Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

December 19, 2007

Huckabee: Suddenly Disingenuous

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 8:54 am

I have no objection to Mike Huckabee’s Christmas wishes tv ad. I agree with him that the Constitution protects the free expression of religious sentiments. It also protects those who don’t want to vote for those who make a fetish of them.

But the controversy is not about Christmas wishes. The controversy is about the “floating cross” as it’s become known: The lighting effect which turns the edges of a bookcase behind the candidate’s head into what looks like a, well, floating cross.

No, what bothers me is that Huckabee does a Huck Finn here: pretending there was no intentionality behind the lighting effect and ridiculing those who have called attention to it by accusing them of “paul is dead” Beatles nut paranoia. Come on Huck! Why not cop to the fact that you were quite well aware of the lighting effect–maybe not when it was being filmed but certainly after you watched it. It’s impossible not to notice it. You don’t need to make any apology for the apprearance of the symbol of your faith in an ad. It doesn’t necessarily imply that you’re appropriating the symbol of your faith to bestow a blessing on your political ambitions (though some might think so).

Don’t be coy. All you had to say was that there’s nothing wrong with including a cross in a Christmas wishes ad. But by disingenuously denying what’s there in plain sight you sound ashamed of your religon’s symbol, or guilty about your use of it. Own it, dude, or people who may not agree with your convictions but admired your honesty about them will lose the respect they once might have had for you.



  1. Huckabee is Lonesome Rhodes, and with the Edwards scandale breaking, can a Huckabee scandal be far behind?

    I probably should know this, but could you remind me–and maybe others–who Lonesome Rhodes is?

    Comment by charlie finch — December 19, 2007 @ 10:08 am | Reply

  2. Huckabee has been riding an ascending tide largely because he’s credibly candid and authentic. The ghostly cross couldn’t possibly be an accident — lighting is as crucial an element in the semiotics of political ads as music and words. The symbol framed him as a floating, unstated special effect to wink at his base while he reaches out with his other hand toward the populist Reagan wing of both parties. Lonesome Rhoades was the character played by Andy Griffith in Elia Kazan’s underrated “A Face in the Crowd” about a populist country singer who takes a political (and spookily authoritarian) turn in his ride to celebrity.

    Comment by Richard Schrader — December 19, 2007 @ 10:43 am | Reply

  3. I find him to be a phoney. He has fully mastered the arts of insinuation and innuendo. Someone secure in his beliefs and policies does not need the deniability built into those two methods. It takes a great deal of work to arrange that ad to show the cross, but it was constructed as a bookshelf to permit the subsequent denial. Visual insinuation. This was the method he chose when he called out Romney on the Jesus/Satan brotherhood. He did not directly say he understood the claim, he asked the insinuating question.

    In a race full of suspect characters, he is the least authentic.

    Comment by Mark Van Wagoner — December 19, 2007 @ 10:55 am | Reply

  4. Lonesome Rhodes: played by Andy Griffith in”The Face in the Crowd”, directed by Elia Kazan, an “Arkansas Traveller” (like Huckabee, complete with guitar) who becomes a media star, brought down when caught condemning the “little people” whom he hypocritically championed. Lonesome Rhodes was supposedly based on Arthur Godfrey

    Comment by charliefinch — December 19, 2007 @ 5:03 pm | Reply

  5. “Suddenly”, Ron? Consider Huck’s little aside about Mormons and Satan, then his apologetic “don’t know nuthin’ about Mormons” (before it was revealed he had spoken at a convention of Southern Baptists in Salt Lake City in 1998 specifically targeted a Mormons). Positively Nixonian, in my opinion.

    A valid point–about him being Nixonian in both instances. However the “little aside” was only published quite recently and until then he’d created an image of anti-pol candor, which, I think, has suddenly and publicly been revealed to be a mask. I wasn’t aware of the 1998 speech until you brought it to my attention, for which thanks, but I don’t think many in the public or the media knew of it–or its relevance–until now.

    Comment by R.W. Rasband — December 19, 2007 @ 8:54 pm | Reply

  6. Your last two entris make a nice diptych.

    I wonder what our response might be if Huckabee said that it was purposly ambiguous and viewer’s individual responses said more about themselves than they did about any pedantry on his part. In other words, would we accept art from a politician?

    There is a hair-trigger mentality in the high court of public opinion, when it comes to criticism of Christian expressions. And now there is fear preventing any commentary on Islamic topics.

    Comment by LSD — December 20, 2007 @ 11:03 am | Reply

  7. Good job, Ron – you hit the nail on the head!

    It is a characteristic of proselytizing religions, especially xtians and muslims, that their worshipped founder called upon them to compel all others to their persuasion. Those who resist are pagans or infidels.

    Sometimes the videos they make include floating crosses, sometimes beheadings – all part of the same regrettable intellectual tradition.

    Comment by donfattig — December 20, 2007 @ 1:08 pm | Reply

  8. Apparently, Huckabee’s campaign has blocked the release of texts from any of his sermons when he was a practicing minister

    Comment by charlie finch — December 20, 2007 @ 1:18 pm | Reply

  9. A writer at “The New Yorker” just mentioned to a friend of mine that “Huckabee will bring back arts education, because it saved him”. Huckabee’s website touts his “New Yorker” interview in which he advocates “bringing back music and arts education and right side of the brain activities.” Huckabee is dangerous, a demagogue who can be a vessel of all things to all people. Semiotic associations with the film “I Heart Huckabees” may seem superficial, but the name is trippingly tongueful. Similar simple spells have captured the masses before with genocidal consequences. Is Huckabee an American Hitler in the making?

    Comment by charlie finch — December 20, 2007 @ 11:05 pm | Reply

  10. I don’t mean to be a nudge on Huckabee, but his basket of cultural allusions is staggering for a politician. I just watched a clip of him from “Scarborough Report” (YouTube), in which he says, sarcastically, in denying “the floating cross”, “I was blinking my eyes in Morse Code to the Evangelicals out there”, a reference to an act during Vietnam by POW (later Alabama Senator) Jeremiah Denton. In a recent speech, Huckabee compared his campaign to “that little boy with two loaves and five fishes”. News anchors talk about the candidates having to suspend campaigning for the holidays, while Huckabee is riding Christmas straight into the voting. He is a demagogue right out of Sinclair Lewis, with a dose of Flannery O’Connor

    Comment by charlie finch — December 21, 2007 @ 8:21 am | Reply

  11. what’s so bad about “bringing back music and arts education”?

    Comment by pixologic — December 21, 2007 @ 5:48 pm | Reply

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