He just had his Palm Sunday with his victory in Iowa, now comes the crucifixion part. He will need more than Chuck Norris covering his back on this one. He will need Mel Gibson. Governor Mike Huckabee is about to be pilloried unlike any modern presidential candidate since, well, since Ronald Reagan, who in pre FOX television days was unanimously tarred by the media herd as a racist and a warmonger but got elected anyway. Huck will probably not have that luck.
This is a rite of passage for any winning candidate in Iowa, it will happen to Barack Obama as well, but the furor over Huckabee will hit new highs on the media shrill meter. One panel member on MSNBC last night came right out and admitted on air, “I don’t like him.” And the host openly sneered at Huckabee’s winning comments, saying to his colleagues, “Does that do anything for you?” No one criticized or even mentioned Huck’s controversial tax plan. The whole focus was on his religion. Why? Because Huckabee is a despised (and feared) evangelical Christian.
Well, you say, didn’t Jimmy Carter prove in 1976 that a born again Christian could get elected president? Yes, but he was a liberal Democrat and thus many editors and pundits pulled their punches.
And didn’t George W. Bush claim in the Iowa Debates in 2000 that his greatest political philosopher (sic) was Jesus. Yeah, but editors, debriefing their female writers on the Bush campaign plane, who carried back stories of Bush quizzing them on their private sex lives, couldn’t believe the “testosterone president” (are they all like that?) was doing anything more that mining for votes from a rich religious vein. Indeed, the evangelicals didn’t believe it either and 4 million of them sat home while Gore and Bush took the contest to the wire. The evangelicals may believe it now, and the editors too. But it’s too late now. And they certainly did not believe it then. George W. Bush, they told themselves, was of patrician, Episcopal roots and the born again thing was only political.
To get an idea of what Mike Huckabee, an authentic, conservative evangelical Christian will face in the coming weeks you must consider the political fate of former Missouri Governor John Ashcroft who was Bush’s first Attorney General. Notwithstanding the current public image, John Ashcroft had never been a wide eyed, conservative extremist. He had been elected Attorney General of Missouri twice and Governor twice and Senator once. One cycle he was the only Republican elected to statewide office during a Democrat landslide. Missouri was not some southern, Dixie, safe Republican bastion. It was a bellwether state that went for Democrats Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton. Hey, it went with the winner in every presidential election in my lifetime. So you can imagine the surprise to folks in Missouri, most of whom had no idea what Ashcroft’s religion might be, when they woke up in 2000 to the New York media attack blitz on the president’s Attorney General nominee? He was a dirty born again Christian.
Ashcroft had integrity. He wouldn’t fire the names on that infamous White House list of politically contrary states attorneys. And so Bush-Rove canned him but the fixated, anti-evangelical media was so anti-Ashcroft they missed the whole story until it had long passed over them. Evangelicals were so bad, so muddy, they couldn’t even rehabilitate an honest one to serve their own ends.
Huckabee will be confronted everywhere he turns by questions about evangelical doctrine much as the ultra liberal media did to Romney last year on the subject of his faith and every evangelical cultural tic will be ridiculed and examined. It will be extra harsh because the media in their arrogance and ignorance didn’t see him coming. Like someone who suddenly startles you, they will now jump in fright. And anger too because they had been talking about this for two years and totally got it wrong. It is a little embarrassing. After all, they get paid money to tell us things we all know are way of the mark, ridiculous, out of touch. And, of course, it’s not their fault, it’s Huckabee’s fault and so he must pay. And then finally, their isn’t much time to smear him, so it must be full court press, the attacks will have to make up for lost time.
The problem is that the media is so stupid about religion (one of the nation’s most preeminent political observers recently insisted that Iowa had lots of Baptists, thus the Huckabee win,) that they will sometimes miss their target. In their nervous frenzy, lacking a proper understanding of the numbers and the various subcultures, they will say the wrong things. They will inadvertently target all Christians or anyone who believes in anything.
The result? Huckabee will skyrocket. His funds will pour in. He will be a player in many states that would never have worked for him. Heck, he might even get the nomination by pulling off a win somewhere in the Midwest.
But all the damage will have done its work. He will not win the general election even if he does get the nomination and the media elites, who are now shamelessly calling themselves media elites on the air, will say amongst themselves, “phew, that was close.” But then, neither will Barack Obama win, by the way. Running for president is like cooking something new, nobody ever gets it perfect the first time around. And you know what that means? She’s going to come baaaaaack.