Christmas Eve Huckenfreude
In the Christmas Eve edition of the Washington Post, Peter Wehner furrows a brow or two over the ascendancy of Mike Huckabee in the Republican primary. Wehner is worried that Mike Huckabee's aw-shucks sectarianism is "fraught with danger" and threatens … Read More
In the Christmas Eve edition of the Washington Post, Peter Wehner furrows a brow or two over the ascendancy of Mike Huckabee in the Republican primary. Wehner is worried that Mike Huckabee's aw-shucks sectarianism is "fraught with danger" and threatens to cross the line dividing "[t]he City of Man and the City of God." I agree: Huckabee is running on Christianity plus the Fair Tax, and the excellent chance he has of winning the Republican nomination fairly strongly cements the fact that one of our major political parties stands for Christianity first and everything else second. Unlike me, however, Wehner spent 2001-2007 working on speechwriting and strategy (i.e. directly under Karl Rove) for the George W. Bush White House; before that, he was employed in Bill Bennett's policy shop; before that, he was Bill Bennett's speech writer.
You might think, therefore, that Wehner is recounting a Damascene moment, repenting before the disembodied spirit of Thomas Paine for having spent a career persecuting him. You'd be wrong. To hear Wehner recount American political history, for 230 years, the leaders of our fair republic, though deeply religious to a man, and allowing their political beliefs to be informed by faith, nevertheless steadfastly rendered unto Caesar, respecting the separation between church and state. Then suddenly, out of nowhere — ex nihilo, like the spirit of God upon the face of the waters — came Mike Huckabee to lead his flock into green dogpatches.
Here is Wehner at his most breathtakingly self-unaware:
They [Huckabee's periodic outbursts of Christian identity politics] are certainly different in degree, and even in kind, from what President Bush, an evangelical Christian, has said. And taken together, they raise a concern: Is Mike Huckabee, a man of extremely impressive political gifts and shrewdness, playing the Jesus card in a way that is unlike anything we have quite seen before?
Wrong on all counts. Huckabee's Christian politicking is precisely alike in kind to Bush's. The difference, if there is a meaningful one, between Huckabee's exhortation to "celebrate the birth of Christ" and Bush's declaration that Christ is his favorite philosopher, between Huckabee's self-appointment as a Christian leader and Bush's "God, guns, and gays" electoral strategy, between Huckabee's flying cross and Bush's coded references to Dred Scott and activist judges, is a difference only in degree. Where Bush used a dog-whistle to rally the yahoos, Huckabee uses a trumpet; the underlying principle is the same for both of them.
The subtext of Wehner's message, of course, is that despite the over-the-top, revival tent treacliness, Bush (or at least his inner circle) never really bought any of it. Which is believable enough. But it's thanks to the diligent work of Wehner and his colleagues over many years that Huckabee's crusade is getting significant traction in the first place. If he wants to take it all back now, one of the steps to his recovery is to apologize to the rest of us.
This being Christmas Eve, I'd like to close with a special yuletide message, from my hearth to yours. Pay extra attention to the last 30 seconds. God bless us everyone.