Nina Burleigh on Amanda Knox "Amanda Knox is nothing if not a good story," writes Nina Burleigh, who wrote a book on the Knox case, in the Los Angeles Times. Burleigh went to Italy unsure whether Knox had really murdered her roommate, but aware that the case revealed a cultural obsession with the "femme fatale." But after several weeks observing the case, Burleigh decided there was almost nothing linking Knox to the murder, while most evidence actually pointed to another man. "It became clear that it wasn't facts but Knox -- her femaleness, her Americaness, her beauty -- that was driving the case." There was much misogyny surrounding it. A prison doctor told her she had HIV, prompting her to list every man she'd ever had sex with. After authorities gave the list to tabloids, the prison said it was mistaken and she was HIV-negative. The prosecution called her a "she-devil." In fact, Knox had only grown into her beauty in college. She remained conflict-averse and unsure of her effect on men. She was an avid diarist. Police used the upbeat tone she took in her "prison diary" to argue that she was psychopathic. Reporters focused on the few instances she talked about sex, and ignored the times she mentioned her jailer sexually harassing her. "The focus on her sexuality suggests that civilization can easily tip backward to the primeval era when the feminine was classified, worshiped and feared in the form of powerful archetypes: Madonnas and Dianas, virgins and whores." People assigned her a personality of self-possession that in the end she did not have and would have helped her defend herself. "The gaunt, tense woman defending herself on appeal bore barely any resemblance to the fresh, pretty girl photographed kissing her boyfriend outside the murder scene. Only now, having lost the power to bewitch and beguile, has she been revealed as human."
Michael Gerson on Romney's Mormonism Mitt Romney's Mormonism continues to be a challenge to his primary odds, writes Michael Gerson. "About 20 percent of Republicans and 23 percent of Protestants tell Gallup they would not support a Mormon for president," he says in The Washington Post. Gerson says the right's opposition to him based on his religion is likely to fade. The Mormon church is "America's fourth-largest denomination; Mormons are one of the nation's strongest conservative voting blocks. A serious Republican candidate simply can't run an anti-Mormon campaign." Furthermore, as choices between candidates become specific, voters may change their minds. Conservative evangelicals have never been a majority and so they have always reached out politically to other groups from Catholics to Jews. On the other hand, "criticism by secular liberals is likely to blossom," Gerson argues. The Mormon Church became a main supporter of California's Proposition 8, and liberals will couple this with the church's traditional "offenses against women and minorities" and will even raise "the specter of theocracy." "Damon Linker has warned that Mormon leaders, claiming prophetic authority, might dictate to an American president. Jacob Weisberg has insisted, 'I wouldn't vote for someone who truly believed in the founding whoppers of Mormonism." "On much of the right, politics will eventually trump theology. On at least some of the left, secularism will trump tolerance," Gerson says.