Count me among those who think Mike Huckabee’s “Merry Christmas” ad, which is running in Iowa and two other states, is very clever. It identifies him with the undoubtedly growing ranks of voters who are getting weary of political ads, while allowing him to get across a forthrightly (if understated) Christian holiday message. It won’t offend anyone who would consider voting for him in the first place, and it represents a nice dog-whistle appeal to those conservative evangelicals who think anodyne holiday greetings represent a “war on Christmas.”
It’s weird to watch conservatives–even religious conservatives–try to get indigmant about this ad. Like Bill Donahue, the heavily hackish chief of the heavily politicized Catholic League, some of them are claiming the ad features a subliminal religious message in the form of a bookshelf in the background that forms a cross-like image. Huckabee’s reaction to that theory was truly priceless:
Huckabee said the bookshelf is just a bookshelf and shrugged off the controversy: “I will confess this: If you play the spot backwards it says, ‘Paul is dead. Paul is dead.'”
The odd thing is that there are plenty of things Huckabee has said and done over the years that are ripe targets for legitimate criticism from both the left and right, including his gubernatorial record and his nutty tax proposal. Sarah Posner offers a rich menu of such Huckabisms in today’s FundamentaList at The American Prospect. But accusing him of being too Christian ain’t going to cut it among the kind of people he’s appealing to in the early Caucus and primary states. Indeed, such attacks let him indulge in the kind of bogus martyrdom that conservative evangelicals are all to prone to embrace these days.