Friday, January 18, 2008

Changing the Definition

For a man who is considered to be one the front-runners in the GOP field, Mike Huckabee is showing a startling clarity of vision. While the other candidates have learned the fine art of nuance and the ability to say something without saying something that could be misinterpreted (or dismissed as being out of context), Mr. Huckabee does not hold back. In a way, that’s very refreshing.

Earlier this week he told a crowd in Warren, Michigan, that we needed to amend the Constitution “so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards.” He was talking about passing the so-called “Human Life” amendment and the federal marriage amendment, both of which would restrict the rights of the citizens, and impose a theocratic interpretation of the basic laws of this country. Now, to bolster his argument against same-sex marriage, he has equated homosexuality with bestiality.

QUESTIONER: Is it your goal to bring the Constitution into strict conformity with the Bible? Some people would consider that a kind of dangerous undertaking, particularly given the variety of biblical interpretations.

HUCKABEE: Well, I don’t think that’s a radical view to say we’re going to affirm marriage. I think the radical view is to say that we’re going to change the definition of marriage so that it can mean two men, two women, a man and three women, a man and a child, a man and animal. Again, once we change the definition, the door is open to change it again. I think the radical position is to make a change in what’s been historic.

In shorthand terms, I would say that Mr. Huckabee has done the full Santorum, which is a reference to the former senator of Pennsylvania who made a similar argument, including “man on dog” sex. For that comment, Mr. Santorum was roundly criticized (not to mention made the butt of a lot of jokes that dwelt on his conduct around certain barnyard creatures). Now Mr. Huckabee has made the same claim and so far, barely a peep.

Perhaps this is because we expect this sort of thing from him. After all, he is a Southern Baptist pastor, and the denomination’s view on gay marriage and gays in general is well documented: they are adamantly opposed to both to the point of homophobia and use their stand to shout their views into the headlines and the presidential race. And while Mr. Huckabee has turned away from the vein-popping hysterics of some anti-gay ranters and made his folksy affability his hallmark, it’s obvious that his views on gay rights and the imposition of God’s law into the foundation of our nation are not far below the surface and just as medieval.

You have to give the man credit for being able to redefine the role of the theocratic advocate and make it mainstream. Twenty years ago when Pat Robertson ran in the Republican primary, he was dismissed as a far-right fringe candidate that attracted more derisive commentary than votes. Eight years ago Gary Bauer, another acolyte of the Christian Right, made an attempt to run for the GOP nod, only to be blown away by the George W. Bush juggernaut and the fact that no one, not even his fellow Republicans, couldn’t shake the impression that Mr. Bauer had come in second in a Wally Cox lookalike contest. But now Mr. Huckabee emerges onto the scene and is holding a place in the top tier of the GOP candidates, unafraid to speak his mind about the denial of rights to a sizable community of Americans and claim ownership of the reproductive rights of women. He’s even grabbed the other third rail in southern politics — the Confederate flag — and told the Yankees in graphic detail what he thinks about people who don’t like seeing it displayed.

“You don’t like people from outside the state coming in and telling you what to do with your flag,” Mr. Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas, told supporters in Myrtle Beach, according to The Associated Press.

“In fact,” he said, “if somebody came to Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we’d tell them what to do with the pole; that’s what we’d do.”

So while Mr. Huckabee bemoans the changing definition of marriage — something that has been evolving over the centuries since the biblical days of polygamy, wives sold into slavery, arranged marriages, anti-miscegenation laws, and the acceptance of divorce as a matter of course — he has no trouble whatsoever about redefining what passes for the secular black-letter law of the United States Constitution and making into the sixth book of the Pentateuch.

As I said, that’s very refreshing. It’s also scary as Hell.