by Max Brantley
Mike Huckabee got big Republican yocks Wednesday night during the YouTube debate when he sidestepped a question about how Jesus might view capital punishment by saying Jesus was too smart to run for public office. Heh heh.
A number of conservative commentators, including Andrew Sullivan, scored Huck for trvializing religion. But it's old hat down here.
Think Progress, for example, remembers his laff riot "phone call from God" bit, done for a similarly appreciative Republican audience in 2004.
And how could any of us forget January 1997, when Huckabee took a similar question about capital punishment on his call-in TV show on the Arkansas Educational Television Network. The money line from Parson Huck, as reported in our Jan. 10 issue:
"Interestingly enough, if there was ever an occasion for someone to have argued aginst the death penalty, I think Jesus could have done so on the cross and said, 'This is an unjust punishment and I deserve clemency.' "
Gene Lyons, columnist for the Democrat-Gazette, also took note at the time.
On the eve of Arkansas' recent triple execution, Huckabee made an appearance on an AETN call-in program broadcast statewide. A caller confronted him with a touchy question: How, how, as a minister of the Gospel, could he justify the state-sanctioned taking of life given the Bible's many injunctions against slaughter and in favor of the Christian virtue of forgiveness?
Huckabee responded almost flippantly. First he cited Genesis to the effect that those who do violence will have violence done to them. Next he claimed that there exist both Old and New Testament passages that support capital punishment, although he failed to cite any.
Purely as a matter of intellectual curiosity, I'd love to know where those New Testament passages can be found.
Anyhow, Parson Huck next made a remark of such stunning fatuousness that if I hadn't seen it on TV and read about it in the Arkansas Times, I'd think somebody made it up.
"Interestingly enough," Huckabee allowed, "if there was ever an occasion for someone to have argued against the death penalty, I think Jesus could have done so on the cross and said, 'This is an unjust punishment and I deserve clemency'."
But Jesus, Huckabee implied, didn't quibble. He took his crucifixion like a man, thereby signifying that he personally had no problem at all with the death penalty. And if Jesus himself went along, who was the mere governor of Arkansas to argue?
Now this method of biblical exegesis opens, as Bob Lancaster pointed out in a bitterly funny column in the Arkansas Times, a very large can of worms. After all, there's a whole world of things Jesus failed specifically to address besides capital punishment: grocery tax rebates, the infield fly rule, pari-mutuel betting, legalized prostitution. Well, you get the picture. Are we now to operate on the assumption that Jesus' silence constitutes approval?