Mike Huckabee's Christmas ad -- like everything Huckabee does -- provoked all sorts of vehement, angry, un-Christmas-like attacks from Republican pundits. The GOP establishment almost uniformly claimed that the edges of the bookshelf behind Huckabee formed the shape of a cross, which -- along with Huckabee's mention of the word "Christ" -- rendered Huckabee guilty of making a highly inappropriate, overt religious appeal for votes.
But here is the Christmas ad from John McCain, which features not a subliminal cross arguably lurking in the background, but instead, an explicit one drawn in the sand, serving as the centerpiece of the ad, and expressly referenced -- twice -- by the political candidate, whose face lingers wistfully next to the cross for 10 of the ad's 30 seconds:
Yet the reverent reaction to McCain's ad could not have been more different than the one provoked by Huckabee's. Chris Wallace said: "That McCain ad is so powerful. You find yourself tearing up when you see that, obviously." Obviously. A clearly moved Fred Barnes concurred with the only word that was needed: "Indeed." Mort Kondracke gushed: "I think it was a great ad, and it had a religious overtone to it. . . . it should remind religious [voters] that there is another candidate in the options besides Huckabee."
In what conceivable way could Huckabee's ad, containing (arguably) a "subliminal" floating cross, constitute some grave breach of theological propriety, while McCain's overt appeal to the cross in his political ad is some sort of inspiring, perfectly appropriate message? Here is what the anti-Huckabee Peggy Noonan said in condemning Huckabee's ad as exploitative and wrong:
I love the cross. The sight of it, the fact of it, saves me, literally and figuratively. But there is a kind of democratic politesse in America, and it has served us well, in which we are happy to profess our faith but don't really hit people over the head with its symbols in an explicitly political setting, such as a campaign commercial, which is what Mr. Huckabee's ad was.
I wound up thinking this: That guy is using the cross so I'll like him. That doesn't tell me what he thinks of Jesus, but it does tell me what he thinks of me. He thinks I'm dim. He thinks I will associate my savior with his candidacy. Bleh.
If that's what Huckabee's ad did, then isn't that exactly what McCain's ad also did? Why does the Republican establishment think that Mike Huckabee should be barred from the use of Christian symbols while John McCain -- and, for that matter, George Bush -- are to be cheered when they do? Especially on this day, that strikes one as a deeply unfair standard.
It seems rather clear that none of the GOP establishment luminaries feigning outrage over Huckabee's ad were actually upset that the cross was being used in service of political goals. They're only upset that the cross was being used effectively by Mike Huckabee. Clearly, they object to the use of religious themes only when those themes undermine their political agenda, but heartily approve when they're used to advance it. Put another way, the people who righteously claim to find political exploitation of religious appeals so inappropriate are doing exactly that by condemning Huckabee's political use of Christianity but nobody else's.
On a more festive and Christmas-appropriate note, one of the most joyous aspects of this holiday is that people who devote every day, all year long, to spewing unbridled anger, resentment, hostility and palpable hatred towards an ever-expanding roster of Enemies -- immigrants, liberals, Muslims, war opponents, treasonous journalists -- put all that aside for part of a day and publicly show everyone that they realize what is truly important, who they really are:
That soulful Christmas message was embedded in a blog post and accompanied by this title: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."
On the same exact page where one finds that publicly broadcast prayer, one also finds featured the following:
* bitter complaints that displaced Katrina victims are still in need of rent subsidies and therefore pushing "the limits of compassion";
* a scary warning that "Mohammed is now the second most popular boys' name in Britain" (!!);
* an item somehow blaming "Planned Parenthood and environmental zealots" for an attempt by a Dutch couple to return a Korean child they adopted; and
* a cackling screed proclaiming "schadenfreude" (the very un-Christmas emotion of deriving pleasure from others' misery) over the failure of the "Unhinged," "Petulant," "Back-stabbing" Democrats to stop the war in Iraq.
In other words: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."