The comic absurdity of the hysteria surrounding Gov. Mike Huckabee’s supposed “floating cross” TV commercial this week reminded me of a scene in one of my favorite movies of all time, “Absence of Malice.” The movie is great because it delves into the complicated world of newspaper ethics and features some great performances by Paul Newman and Sally Field.
In the film’s climactic scene, the terrific character actor Wilford Brimley, playing an authority figure who is trying to sort out a complicated situation created by the Paul Newman character, turns to the shrewd Newman who has exacted revenge upon an ethics-challenged newspaper and asks, “Are you really that smart, sir? Did you really pull this off and fool everyone in this room?”
That’s what I keep wondering about Mike Huckabee. If he managed to pick up a boatload of votes because he proved beyond a reasonable doubt how hateful and antagonistic the mainstream media is towards Christians, all while gently reminding the world how deep his faith runs, he would be way beyond just smart.
He’d be brilliant.
First off, let’s all agree how fun it was to see TV blowhards like Chris Matthews and Meredith Vieira come unhinged over the possibility that the infamous bookshelf in the background of Gov. Huckabee’s Christmas TV message was a sinister attempt to subliminally brainwash dopey Americans into seeing a (gasp!) cross.
Believe me, there wouldn’t have been as much teeth-gnashing and hand-wringing if the man had donned a Ku Klux Klan hood and set the bookshelf “cross” on fire.
The disdain and anger we heard all week was jarring. Over and over, people acted like this “cross” was equivalent to a Nazi swastika.
Somehow, advertising guru (and total jerk) Donny Deutsch appeared on MSNBC saying that the warm, fuzzy, non-partisan Christmas greeting was “frightening.”
It seems there’s nothing quite as terrifying to Madison Avenue than watching a smiling man suggest we remember that we’re celebrating Christ’s birth on national television.
Ditzy Meredith Vieira’s interrogation of Huckabee on The Today Show (“Wasn’t that a cross?” “Did you mean to display a cross?” “I think that looks like a cross”) shouldn’t cause any aspiring journalists to lose any sleep over their job prospects. If she can make millions a year carrying on like that, there has to be hope for every college journalism student who wants to break into TV.
Even some reliable defenders of Christianity took leave of their senses over this total non-issue. My friend Bill Donahue of the Catholic League told me on my radio show that he was quite concerned about Huckabee’s “pandering.”