Largely unrelated to the theme of his speech, the main part of which I am refraining from discussing any further for a couple of weeks, Romney threw in some added Europe-bashing and Fred Thompsonesque disrespect for Allied war dead. He said:
No people in the history of the world have sacrificed as much for liberty. The lives of hundreds of thousands of America’s sons and daughters were laid down during the last century to preserve freedom, for us and for freedom loving people throughout the world.
The last sentence is true, and the first sentence is not. The last sentence passes over in silence all the hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers from other countries who were sacrificing every bit as much and were fighting “for liberty” as much as our soldiers were. Once again, I would repeat that there is something unhealthy in ranking nations by tallying up body counts or pints of blood shed, but even if it were a contest our country would not “win” first place. That doesn’t make one nation more admirable than another, since it was an allied effort.
I don’t exactly know what the point of any of these direct and indirect shots at Europe was, except perhaps to advance the dubious and easily disproven thesis that religion and freedom need one another to survive. Both can be desirable, but they are not necessarily or obviously complementary in all times and in all places. Also, while we all presumably understand that England’s established church lost still more authority at the end of the seventeenth century with the Act of Toleration, it has never been all together clear how the post-1688/9 established religion of England was fundamentally at odds with constitutional liberties and parliamentary government. Several American states continued to have established churches after independence (Romney’s Massachusetts gave up on an established church only in 1833). It was the relative religious diversity among the states that was one of the reasons for anxiety about a federal government establishment of religion; the prohibition of a federal religious establishment was intended as much to protect state and local religious establishments as it was to protect dissenters.
Alex Massie has more.