Article VI Blog

"Religion, Politics, the Presidency: Commentary by a Mormon, an Evangelical, and an Orthodox Christian"

United States Constitution — Article VI:

"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

  • Fred Barnes on the Huckabee Ad (UPDATED)

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 10:24 pm, November 27th 2007     &mdash      2 Comments »

    It’s remarkable to me, as the Mormon half of this blogging team, that Mike Huckabee’s latest ad, when I first saw it, didn’t bother me all that much. I guess I expected it. More remarkable is this: The folks the ad really bothered are . . . Evangelical Christians, like John.

    Fred Barnes is an Evangelical. Here’s part of what he said:

    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. Huckabee, of course, is an ordained Baptist minister. And according to some estimates, roughly half of the attendees at the Iowa Republican caucuses will be Christian conservatives.

    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. But Huckabee may be risking a backlash.

    Read the whole thing.

    (more…)

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    Today’s News – 11/28/07

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:36 pm, November 27th 2007     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    The Muslim/Cabinet Dust-up

    FOXNews summary story

    The Los Angeles Times

    Bad for Huckabee, good for America

    The New York Times

    In Iowa, Mormon Issue Is Benefiting Huckabee

    The Corner responds to Hitchens

    Post OnePost Two Post Three

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    More on Mainstream Media Anti-Religious Bigotry

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 08:35 am, November 27th 2007     &mdash      2 Comments »

    Here’s an insightful view of the issues: “Anti-Religious Bigotry on Display in the Mainstream Media.” I think Mike Huckabee supporters should note what Justin Taylor reports here:

    The Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi is more blunt and crude (warning: profanity in article). Here are a few of his descriptions of Huckabee as it relates to his faith:

    • “full-blown nuts”
    • “Christian goofball of the highest order”
    • “obvious and undisguised lunacy”
    • “full-bore nuts”

    It seems to me that instead of worrying about whether their votes validates a particular religion, Evangelical Huckabee supporters should focus their efforts on decrying this sort of thing. As we’ve noted here many times, and as John notes just below, in this sense we are all in this together.

    (HT: Hugh Hewitt.)

    John comments: I am pleased to read this from a public Huckabee supporter; however, I am wondering about the strains inside the campaign, and perhaps inside the minds of supporters like Justin, when they are saying things like this, and the campaign is featuring ads that cross the line. Isn’t this the gray zone where “slick” takes root?

    One more thought from Lowell: Justin, Joe Carter, and Matt Anderson all endorsed Huckabee together. I admire all three men very much. I was surprised, however, when in their endorsement they said:

    Only after prayerfully considering the issues, the candidates, and the electoral calculus have we decided to settle on this joint endorsement.

    I wish I could articulate better why such statements, from such well-known Evangelical bloggers, make me nervous. The essence of their endorsement post is that they are choosing to support Huckabee because of his faith. Maybe that’s what makes me most nervous.

    [tags] Justin Taylor, Joe Carter, Matt Anderson, Mike Huckabee, religious bigotry, Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone [/tags]

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    Indiscriminate Religious Attacks From The Left, Evangelicals Asking For It, and More

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 11:09 pm, November 26th 2007     &mdash      3 Comments »

    We are all in this together…

    Christopher Hitchens is an “equal opportunity” hater of religion, but his latest piece on Romney rises to levels of vitriol rarely experienced in American commentary.

    In a video response of revolting sanctimony and self-pity

    [...]

    The Book of Mormon, when it is not “chloroform in print” as Mark Twain unkindly phrased it, is full of vicious ingenuity.

    [...]

    So phooey, say I, to the false reticence of the press and to the bogus sensitivities that underlie it. This extends even to the less important matters. If candidates can be asked to declare their preference as between briefs and boxers, then we already have a precedent, and Romney can be asked whether, as a true believer should, he wears Mormon underwear.

    This goes on and on. Of course, this is the man that wrote a book called, God Is Not Great. Which is the real point – Hitchens has it in for religion, and if he succeeds at banging Romney this way, Evangelicals will be next.

    And they are asking for it…

    In the form of Mike Huckabee. See the Straight from the Source sidebar for our take on Huckabee’s latest ad. But Robert Novak makes it plain:

    The rise of evangelical Christians as the force that blasted the GOP out of minority status during the past generation always contained an inherent danger: What if these new Republican acolytes supported not merely a conventional conservative but one of their own? That has happened with Huckabee, a former Baptist minister educated at Ouachita Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The danger is a serious contender for the nomination who passes the litmus test of social conservatives on abortion, gay marriage and gun control but is far removed from the conservative-libertarian model of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.

    Novak is here helping draw the line between religious influence and crossing the line into identity politics. Huckabee as we note in the sidebar is clearly playing identity politics.

    As another example of asking for it, consider this piece from the American Spectator:

    But clean, faithful living and friendly behavior isn’t the nexus for the Christians who have reservations about Romney, which most Mormons, Romney supporters and outside observers don’t seem to understand. Instead it’s about the Christians’ personal validation and legitimization of a religion they believe leads to the destruction of the soul.

    Now is it just me, or is casting a vote for government office based on whether the vote would provide “personal validation and legitimization of a religion they believe leads to the destruction of the soul” not precisely ESTABLISHMENT of a religion. Oh sure, in this case it is a person in a voting booth and not government decree, but is it not de facto the same thing?

    Lowell: The same writer, Paul Chesser, seems to have a bit of a fixation on validating Mormonism at the ballot box. He said this three weeks ago:

    Critics of these evangelicals’ approach to voting say to deny Romney support because of his religion amounts to prejudice. But for the most part Christians believe that Mormon theology leads its adherents to an eternal separation from the Lord. Undoubtedly poll data following the primaries and general election will identify which candidate(s) the evangelicals supported. Do you think they want to stand before God, after they die, and explain why they helped elevate to the highest level of global influence a person who represents false Christianity?

    I find it troubling that arguments like this are appearing in credible conservative journals like the American Spectator. Could not some Evangelicals say the same thing about Catholics or Seventh-Day Adventists? Once this kind of thinking becomes legitimate, where will it end?

    Speaking of Identity Politics…

    Some people have to “choose” an identity. (more…)

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    News — 11/27/07

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:02 pm, November 26th 2007     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Christopher Hitchens in Slate

    Mitt the Mormon:Why Romney needs to talk about his faith.

    The Washington Post/Robert Novak

    The False Conservative

    The American Spectator

    It’s About Souls, Not Rolls

    The Washington Post

    Politics of Race and Religion

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    Mike Huckabee: “Faith doesn’t influence me, it really defines me.”

    Posted by: asher at 11:51 am, November 26th 2007     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Lowell comments: John and I both think this Huckabee ad crosses a line. The candidate begins by stating that his faith “defines” him, which is well and good, I suppose; but then the ad goes on with “Christian Leader” as its first super, followed by video excerpts from his speeches, addressing hot-button “values voter” issues. My own view is that Huck sees Iowa as a chance to slingshot himself into pre-eminence as the “conservative values candidate.” If he beats Romney there after a late entry into the race and spending comparatively little money, Romney will be wounded and Huck has a claim to the mantle of the leader of values voters (read, conservative religious voters). So if Huck is clearly making a push: If he can attract enough Evangelicals to vote for him, he might just win. So he’s openly running as the “faith” candidate. It appears to me that he is speaking a lot of code while he’s doing it.

    John adds his thoughts: Marc Ambinder quotes a Salon interview with Huckabee and flat out says it:

    What Gov. Huckabee is telling Salon’s Michael Scherer is that Romney’s religion can be a criteria by which people judge him, and that he believes that Romney ought to be subjected to questions about the content of his religious faith — questions that Huckabee asserts have not been asked before.

    Now watch the ad a third time.

    A stout defense of Huckabee would point out that, with the media so obsessed about Romney’s religion, any mention of Huckabee of his own faith — a faith which, by all accounts, is central to his politics and morality — would be illegitimate. Clearly, Huckabee has every right to try to win over voters on account of his evangelical background. In doing so, he challenges the consensus view that certain attributes, like religion, ought not matter. Of course, Huckabee is saying, they matter, and to pretend otherwise is foolish.

    Is Huckabee playing the Mormon card, even unwittingly? Hard to say. His campaign says absolutely not. And intent matters, of course. But this being a postmodern political world, so does reception: it depends on the extent to which the targets of his television ad are aware that Romney is Mormon and are prone to object to it.

    “Unwittingly”?!? — “Reception matters”?!?!?!? – “are aware” – ?!?!?!?!? – PLEASE! The whole country knows Romney is a Mormon unless they simply are NOT paying attention. And as THE EVANGELICAL here, I can tell you everybody is getting the context here and seeing the religion card played. It’s not necessarily in the sound bite – it is in that “Christian Leader” graphic. As Dean Barnett points out:

    What takes this spot into unexplored territory is the fact that the term “Christian Leader” pops up during this seemingly shopworn attack. Was the term “Christian Leader” supposed to draw a contrast between Huckabee and another candidate, maybe the Mormon one he was referencing when the term swept onto the screen?

    What’s most disturbing about this spot is it hits the Mormon angle with the same kind of elusive slickness that John Edwards used to go after Dick Cheney’s daughter. The Huckabee campaign has the same kind of plausible deniability with this ad that Edwards had after his debate with Cheney.

    Did Dean just say “slick”? Oh yes he did – say hello to the new man from Hope.

    This thing really does defy the limits of a reasonable invocation of religion in politics. Huckabee is very specific, and he implicitly calls the faith of other candidates into question with that “defines me” crack. This language is very common in certain creedal Christian circles. There is no question what is being said here – NONE.

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