THE BLOG
01/01/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Huckabee: Bleatin' Good in the Neighborhood

Lately I'd begun to worry that the victory of Barack Obama and the Democratic Party would bring an end to the sort of right-wing rhetorical shamelessness we've come to depend on for amusement and diversion.

I feared -- silly me -- that the thought-buffoons of the right would either skulk back into the shadows from which they had emerged, never to be heard from again, for a while; or, alternatively, admit their error, make suitable acts of contrition, and go forth to display unbelievable intellectual dishonesty no more. Our national discourse would be healthier, yes, but our national laugh-life would suffer.

How wrong we can be. Here, from barely a week ago, is Mike Huckabee (universally lauded as "America's Relatively Sane Religious Nut") claiming to fellow-blowhard William "The Gambler" Bennett that California's Proposition 8 "did not ban gay marriage."

To something like that, the usual rejoinders ("Nonsense!" "Sophistry!" "Bullshit!") just won't do. As the Think Progress site which hosts the clip shows, the ballot text itself denominates the measure with the not-that-ambiguous words "ELIMINATES RIGHT OF SAME-SEX COUPLES TO MARRY. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT."

But the Huckster has his own take on it. "I refuse to use the term, 'ban same-sex marriage,'" he announces in tones of sturdy defiance -- the same ones that many of our top Republicans use to ward off reality. "That's not what those efforts did. They affirmed what is. They did not prohibit something. They simply affirmed that which already has and forever has existed."

Will you be shocked to learn that Bill Bennett can be heard chirping what sounds like approval and agreement? Me, neither.

Parody-wise, this kind of fingers-in-ears/nyah-nyah/I'm-not-listening makes its own gravy. Still, it's worth a try. Thus, when Huckabee says that a law that explicitly prohibits X does not prohibit X, but instead "affirms" anti-X, it's like saying that the Volstead Act affirmed traditional standards of sobriety, or that the proscription against murder (from the world-famous Ten Commandments) does not so much ban killing as it affirms traditional modes of being alive.

This "affirmation" scam is not only technically inaccurate (given the title of the measure), but it's logically dishonest and therefore morally debased. It is one thing to affirm that marriage "has and forever has been" between a man and a woman. No one would argue with that. And, having agreed with it, those in favor of gay marriage would add, "...although this state of affairs has and forever has been unfair and discriminatory. This is something we now propose to remedy. We want to expand the possibilities of marriage to include other members of society."

But Huckabee and others who oppose gay marriage aren't interested in historical observations of customary behaviors. (And you don't need a state constitutional amendment to take note of them.) The good, decent folks who voted Yes on Eight do in fact want to institute a ban. How do we know? Because the law says so, in so many words.

One wonders why Huckabee bothers, then, with this silly and easily-refuted claim. Why not tell the world that traditional Christianity is openly hostile to homosexuals and adamantly opposes their right to marry?

For the same reason that prompted the first half of Huckabee's (likewise bogus) quote, the one that goes, "The very people who voted for Barack Obama in California...also voted to sustain traditional marriage." (Yes, "sustain." As though gays getting married would, through some unexplained Bad Gay Juju, "destroy" traditional marriage. This idea doesn't really stand up to rational consideration, but then, neither does much else about traditional religion. So let's not "go there.")

It seems to make superficial sense: Obama won, Prop 8 won, so they both must have been supported by the same people. Huckabee would have us believe that it's Democratic and even liberal to ban gay marriage, although of course it's not a question of "banning" so much as affirming that not-having-it is traditional, and so not-having-it should be enshrined in the state's constitution.

Except that his reading of the Yes on Eight votes is wrong. As wunderkind poll star Nate Silver says at fivethirtyeight.com:

Certainly, the No on 8 folks might have done a better job of outreach to California's black and Latino communities. But the notion that Prop 8 passed because of the Obama turnout surge is silly. Exit polls suggest that first-time voters -- the vast majority of whom were driven to turn out by Obama (he won 83 percent [!] of their votes) -- voted against Prop 8 by a 62-38 margin. More experienced voters voted for the measure 56-44, however, providing for its passage.

So: blatantly dishonest on "ban," and a font of disinformation on the voters, to Bill Bennett on the radio. Why?

Huckabee, we recall fondly, ran for president. We are led to believe that he intends to run again. He must surely be wondering, Why look for trouble? Why risk alienating voters when you don't have to? Why be all negative-y and bigot-ish and against something, when you can just as easily be for its absence?

O those Republican pols: they've still Got It. From Kristol to Noonan to Brooks, from Romney to Giuliani to Huckabee: they will always be with us, and so will their deadpan disingenuousness, their cheery demagoguery, their pseudo-expert revisionism, their special pleading, their myths, their p.r., their fantasies, their lies.

Obama hasn't even been inaugurated, and the campaign for 2012 has begun. As Dominick Dunne said when O.J. Simpson announced that he would spend the rest of his life searching for his wife's real killer: Let's watch!

Crossposted at What HE Said.