that decision. What Romney meant — and it’s obvious from his wording — was that he had taken an oath before God as a Senate juror to vote his conscience.
The only link to the church is that, due to its teachings, Sen. Romney has an exquisite sense of conscience, and thus felt compelled to do what he did. Accusations of him “using religion as a crutch” are at least misguided and at worst cynical and self-serving. Trump says it crassly, Hancock more refined. I’m not surprised Trump doesn’t get it. I am surprised that Professor Hancock doesn’t.
Now a second related problem: Hancock commits a logical fallacy, a false dichotomy. “The question is whether Sen. Romney has frivolously spent his political capital ... or wisely traded it in order to make some powerful new friends in the national political arena.” But that is not the question at all. Hancock’s phrasing implies that there are only these two alternatives. Other alternatives are left unacknowledged. Perhaps, for instance, Romney was actually being sincere — a possibility Hancock seems to find unfathomable. Perhaps Romney was looking beyond temporary political expediency and instead embracing eternal principles, or maybe he knew that honoring one’s conscience and oath before God is far more important than partisan politics.