That prompted Sen. Boies Penrose (R-Pa.) to respond by making the point that Smoot had always been faithfully married to the same woman; then, as he deliberately cast his eye around the Senate chamber, he commented that he was well familiar with the behavior of some of his colleagues known for philandering, concluding with this rhetorical line: “I would rather have seated beside me in this chamber a polygamist who doesn’t polyg than a monogamist who doesn’t monag!”
Eventually the Senate committee voted against the seating of Sen.-elect Smoot, which was fortunately reversed when President Theodore Roosevelt intervened and convinced Senate leaders that they had no choice but to insure that Smoot would be sworn in as Utah’s next Senator.
Smoot went on to serve for 27 years in the Senate and became chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. His enduring legacy has more to do with the enactment of the infamous Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which bears his name, than his Mormon faith.
Though we have come a long way since 1903, religion continues to be a political, if not polarizing, factor in our national elections. But it should not be in the form of discrimination.
If it is true that religion helps to shape an individual’s values, notably our character, moral standing, personal integrity and genuine commitment to public service (most Mormons serve as missionaries as young adults), then Mitt Romney and his fellow Mormon, Jon Huntsman, stand far above the other presidential candidates in the Republican primary.
It is these characteristics, not mythical tales that date back 100 years, that voters should consider as they prepare to cast their ballots in Iowa and the other primary states in the months ahead.
Don Bonker is a former Democratic House Member from Washington and is now executive vice president of APCO Worldwide.