As Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has “surged” in the polls of late, so has he become the new favorite target of mudslinging and criticism. But he and his campaign have committed to not fighting back with more attack ads. Instead, he recently released a commercial (entitled “What Really Matters”) that takes a step back from politics and simply wishes everyone Merry Christmas. Take a look at the 30 second video here:
The ad began running in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Iowa earlier this week, and immediately drew fire from critics and the media for its blatant Christianity and (gasp!) mention of Jesus Christ as the reason why we celebrate Christmas. But partially because of the controversy (and the convenient buzz machine of Youtube), the video received more than a half million viewer hits in less than 36 hours, setting a campaign record. Within 48 hours it had 669,200 views, and as of today it has nearly a million views.
Doubtless Huckabee’s competitors (particularly Mitt Romney, who seems most incensed by the Arkansas governor’s rise to first place in Iowa) are fuming about this gutsy, brilliant video. As the Republican candidates have poured buckets of money and months of speeches into courting the Christian vote (which in Iowa is 40% of the electorate), Huckabee has usurped it all in one 30 second fell swoop, defining himself as the "authentic" Christian who is unafraid of political correctness and uninterested in a watered down civic ecumenism at this time of year.
But beyond the political significance of playing the Christmas card to appeal to values voters (something other candidates are now copying in their own ads), it’s just really nice to see someone tell it like it is. Christmas is about the birth of Christ—an event that transcends all our petty political quibbling.
When asked by a reporter in a press conference (view it here, starting at 1:35) if he thought the Christmas ad “crossed the line” separating religion and politics, Huckabee responded: “If we are so politically correct in this country that a person can’t say, ‘enough of the nonsense with all the attack ads, could we pause for a few days and say Merry Christmas to one another, then we’re really in trouble as a country.”
The reporter clarified her question: “I don’t think it was the Christmas angle [that was possibly crossing the line], it was the birth of Christ angle. Could you address that?”
“I don’t know what else to call Christmas,” Huckabee quickly responded. “Last time I checked, that’s what we celebrate…. The very word Christmas comes from the contraction Christ-mass, the worship of Christ. Change the word if we don’t want to talk about it, but that’s what it symbolizes and represents.”
Huckabee then went on to defend against the ridiculous claims of the “subliminal message” in the ad—a white cross in the background (which is really a windowpane)—by showing a little bit of his humorous side: “Actually, I will confess this,” said Huckabee: “If you play the spot backwards, it says ‘Paul is Dead, Paul is Dead, Paul is Dead.’”
Seriously, though, in this over-politicized holiday season it is nice to see a genuine (and I do think it is genuine) reminder about what Christmas is really about. Our cynical media and skeptical selves might have a hard time taking a politician’s Christmas greetings seriously, but if we can’t appreciate a little earnestness every now and then (especially at Christmastime), then we really are in trouble.