Are The Campaigns Addressing Serious Issues As Voting Day Approaches? Going Negative, Dirty Tricks, and more…
Not Hardly . . .
I was going to open this post by pointing out that the discussion in the primaries seems to have gotten very serious of late. A combination, I think, of the Bhutto assassination and the fact that the casting of actual votes is very close. Then . . .
Double Speak . . .
Huckabee has spent weeks now denouncing negative campaigning, trying to play Mr. Nice-guy. Well, he gave that up over the weekend, big time:
In a stark change of tone just days before the Iowa caucus, former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas on Saturday unleashed a barrage of attacks . . . .
But what is so much worse is the content of the attacks:
“If a person will become president by being dishonest, just remember, if he becomes president, he likely will not be honest on the job,” Huckabee told voters at a restaurant campaign stop.
So apparently distressed at Romney’s criticism, Huckabee refused even to commit to voting for Romney for president if the former Massachusetts governor wins the Republican nomination.
This argument is as old as religious competition: If you are losing the argument, demonize your competition.
Now, if you do not think this was designed to saw on the “Mormons lie” meme, you are hiding under a rock. This is code word stuff. We’ve never laid it out here because it’s fairly silly, but the argument goes basically that since Mormonism is “twisted” from creedal Christian doctrine, it is false and a lie and therefore people who believe it are “liars.” Now, of course, this presumes facts not in evidence, like the motivations of every Mormon out there, but that is irrelevant. This argument is as old as religious competition: If you are losing the argument, demonize your competition. I personally hate this form of argument because it demonstrates a lack of faith in my own view.
But what Huckabee is really doing is changing the subject, because look at the basis of his charge:
Huckabee said were gross distortions of his record . . .
Huckabee’s record on economics and foreign policy, public health, and such have been much debated and discussed – that is politics as usual, and the way things ought to be. So what does he do? He goes running home to the coded identity politics that have gotten him this far. However, that some MSM outlets are trying to shore up Huckabee’s psuedo-argument here is amazing.
And There Is More…
I ran across this Bloomberg piece:
“I don’t think a person’s faith ought to be a plus or minus,” Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” scheduled to air today. “I would not want to think that people vote for me only because I’m a Christian.”
Not “only” Mike, but in a pinch? And you thought is “Don’t they believe . . .” crack was rhetorical sleight of hand? This is head and shoulders above that one on the slick scale. This is up there with “well it depends on how you define ‘is’. . .” Imagine this statement, “I don’t think people should vote for me only because I am white,” or “Oh no, I don’t think there is anything wrong with voting for THE JEW.”
But the prize for best comment on this goes to LDS blogger David Sundwall of Maryland, and apparently an Ensign in the USN (Thank you for your service David!) who called Huckabee’s utterance:
You have got to love that one!
And then the things where [Romney's] made up these visions that he’s had of marching with Martin Luther King and his dad marching with him. You know, Tim, what I’ve said, and I’ve been pretty blunt about it, if you aren’t being honest in obtaining a job, can we trust you to be honest if you get the job?
More code? Consider: This candidate is a former Baptist preacher who’s running as a “Christian leader” and essentially demanding the votes of Evangelical Christians. Huckabee’s opponent is a member of a church whose origin is based on visions from God– visions much-derided by the very religious constituency Huckabee is courting. We blog, you decide.
This goes beyond code; it is a clear reference to the religious distinction between Huckabee and Romney in the minds of the voter bloc Huckabee most wants to reach.
Along those same lines, I find Huck’s statement, “I would not want to think that people vote for me only because I’m a Christian,’ especially interesting because of the loaded meaning the term “Christian” has assumed during this campaign. (We first tackled that problem here.) In that context, “Christian” does not mean “a believer in Jesus Christ.” It means “a member of an orthodox Christian faith that accepts the leading religious creeds, such as the Nicene Creed’s view of the Trinity.” It is specifically meant to exclude Mormons from Christianity. Huckabee is clearly using the term in that sense. This goes beyond code; it is a clear reference to the religious distinction between Huckabee and Romney in the minds of the voter bloc Huckabee most wants to reach.
Joe, We Hardly Knew Ye . . .
Jonathan Martin reports that Huck’s director of research, influential and widely-respected Evangelical blogger Joe Carter, has left the campaign:
To make matters worse, as Huckabee’s challenges have grown more intense of late, he has lost the aide he brought on to handle his rapid-response and research operation.
Joe Carter, who took a leave from the Family Research Council to move down to the former Arkansas governor’s campaign headquarters in Little Rock, has returned to Washington, leaving a key position unfilled in the crucial final days before the caucuses.
With Carter gone — his last e-mail to reporters was Dec. 17 — Huckabee has been largely responding to every new story or attack that emerges himself, at times compounding the problem.
We can only speculate as to why Carter, who has an extremely honorable reputation, would leave Huckabee’s campaign so precipitously, but we have to wonder if the candidate’s use of the religion card had something to do with it.
Meanwhile, a prominent Iowa Christian leader has endorsed Romney. We thought the time for such things had passed.
Back to John:
So How Should Huckabee Have Answered?
That question occurred to me when I read this Newsmax op-ed dissecting, still (can you believe it!?) The Speech. Said Barrett Kalellis:
Unfortunately, Romney’s speech was a pastiche of platitudes and noble thoughts that answered no one’s questions about his Mormonism and this somehow should disqualify him from the presidency.
It is precisely those “platitudes and noble thoughts” that Huckabeee should utter when asked about religion. Kalellis comments reveals a gross misunderstanding of how America works. At its very core America is nothing more than a series of really good ideas, put to practical use. Leadership in this country is all about keeping those ideas alive and fresh and relevant. They must be taught to each generation. They are NOT platitudes to be discarded as trite, they are truth to be preserved.
Huckabee demonstrated his lack of statesmanship on Meet The Press yesterday when Russert asked him about his 1998 speech where he wanted to “take the nation for Christ.” His answer:
“It was a speech made to a Christian gathering, and, and certainly that would be appropriate to be said to a gathering of Southern Baptists,” Huckabee said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Maybe, but Huckabee was a governor at the time, no longer a preacher, I think being a little more circumspect might have been called for., and as president A LOT more circumspect.
Huckabee’s comments here are about getting elected. Romney’s Speech was about leading, and in so doing he acted presidential. The only candidate to-date to do so. Sometimes I think we forget what is at the end of the grueling process, much to our detriment.
One last swipe at Huckabee…
We try very hard here to be reasonably non-partisan. Everybody knows Lowell and I both like Romney, and Lowell is committed to him, but we try to discuss our portfolio as dispassionately as we can. Among the rules for our portfolio that we have not, to-date, broken is it is bad form to discuss the genuineness of a candidate’s faith regardless of what that faith is. I am here going to link unabashedly to a very pro-Romney blog and while I will not call into question how genuine Huckabee’s faith is, as an Evangelical myself, I must simply decry this as completely tasteless, and probably unChristian, Huckabee is quoted:
“…and the point is, with limited resources, if you look at where we are, even in the national polls, we’ve spent a nickel to the hundred dollar bill of some of these guys. It’s not that I’m depressed thinking where we are, heck, I’m pretty encouraged. If I were some of these guys who spent tens of millions of dollars and weren’t any further ahead, I’d have to be sitting in a warm tub of water with some razor blades in both hands at this point saying how much money does one have to spend uh, you know, to get on track?“
Suicide, particularly when described as graphically and remorselessly as it is here, is simply not a suitable, compassionate, or useful metaphor in a circumstance like this.
OK, rule broken, ’nuff said.
A holiday card that falsely claims to be from “the Romney family” and highlights Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith was anonymously sent to Republican mailboxes across South Carolina earlier this week.
The source of the card is unknown.
First, I am really learning to hate 527′s. Whoever did that push-polling a while back is probably behind this too.
Now, for the record, I have received several Christmas cards from several Mormons this year (imagine that, me working on this blog and all) and frankly I cannot tell the difference between their Christmas cards and the ones I got from my church friends. This thing had to be cooked up by a non-Mormon.
Lowell: Oh, you can bet the farm on that, John. The card (PDF here) practically screams “an anti-Mormon printed me.” Just one example: It says “Paid for by the Boston Massachusetts Temple.” Anyone familiar with the Church knows that statement makes no sense. Also, there’s an 1853 quote from Orson Pratt, an early Mormon leader, that is a favorite of anti-Mormons (and is of questionable authoritativeness). I’ve been wondering when we’d see this stuff.
At least the Boston Herald calls it right when they say “Fake notes mar caucus countdown.” [emphasis added]
There was also a nasty mailer in Florida. This one is so unsophisticated; however, as to be nearly laughable:
“Help me sound the alarm that one day the Mormon Church plans to replace the Constitution with a Mormon theocracy. Mitt Romney’s political success indicates this may be sooner than most have thought,” reads part of the 11-page letter that reached a Plant City Romney supporter Saturday.
Tel me Lowell, are all Mormons members of the Masons or the Bilderbergers? But again it is a dead-end to find out who is responsible:
The letter, also inviting people to buy anti-Mormon DVDs, was signed by John Boyd of Freedom Defense Advocates, which calls itself a Virginia-based political action committee. No record of such a group was found Sunday on the Federal Election Commission and Internal Revenue Service Web sites.
A dead-end PAC. Every time something like this happens, and the trail goes cold, thank McCain-Feingold.
Lowell: I would answer those questions for you, John, but then I’d have to kill you.
I also have to wonder about the timing of this AP story that was making the rounds late yesterday. It is an indirect shot at Romney to be sure, but . . . .
Romney reacts to all this. Smart, don’t give it more credibility by over reacting.
Reduced To Small Paper Op-Eds…
Increasingly and repetitively, we are seeing small-town editorial writers getting into The Question. They have nothing new to say, but I think it instructive that it is now showing up there and not so much in the major outlets anymore. Some examples:
- Noblesville (Indana) Daily Times (boy is this guy smarmy, and wrong)
- Jacksonville Times-Union (you have to love smart college students)
- Vail Today (what do you know – a smart Presbyterian, but then aren’t we all?)
Mother Jones (of all places) shows why theolgoy matters less than action when it comes to religion in the public square and society in general.
An unsigned op-ed in The Christian Century – worth reading.
Some Speech reax is still popping up through our automated searching systems. The internet is an amazing thing.
All I can say about this is “Hmmmmmm.”
As I say, the news of this coming year will be preoccupied with the presidential race. In that contest, there are few things as important as likely appointments to the judiciary, and appointments to the Supreme Court most of all.
His arguments to get to that point are among the most informative and persuasive I have seen. Read the whole thing.