Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Months ago, we were told that Republican presidential candidates would recognize the need to distance themselves from the foreign policy of the extremely unpopular George W. Bush. Nothing of the sort has happened, of course -- in fact, the GOP candidates often seem as if they're trying to out-Bush Bush ("double Guantanamo" and all that) -- yet even though Bush is still extremely unpopular, many GOP candidates are still quite competitive with possible Democratic opponents (and that seems to be true according to the new Gallup poll, which doesn't show Hillary trailing all the Republicans, as well as in the new Zogby poll, which does.)

We've also been told that the influence of the religious right is waning, and that soon Republicans are going to have to embrace an increasingly secular, tolerant world. Well, they may have made a secular guy their front-runner for most of this year (not because he's secular, but because they think he'll kill ragheads more efficiently than Bush), but apparently the newest addition to their party's first tier thinks America is ready for even more religion in politics than before:

The new 30-second ad that Mike Huckabee has put on the air in Iowa represents a quite remarkable step in presidential politics. Maybe my memory betrays me, but I don't recall a major presidential candidate who made such an unabashed, unambiguous appeal for support on the basis of religious faith....

The Huckabee ad, entitled "Believe," begins with Huckabee's emphasis on the importance of his faith. "Faith doesn't just influence me," he says. "It really defines me." A few seconds later, the words "Christian Leader" are emblazoned on the screen. Even TV evangelist Pat Robertson, a leader in the emergence of Christian conservatives as a major bloc in Republican politics, didn't appeal to voters with such a strong emphasis on his personal religious faith when he ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988 - and finished second in Iowa.

What's striking is that it's not until the end of the Huckabee ad that the words "Authentic Conservative" pop up on the screen. As a result, I don't think it's a stretch to say that, at least in this ad, Huckabee has made his political views secondary to his religious beliefs. Perhaps this is what Christian conservatives in Iowa want to hear....

That rather horrified description of the ad comes from Fred Barnes, blogging for The Weekly Standard. Barnes seems to be desperately saying, "Hey, Huckabee, don't give the game away! Republicans have to look reasonable to beat Hitlery!"

But Huckabee's probably on to something. After all, "double Guantanamo" hasn't hurt Romney, nor has hanging out with Norman "Bomb Iran Immediately" Podhoretz hurt Giuliani. Who's getting attacked? Hillary, for carefully maneuvering so as not to step outside the bounds of the general consensus.

Here's the ad:

Huckabee's running this only in Iowa, which is full of religious conservatives. But he knows perfectly well that we're in a Google/YouTube era and you can't unsay what you've said to Iowans, not in secular New Hampshire and not in the rest of the country. Yet he doesn't seem to if secular voters don't like it, and he doesn't seem to care if the ad will hurt his chances to be the #2 guy on the ticket.

And why should he care? The fact that he's even being considered for the #2 spot on the ticket proves -- as does the fact that the #1 guy will probably be Mr. Double Guantanamo or Mr. Bomb Iran Immediately -- that it doesn't matter what you say in contemporary presidential politics, as long as you say it with conviction and it's not left-wing.

And maybe that "left-wing" part wouldn't be in there if the other political party exuded the slightest bit of self-respect, the way the party of Huckabee and Romney and Giuliani does.

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