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.”
Pandering? I’m not exactly sure how a Christmas message from a political candidate that may – or may not – have featured a cross-like image in the background is pandering. In fact, I’m still trying to figure that one out. Maybe Bill hit the eggnog a bit early.
But allow me to describe what really happened this week over this preposterous flap. Americans who are completely disgusted with the full frontal assault on anything and everything Christian paid attention. They simply could not believe their eyes and ears, that mean-spirited, Christmas-hating pundits and liberal media elitists were actually whining and complaining that someone (perhaps) had the audacity to display a Christian symbol during a Christian message that celebrated Christmas.
They noticed, all right. I fielded the calls and read the email and faxes that poured into our network studios. And more than a few said that up until now, they were undecided about who to vote for.
The clear winner this week was Mike Huckabee. He garnered sympathy, support and appreciation over this controversy and he didn’t even have to admit that the cross-like bookshelf was inserted intentionally. Could it have been? Normal people don’t know and don’t care.
Pat Robertson expressed strong reservations about Mormonism on my radio show today, reflecting the concern, fair or not, that Mitt Romney’s religious beliefs are dramatically out of touch with traditional Christianity. It was a reminder as to why Huckabee has commanded such an impressive surge in the polls with only a fraction of the campaign war chests of his Republican rivals.
Pretending that Christianity isn’t important to Christians won’t cut it. And few will doubt what a deeply faith-filled man Mike Huckabee is, a faith that is shared by millions of Christian voters.
Many of those voters decided to support Gov. Mike Huckabee this week, and all because of a bizarre overreaction to his Christmas message.
It just might have been the best investment in a single TV commercial that a politician has ever made.
Gov. Huckabee, are you really that smart?