National Commentary

Anything But Straight: Dumbfounded and Dumb

Perhaps, if the largest newspaper in Little Rock were called the Arkansas Republican -Gazette instead of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Mike "Huck-a-Bible" might have bothered to read the news. America was shocked to learn that the rising GOP political star was blissfully unaware of the National Intelligence Estimate that found Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

This debacle was followed by news of an Associated Press questionnaire Huckabee completed in his failed 1992 U.S. Senate bid, where he called for the quarantine of AIDS patients and referred to homosexuality as "an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle" that could "pose a dangerous public health risk."

Huckabee defended his ignorance by saying his "comments came at a time when the public was still learning about HIV and AIDS." Actually, by 1992 every American had easy access to information on the transmission of HIV. Huckabee was either divorced from reality or a cruel manipulator who exploited sick people for political gain. Even more outrageous, the former Arkansas governor denied he intended to quarantine AIDS patients, explaining that the word he used was "isolate." That laughable gem must have come from the Arkansas Bill Clinton School of Parsing.

In the 1990's, Huckabee also signed a newspaper ad by Southern Baptist ministers that supported a church policy calling for women to "graciously submit" to their husbands. While this may play well in the deepest, darkest recesses of the South and with some elements of the Taliban, most women voters, and certainly Hillary Clinton, won't bow at his patriarchal feet.

Meanwhile, Willard "Full of Mitt" Romney gave his much-anticipated speech about his religion to head off anti-Mormon sentiment coming from the Huckabee campaign. Romney's delivery was exceptional, but he delivered an exceptionally divisive message. His premise was that people of faith should unite and ignore sectarian differences to win the culture war against the Infidels – who used to simply be called neighbors.

Romney also argued for more ostentatiously public displays of religion. Unfortunately, he failed to realize the obvious – that religion has already run amok in the public square. This is why he was forced to give a speech that was essentially a religious test for public office – an indignity his own father did not have to endure when he ran for the presidency.

Romney – and the misguided Washington pundits who lauded his address – do not understand how little his performance accomplished.  Most evangelical voters who genuinely cared about his faith before the speech will always view him as the Mormon guy in the mystical magic underwear. In a sense, Romney is a deserving victim of the hyper-sectarian society he has helped create.

Losing ground on the right to Romney and Huckabee, Rudy Guiliani may have tried to reassure conservatives by saying on Meet the Press that he thought gay acts are sinful. His statement was ambiguous enough where it was difficult to discern what he meant. But, if the former New York City mayor, who has an affinity for drag and once lived with a gay couple, buckles to the base, it signals a complete takeover of the GOP by religious zealots. This will either spell disaster for the Republican Party or for the future of America.

To have such intellectual barbarians with legitimate shots at the presidency is embarrassing and speaks to a nation in decay. I don't think it is a coincidence that Americans posted average science scores lower than 16 other countries in a recent International Student Assessment given to 15-year-olds in 30 industrialized nations. In math, U.S. students had average scores below 23 other countries. Morality obsessed Mississippi was the lowest-performing state in both math and science. In math, Mississippi students' achievement was comparable to those of peers in Bulgaria and Moldova. But – they do know their Bible verses by heart!

Such an education system produces pupils like White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, who was clueless about the Cuban Missile crisis, saying, "… I really don't know about…the Cuban Missile Crisis. It had to do with Cuba and missiles, I'm pretty sure."

Why doesn't Bush do away with all pretenses and hire Britney Spears for the job?

It was also no surprise that Barbara Walters 10 most fascinating people of 2007 included no scientists and was loaded with no less than seven celebrities, who are primarily interesting because we want to sleep with them, thus they boost ratings. I'm sure Justin Timberlake is interesting, but what about the scientists who just turned skin cells into stem cells? Too bad they can't dance.

If you are dumbfounded how men like Huckabee and Bush are taken seriously, just consider that America, thanks to religious fanatics, has become dumber. I have hope that our nation will wake up and realize that what is going on doesn't add up – until I remember that most of us can no longer add.    

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