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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What really matters

Earlier this week Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee issued a non-campaign campaign ad ('tis the season to have your cake and eat it, too). Let's take a look, shall we?

First things being first, let's cover the quick grammar issue. One is not worn out "of" something, one is worn out "from" something. I've got a love/hate issue with anal retentive grammar snobbery, but let's be clear here: this wasn't some off-the-cuff stump speech, this was a pre-written, cut and edited television ad. "If you can't get your prepositions correct, you don't get to be president of the United States," is what was said to me over breakfast this morning. That's a criterion I can get behind.

Secondly, look at the framing. No need to go back; here's a screenshot:

It is in no way reading too much into this to be sure that it is absolutely intentional that as Mr. Huckabee is saying "celebrating the birth of Christ" is what really matters, a glowing white cross is centered between him and the Christmas tree. Huckabee and his camp are, of course, saying that reading too much into it is exactly what's being done. Downplaying the idea that it's some sort of subliminal Christ infusion, he, um, joked yesterday that "if you play this spot backwards it says 'Paul is Dead, Paul is Dead, Paul is Dead,'" I call bullshit. That bookshelf was lit and framed so that viewers could see nothing but a glowing white cross. Anyone and everyone who looks at that clip sees it. And he's claiming coincidence? None of the crew setting up, lighting, framing, and editing the ad had any idea about that glowing white cross behind him?

Not quite finally, the content. "What really matters is the celebration of the birth of Christ." There are two short sentences from the Constitution worth dredging up here. The first, and probably most well known, is the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
And the second is from Article IV:
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
The salient point here is that Mr. Huckabee has every right to run this ad and say what he says, glowing white cross and all. You and I, however, also have every right to, come voting day, completely reject any candidate who so obviously makes religion (any religion) a part of his or her platform. And if you don't think that Mike Huckabee will make his religious beliefs an overt part of his potential presidency, so some Google searches. Saving you some research time, Think Progress has compiled a list of on-record quotes about homosexuality from the man himself. In fact, in a recent ad that ran in Iowa, Huckabee summed it all up neat and tidy for you: "''Faith doesn't just influence me, it really defines me.''

Faith defines him. And what really matters (to anyone watching his ad, apparently) is celebrating the birth of Jesus. I can't imagine I'm alone in finding that a bit insulting. I don't find it insulting when someone, be it a retail employee, a coworker, or whoever, wishes me a Merry Christmas. But when someone who wants to be my president tells me that what matters--not to him, but to anyone and everyone listening to him--is celebrating the birth of the guy he claims as his religious savior, yeah, I take it personally.

Vote for whomever you will, but please try to remember that while many of our founding fathers were religious themselves, they took great care to keep that part of their lives (and the lives of their successors) out of our government.

--die Grumbeere


Anonymous said...

Um I think the first amendment was intended to guarantee freedom of religion not freedom from religion.

From wikipedia: "Christmas is an annual holiday that celebrates the bith of jesus". What's so wrong about him suggesting we do that? I think that is a better idea then taking a part in the consumerism that dominates this time of year.

maleonardphi said...

Is it really a cross, or just the center or some shelving or a bookcase on the wall? And clearly, dun be some preseedents dat don't speak no good grammer already. Obviously, good grammer is not a prerequisite for a presidential candidate.

Aaron Hunter said...

Unfortunately, there is a de-facto religious test for the presidency. It would be far more controversial to have an atheist run for the presidency than a Mormon. The fact is that the majority of americans believe in god, and distrust anyone who claims to know better.

marscat said...

it's definitely a window...but someone's up to no good.

Anonymous said...

Least its not a burning cross. Oops different "religion"
no, just different facet of that which is being marketed to in the commercial.

Olaf Vanderhoot said...


Grey said...

hmm. and those ornamental balls are clearly the holy trinity, otherwise there wouldn't be three of them.

i can't hang with his social politics at all, but geez, after 8 years of Dubya i'm not gonna quibble about of/from.

i'd also like it if he were nominated purely from the standpoint of names, and obama too. like obama has a weird name...okay, we'll nominate a guy with a straight up goofy name. huck a what?

dr-nitro said...

Well, the quotes from the Constitution refer to individuals who hold legislative positions, thus have legislative authority to create laws concerning religion. This guy's been an executive, and is applying to an executive position.

That said, the prez would have to abide by the laws (someone forgot to tell the current one that). And if his actions now suggests that he would put faith in front of Constitution, then this might be a concern. However, I simply think that he is pandering to the base, and probably would not be doing it so much if it were not for the Mormon issue.

I actually think that understanding a presidential candidate's moral compass is important. It can come from faith or from experience. But either way, it will guide a president when he or she makes decisions like say committing troops to dangerous situations, so that matters.

Clinton campaigned on his faith, and Clinton is campaigning on her faith. I don't see a problem with that. However, it is a bit more concerning when legislative candidates campaign on faith, since that is what the Constitution rightly creates boundaries. Legislative candidates need to campaign on policy, and when they mingle faith with policy, they are crossing the Constitutional line .

T. Marie said...

Amen to that.

Can't we for once, just once, have a presidential candidate who issues a campaign ad saying

"Fuck it, peeps. I ain't gonna beat around your fuzzy freaking Bush here, you should just vote for me. Why? Because I'm the shit, that's why. You know what really matters? Who can bullshit the best, and who has the most money. That's me all around. Go me!"

--die Grumbeere said...


actually, if you re-read Article IV, it refers not only to the legislatures, but also "all executive and judicial officers."

and once again, the point is not Huckabee's or any other's right to campaign in such a way, but that we should be very wary of people who are "defined" by their faith and have a history of letting their private religion invade their public lives. especially after seven years with an evangelical president who doesn't see a problem with intelligen design being taught next to Dawinism in public schools.

--die Grumbeere

shawndoggy said...

Reject the argument then. This is america, and that's what a lot of folks out in the homeland wanna hear.

I too find it repugnant, but not enough to be outraged about. Politicians will pander... that's how it works. Much more troubling is that Huckabee's message is apparently resonating.

But he is the guy that wants to get physical fitness back into schools and lost a butt load of weight himself, so he can't be all bad. But I said that about GWB and his MTB rides too....

dr-nitro said...

Yeah yeah, focusing more on the law issue, which is more important in my mind. Article IV is about upholding the Constitution, and stating that there will be no religious test. Clearly, campaigning of faith is pandering to the de facto test for some of the electorate.

But again, I don't have much of a problem with an executive campaigning on faith, especially if it provides some insight into the person's decision making process. And if I think that it would lead to decisions that would violate my principals, then that will help me to make my decision about voting for a candidate.

What does offend about this add, though, is that it disregards other faiths completely. That raises concern with me, since there are other religious holidays going on at this time. Pandering or not, it is not very presidential to overtly disregard other faiths.

And, I do think that it might be telling about how he would make appointments. So, with the current executive, it was made clear that he put faith in front of other qualifications when appointing federal attorneys by choosing lawyers from one or two religious law schools. Pretty much flies in the face of Article IV of the 1st.

So, I am agreeing with you in one sense, in that how he raises the issue of faith is problematic. However, I do think that individuals who are defined by faith can separate when necessary to uphold the Constitution. For me, it how they use the message of faith that is telling. And, I would agree that in this case, I would certainly have worries. But I'm not a Rep, so it is pretty much mute with Hucky.

Anonymous said...

"If you can't get your prepositions correct, you don't get to be president of the United States," is what was said to me over breakfast this morning.

So, uh mm how do you explainerest my's currant pezidant?
(I mean really he is quite like a seedless grape!)

waitingaround said...

right, but what if you re-did the ad so that the 'cross' was 'burning'? would that constitute a hate-crime?

Anonymous said...

Every candidate has to run on about their religous affiliation because Middle America demands it. Afterall, Bush won his second term by avoiding issues on the war and got all holy roller about homosexual marriages. Middle America followed his "flat earth" bullshit and voted him in.

Middle America is a bunch of ignorant fucks and they love their religion. So where does that put religion in America?

Paul is dead.........

dr-nitro said...

Wow, sounds like anon needs to find the love of Jesus to warm his bitter heart.

banks said...

I didn't watch the clip cuz I can't turn up the volume at the moment, but I think I get the gist of what's going on here. It sounds like (and looks like judging from that cross in the background) that the Huckster is just pandering to the base.

Christianity is the perfect issue for him to use to define himself amongst his main primary opponents. Democrats can't hit him with it in the general election and the opponents can't claim the Christian mantle cuz they're already defined in different ways. There's a slick Northerner, a laconic Southerner, a wannabe CEO, and a prisoner of war who sold out the party on campaign finance legislation.

The Huckster knows exactly what he's doing. If someone's offended by that clip, they never would have voted for him in the first place. In fact, he lost those votes when he started using "of" instead of "from."