WASHINGTON -- Organizers of this weekend’s Values Voters Summit thanked Mitt Romney for his Saturday appearance by giving the slot immediately after his to a radical Christian who used his time to take veiled shots at the Mormon former governor and insist that only a true Christian can serve in the White House.
Romney, toward the end of his speech, raised the issue, wagging his finger in the air and insisting on civil debate, referencing a speaker who’d be on the stage after him. Though he didn’t mention Christian extremist Bryan Fischer by name, a Romney aide let assembled reporters know that Fischer was the man he was referring to.
"Our values ennoble the citizen and strengthen the nation. We should remember that decency and civility are values, too," Romney said. "One of the speakers who will follow me today has crossed that line, I think. Poisonous language doesn't advance our cause. It's never softened a single heart nor changed a single mind."
Fischer made a passionate case against the imposition of Sharia law in the United States, called homosexuality, among other things, a “threat to public health,” insisted that Muslims and Christians don’t worship the same God and argued that there had not been a major terrorist attack on American soil because crowds at Major League Baseball games often sing “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch. “Major League Baseball has converted our stadiums into cathedrals,” he said.
Romney had been backed into a corner that virtually required him to address either Fischer or Robert Jeffress, the senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Dallas. On Friday, Jeffress called Mormonism "a cult" while introducing Romney-rival Rick Perry,
“It is only faith in Jesus Christ -- in Jesus Christ alone -- that qualifies you as a Christian,” Jeffress said in remarks echoed Saturday by Fischer.
Perry said that Jeffress' introduction "knocked it out of the park.”
Yet Romney's speech was warmly received. “It’s time to let a conservative businessman take the reins of the American government,” Romney summarized, suggesting that reining in unions and reducing their political influence would boost the economy.
"I will never, ever apologize for America," Romney said, adding that he would reaffirm the country's commitment to defending Israel as a Jewish state, which received intense applause. He promised to firm up the "special relationship" with the United Kingdom, which won a smattering of applause. He then promised to work closely with Mexico on drug trafficking and other border-related issues, which received no applause at all.
Romney also promised to increase military spending, saying that proposed cuts to the Pentagon will "lead to a far higher price, not only in treasure but in blood."
More on Mitt Romney:
How will Donald Trump’s first 100 days impact YOU? Subscribe, choose the community that you most identify with or want to learn more about and we’ll send you the news that matters most once a week throughout Trump’s first 100 days in office. Learn more