The EFM Feature

That’s the phrase the editors of the Wall Street Journal recently used to describe Governor Huckabee. They were mostly referring to his misguided fiscal policies and rhetoric, but he’s proving the Journal right in other ways today. From the AP wire:

Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, asks in an upcoming article, “Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?”
The article, to be published in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, says Huckabee asked the question after saying he believes Mormonism is a religion but doesn’t know much about it. His rival Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, is a member of the Mormon church, which is known officially as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The authoritative Encyclopedia of Mormonism, published in 1992, does not refer to Jesus and Satan as brothers. It speaks of Jesus as the son of God and of Satan as a fallen angel, which is a Biblical account.

Here is the Huckabee campaign’s response:

A report released tonight cites an upcoming article in the Sunday edition of The New York Times Magazine which quotes former Arkansas Governor and Presidential Candidate Mike Huckabee asking a question about the content of the Mormon faith. In fact, the full context of the exchange makes it clear that Governor Huckabee was illustrating his unwillingness to answer questions about Mormonism and to avoid addressing theological questions during this campaign.
“Governor Huckabee has said consistently that he believes this campaign should center on a discussion of the important issues confronting our nation,” said Senior Advisor, Dr. Charmaine Yoest, “and not focus on questions of religious belief. He wants to assure persons of all faith traditions of his firm commitment to religious tolerance and freedom of worship. Governor Huckabee believes that one of the great strengths of our nation lies in its diversity of thought, opinion and faith.”

A few things deserve to be said about this.
First, Governor Huckabee claims the “full context” of the quote shows that he’s innocent of, well, taking the sectarianism of his campaign to a new level. However, he’s just asserting it — he hasn’t bothered to provide the context. Are we to accept this on faith?
Second, it strikes me that there is a pattern here. This is at least the fifth time where, in the face of an apparent faux pas, Governor Huckabee has done his best Bart Simpson imitation, claiming, “I didn’t do it, no one saw me do it, there’s no way you can prove anything!” The other examples I can recall are taxes (where he claimed Fox’s numbers were wrong), immigration (where he got into some kind of long discursis on “academic challenge scholarships” vs. in-state tuition), Wayne Dumond (another discursis on clemency vs. parole), and quaranting AIDS patients (discursis on the definition of the word “quarantine”). I’m starting to wonder: Does this guy even know how to say, “I was wrong?”
Finally, I don’t see any way the context can excuse this. Governor Huckabee should know that if he — as a former minister who’s running with his faith as the centerpiece of his campaign — breathes even a word about an issue like this, it’s going to get play. He’s been dealing with the media for over a decade now; he has no excuse not to know how reporters work. They seize on comments they find interesting — and those comments are typically isolated in minutes or hours of other stuff. They then write about what caught their interest — just as appears to have happened here.
That means one of two things. Either Governor Huckabee deliberately raised this issue in order to hurt Governor Romney, or he just blurted it out and naively thought the press wouldn’t paint it this way. If the former, he went back on his own EFM-like statement that theological issues that don’t affect the way you’d govern don’t belong in campaigns. As Kathryn Jean Lopez points out, if the former, he’s now officially — and divisively — proclaimed himself “the anti-Mormon candidate.” I suspect, though, that it’s the latter — just like the Journal said, glib naivete.
Well, pardon me for thinking that in a time of war, we need a little more prudence and discretion from our president.
And you can be certain that even if conservative evangelicals support Governor Huckabee, the rest of the electorate will make certain — via Mayor Giuliani or, sad to say, Senator Clinton — that we get it. Say what you will about those two, but at least they know — as the WWII posters put it — that loose lips sink ships. They’ll have a field day with someone who doesn’t. Let’s not give them the chance.

About Charles Mitchell

EFM's resident Yankee, Charles Mitchell, works in the non-profit arena in his native Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Charissa, live near the state capital of Harrisburg with their daughter, Adeline, and are members of a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America.

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