(photo: World Affairs Council of Philadelphia)

Mitt Romney is not fit to be President, and it’s incoherent that the Tea Party would think the guy who ran Bain Capital would end the financial sector’s control of the political system.  Opposing TARP and the AIG bailout was, after all, the reason for the Tea Party’s genesis.

But attacking him for  being a “weird” Mormon is dirty and below-the-belt.  And, as tsba reminds us in the comments of this morning’s post on David Axelrod’s new “slash and burn” campaign to “destroy Romney,” it’s an obvious attempt to keep evangelicals from voting for him:

The May 25-30 survey from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press asked people how they would vote for presidential candidates with different traits.  The survey found that a third of evangelicals (34 percent) said they would be less likely to vote for someone who is Mormon, compared to Mainline Protestants (19 percent) or Catholics (16 percent).

Are we supposed to believe that over a dozen Obama campaign aides deliberately say the word “weird” will be used to describe Romney in the first prong of a two-pronged “slash and burn” attack, but that none of them knows that the Church of Latter Day Saints is currently running a campaign that “seeks to combat the ‘weird’ stigma that has been labeled on the church?” Or that none of them know about this poll on evangelicals?

And why would using the world “weird” constitute a “slash and burn” campaign to “destroy Romney” if it wasn’t a reference to his religion?  Saying the guy is a weirdo because he wears slim fit jeans may be elitist and condescending, but it is just does not constitute “slash and burn” in the era of Lee Atwater and Willie Horton.

This is a challenging time for everyone.  But you can’t sit back and let the principles you stand for be perverted by the people who pretend to represent them, or you become a mockery of all you believe in. If you can’t stand up for liberal principles when so-called liberals abandon them, you’ve got no moral high ground from which to criticize anyone else.

In 2008 the Obama campaign was (rightly) accusing opponents of dog whistle and outsourced race-based attacks.  To preach religious tolerance as Obama does, and then engage in this kind of appeal to religious bigotry, is both hypocritical and pernicious, not to mention self-defeating.  Remember when the Clinton campaign was operating under the belief that the country would never elect an African American President?  Is that really the model David Axelrod wants to adopt?

In addition to advocating for or against your candidate of choice, you’ve also got to be fair arbiters of the debate, or the whole thing devolves into mud-slinging hate fest and a petri dish for demagogues.

Mitt Rommey  should not be president because he’s unqualified.  But attacking him because of his religion should be off the table.

As the economy gets worse, people better be really careful about stoking tribalist rage against any minority.  I thought we understood that.