Monday, December 03, 2007

George Will and Insinuation

One of the first pages I read in a newspaper is the editorial page. I like to see what the average Joe thinks is worth expending energy and ink on in order to send a letter to the editor. I read a few columns, but none with regularity.

I had always had some vague impression that George Will was a conservative columnist, but can't really pin down why I thought that, other than supposing that I had read one of his columns and come to that conclusion.

His column today focused on the inscrutable opinions and actions of politicians who often contradict themselves and their earlier opinions. He uses direct quotes from Hillary and Bill Clinton, regarding war and health care, more quotes from John Edwards regarding his health care push and lists Edwards' reversals from his previous Congressional record.

So far, so good. I get where he's going: Politicians are vague, opportunistic and say a lot of things that don't make sense and reveal nothing too truthful as a means of appealing to as many as people as possible.

The column takes a sharp turn and then devolves into a bashing of Mike Huckabee and evangelical Christians. That wouldn't be so bad if Will had any direct quotes from Huckabee and evangelicals; but he doesn't.

In trying to outline Huckabee's "muddied waters", Will writes in what is supposed to be Huckabee's voice:

I am a Christian, therefore I am a conservative, therefore whatever I have done or propose to do with "compassionate," meaning enlarged, government is conservatism. And by the way, anything I denote as a "moral" issue is beyond debate other than by the uncaring forces of greed.

Any quote from Huckabee? Nope....just Will's mind-reading ability for us to rely upon.

Then he writes:
Many Iowans think it would be wise to nominate a candidate who, when the Republicans were asked during a debate to raise their hands if they do not believe in evolution, raised his. But, then, Huckabee believes America can be energy independent in 10 years, so he has peculiar views about more than paleontology.
This is the second time I have heard this point raised about Huckabee, as if it is some damning accusation that has the power to humiliate and decimate a candidate. Guess what...many Americans don't believe in evolution; that doesn't mean that they are all Young-Earth Creationists who disdain and disrespect science. Evolution has become an insidious litmus test designed to ferret out any belief in a creative, personal God. If you believe that humans were designed for some purpose, are unique in some way, and insist on attributing it to God, then you must be seriously loony and unfit for anything. You might even need someone to tie your shoelaces for you.

And how is this relevant to governing? It isn't, except in the minds of those who equate belief in God with everything they dislike in current American politics. Oh...and still no direct quote from Huckabee here.

Although Huckabee is considered affable, two subliminal but clear enough premises of his Iowa attack on Mitt Romney are unpleasant: The almost 6 million American Mormons who consider themselves Christians are mistaken about that. And -- 55 million non-Christian Americans should take note -- America must have a Christian president.

Attack on Romney? The only quote I could find about Huckabee on Romney in Iowa is this:

"When he was pro-abortion, I was still pro-life and always have been," Huckabee told CNN. "When he was for gun control, I was against it. When he was against the Bush tax cuts, I was for them. When he was against Ronald Reagan's legacy and said he wasn't part of that Bush-Reagan thing, I was a part of that Bush-Reagan thing."

He makes no mention of religion, America's need for a Christian president, or Romney's Mormonism. Maybe Will is using those great powers of ESP again.

And one last gem from Will:

If Huckabee succeeds in derailing Romney's campaign by raising a religious test for presidential eligibility, that will be clarifying: In one particular, America was more enlightened a century ago.


First of all, Huckabee is not raising a religious test for the presidency. He has made clear his belief in God, but so has just about every other candidate, Democrat or Republican. They all pander to the right in an effort to win them over. The only difference is that Huckabee actually believes the things he says.

Secondly, it is Will--and those like him--who are raising religious tests for the presidency, or perhaps non-religious tests, by mocking and calling into question a candidate's character and ability to lead based on an informal hand-raising about evolution. Such open, unwarranted hostility seems extreme in contrast to the lack of any attempt by Huckabee to make this an election based on religion.

If Will really believes these sinister, subliminal messages exist, why doesn't he have at least one good quote from Huckabee to back up his charges? Politicians are talking all the time. Surely there is at least one good sound bite that could have been gleaned for Will to prove his many points.

Huckabee is the candidate that evangelicals have always wanted; someone who believes what he professes, is flexible in his approach to government and likable enough to maybe get somewhere. Maybe that's scary to the George Wills out there, but it shouldn't be.

Contrary to popular belief, evangelicals don't bite.

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