My friend Steve Finefrock, who is also a friend of The Hedgehog Blog, has kindly granted permission for the publication of this guest post.
FROM THE PHONE BOOTH: The Smallest Space in Hollywood
Eugene McCarthy slayeth the President!
So thought the media, and they felt certain he was on a yellow-brick road to the Emerald City, or the White House at least. Instead, the yellow-streak became known to be in his spine, and soon Bobby Kennedy entered the race, Clean Gene having proved LBJ was not invincible. Of course, it was all on a pretense: McCarthy had fooled New Hampshire voters in 1968, as JFK had done in 1960. He was a quick hors d’ouevre, not a main meal. The entrée was to come later, as Nixon trumped Humphrey.
Now cometh Huckabee, aka The Huckster, or Huck [as in Tom Sawyer’s chum], rising fast and giving some heartburn to public and private remonstrations. He likely will win the Iowa cauci [plural for caucus], maybe even place second in New Hampshire. Oh, what shall we do?
Advice of counsel from Silent Cal Coolidge: Sometimes you don’t do something, just stand there. True enough in ’68, that Eugene ‘beat’ LBJ [actually, got fewer votes, but won the Expectation Game], and true enough that Huck may truck right into first place in Iowa vote mine rich with evangelicals. But tarry not, while taking Cal’s Advice. Keep up the pressure, sure: but know that Huck ain’t got the stuff. His first stumble of note has been dismissed by even one close Romney advisor, who asserts that they are letting it slide.
Fair enough – fair is fine, if divinely inspired, e.g., it leads to the proper result. Taking a Silent Cal strategery will work for Romney, who’s overlooking Huck’s comment on the Mormons’ supposed belief that the devil is Jesus’ brother. He’s apologized to Romney as an aside, but his apology is yet to get the same play as drawing first-blood in the religious electoral war. He’s failed to abide by his beloved Golden Rule: Would he take well to a slam on Baptists of equal idiocy? Plainly, do-unto-others is suitable guide for healthcare, as he claims the Compassion Card. But not when fighting a Mormon opponent. He gives unto the left on health, but attacks a fellow GOPster for religious belief, while advocating do-unto-others. Very selective vision, Huck.
My estimation over a year ago on dismissing Romney was due to this very vulnerability, expecting it to be exploited by the DEMOCRATS! Oh, not obviously – they’re too sleazy for that, and the media is too sloppy to play detective and find the dems’ below-the-radar strategy and tactics, constructed to make people whisper: That Romney, isn’t his religion kinda weird?
But the first-blood in this battle came from a small-calibre Rambo from Hope: Huck hacked one of his own, in a snide aside to the NY Times, proving he ain’t ready for prime time, or even daytime TV. A slip like this shows he’s either not thinkin’, or not carin’ about being president.
True enough that Romney is too stiff, Giuliani sometimes tentative, Thompson still more laid-back than suitable – but that’s how you play when the stakes are high. No wild-&-crazy-guy occupants allowed in the Oval Office. A casual, cutesy comment, when being ‘courted’ by the Paper of Record makes the lesser player careless. Oh, wow, the Times is interviewing li’l ole me! Then the beans spill.
Some famous coach informed one of his scoring footballers, who’d just gone wacko in the endzone: Act like you’ve been there before! Be cool, act with style, pretend you’re experienced at this experience, even if you ain’t. Huck ain’t ever been courted so generously before, and he’s also never sat on the national throne of press adoration; it soon shall become a hot seat. That endzone shall be his endgame.
Huck ain’t been there before. His slinking slam on Mormonism is akin to the long-debunked, yet surviving libel against Jews, contrived by the Czar’s secret police: that Jews make their holiday matzah bread with the blood of Gentile children, tortuously slain for the occasion. The so-called “Protocol of the Elders of Zion” is a favorite of Arabists and Islamists, even the source of an Al Jazeera mini-series. Huck has given a faint echo of that mentality. A shame, in itself, and a shame for the hopes of conservatives.
For I’d thought the slam on Mitt would come from Hillary, or Barack, or the DLC, or DNC – secretly slithering in slime, of course, but still the reason Mitt was vulnerable, once he was the nominee. Now, that slinky slam has come instead from a Baptist, a preacher, a man claiming concern and compassion for those who are at a disadvantage. The shame is his, and the worry is ours, IF HE’S NOMINATED.
Which won’t happen, no more than Gene’s clean scheme [not so clean when examined, over two decades later by a political science scholar] made him the nominee. Gene was a blip, a brief tasty treat, but not serious protein. “Where’s the beef?” applied then as much as years later in politics, and also today: Where’s the beef of this would-be Rambo, drawing first-blood with a motzah-libel we’d expect of Arabists, and liberals.
For the record, Huck drew first-blood, as if he’d inquiringly endorsed the debunked Elders of Zion. Before Xmas. Well before the Passion of the Christ in spring. Well before a nominee becomes apparent.
Had he promptly apologized as fervently as his original statement, and in as large a venue as the NY Times offers, he might be tenable. But he'll become the GOP’s Gene, with not-so-clean hands of blood-libel utterances. We expect a president to be better informed on issues of great weight, of grand gravitas – Huck is still drifting down the Mississippi, steering his directionless raft with the currents.
Not presidential timber. Balsa wood in a forest full of oak and teak and other hardier woods. He bent when he should have stood up, played the “isn’t it true” game that many see thru, and all should recognize as a gimmick. If he’s the ‘new’ candidate who’s eschewing the old politics, what’s with the timid question? If he believes it, he’s ignorant. If he knows better about the facts, he’s a liar. Very old wine in not-so-new a skin.
In either case, it was stupid. Therefore, he’s not to be let out after dark, or out of Arkansas. Enjoy the ride, Gene of Arkansas – it will be your only turn in the spotlight. The bitchiest part is the withdrawal – eyeballs and adrenaline are the toughest drugs for ultimate recovery. After six months of wetkisses from David Broder, the dogs of journalism will turn your comfy womb into a hellhole. Welcome to prime time, Huck. You’re not on the Mississippi any more.
Fears are arising by the right: What do we do if Huck’s our nominee? Ain’t gonna happen – small potatoes, no beef, all hat and no cattle. Good lookin’ hat, but it’s stained with the matzah blood of politically slain Mormons. Well, if not slain, at least slandered.
Huck, we hardly knew ye. How’s the weather in Arkansas? Have a little chicken soup with matzah balls – can’t hurt, might help the pain of paying for your violation of the Golden Rule.
For more on this, see Article VI Blog