THE PLANK DECEMBER 20, 2007
I was struck by something Noam reported over on the Stump -- that Huckabee's now capitalizing on what I would call some very mild suspicion directed at his Christmas television ad. Huckabee whined in Ames,
Because I invoked [Jesus's] name on his own
birthday, to say to America, 'Happy birthday, merry Christmas,' somehow
everybody sees in it something that isn't even there. Have we so lost
our national soul? Have we become so coarse that even the attempt to
bring some civility to the political arena is met with nothing more
than scorn, disdain, and disbelief?
Oh, come on. First of all, it wasn't "his own birthday." That's next week. But it wasn't Huckabee's saying merry Christmas to America that drew attention to his ad, it was the luminous cross that floated behind his head while he said it. He insists it's just a bookshelf. It's worth replaying the tape:
Isn't it neat, how only one upright post and one perfectly-proportioned crossbar of the bookshelf are lit up, shining brighter than anything else in the room? Maybe I don't live a holy enough life, but bookshelves have never glowed like that in my presence.
Far from being too suspicious of the ad, I'd say reporters have been too kind towards Huckabee's silly bookshelf explanation. Huckabee's take on his own ad is incredibly haughty. Insinuating that those who don't buy his explanation have no sense of decency or holiday spirit insults the intelligence of anybody who actually watched his ad. Sorry, but I see crosses every Sunday, and the "bookshelf" is a cross. It is unmistakable.
So, it's a cross. Do we care, then? I don't know. I'm amenable to Krauthammer-esque arguments that faith often does, or even should, have a role in how people come to understand what is politically just. But aren't the fits and starts of progress strange? Isn't it strange that, two hundred and twenty years after we wrote a Constitution that enshrined black slavery and forbid women from voting but upheld the right of a citizen to be judged equal to other people no matter what religion he practices, we seem ready to elect a black or female president, but not a president who doesn't tout his relationship with Jesus Christ?