On his way to winning Iowa, Mike Huckabee overtly traded on his evangelical culture war credentials. Besides marketing himself as a "Christian leader" and appearing beside a crucifix-shaped object while urging viewers to "celebrate the birth of Christ," Huckabee has rallied Christian right audiences against the "holocaust of liberalized abortion." He has called for quarantining homosexuals, compared homosexuality to necrophilia, and cozied up to rapture ready fanatics from Tim LaHaye to Pastor John Hagee to huckster televangelist Kenneth Copeland, whose corrupt fundraising practices have earned him a subpoena from Republican Senator Charles Grassley.
Huckabee, an ordained minister, is not simply a Christian leader. He is a radical cleric.
In the eyes of the mainstream media, however, Huckabee is the sunny Republican counterpart to Barack Obama. The New York Times' Adam Nagourney praised Huckabee's "easy-going, self-effacing, jaunty style" as his chief political asset. Nagourney's colleague at the Times, liberal commentator Frank Rich, explained Huckabee's ascent in similar terms, comparing the sudden swell of support for his campaign to the phenomenon surrounding Democratic senator and presidential frontrunner Barack Obama.
"Both men [Obama and Huckabee] have a history of speaking across party and racial lines," Rich wrote. "Both men possess that rarest of commodities in American public life: wit. Most important, both men aspire (not always successfully) to avoid the hyper-partisanship of the Clinton-Bush era." Rich, who weeks earlier had predicted the imminent self-destruction of the religious right (wishful thinking, to the extent that Rich was thinking at all), seemed to view Huckabee as a departure from the divisive Republican candidates of the past.
Huckabee has explicitly rejected the idea that his affable style has anything to do with his sudden success, however. "There's only one explanation for [my surge in the polls] and it's not a human one," Huckabee told an audience at the late Rev. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University in November. "It's the same power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves feed a crowd of five thousand people and that's the only way that our campaign could be doing what it's doing."
On issues like women's reproductive rights, immigration, and religious liberties, Huckabee is arguably more radical than George W. Bush. Yet just as the mainstream press bought into Bush's portrayal of himself as a uniter during the 2000 campaign, they have fallen for Huckabee's pose as a "vertical" politician who lifts voters up, rather than pushing them horizontally to the left or right. If Huckabee somehow wins the presidency -- an unlikely event, but one worth considering -- the pundits and reporters who projected their own desires for post-partisanship on him will realize how dangerously wrong they were.
Because the mainstream media's leading lights have generally overlooked Huckabee's radical sectarian tendencies, videographer Thomas Shomaker and I have created a sequel to his "Christian Leader" ad that might provoke them to look behind his sunny veneer. Relying entirely on factual information and Huckabee's own public statements, we have painted a picture of the candidate that starkly contrasts with his misleading pose as a uniter. See it for yourself.
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