It's not called the silly season for nothing

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Once upon a time, not that long ago, I was an all-purpose political commentator, geysering opinions on world affairs, global warming, the price of oil. I was really something.

Now I just write about religion, mainly. Who's Christian, who's not. Who believes in God more; less.

I'll be glad when the Iowa Caucuses are over.

They used to be kind of fun, you know. They used to be about major issues of the day. I remember back in 1968 when Gene McCarthy challenged President Lyndon Johnson on the issue of the war in Vietnam. People almost came to blows in the caucus meetings that year.

Now you can't even mention the war in candidate debates. Really. In the most recent debates the monitor, the editor of the newspaper formerly known as the Des Moines Register, actually forbade discussion of the war in Iraq. And the candidates, Democrats and Republicans alike, went along with the gag.

Instead of a boring old issue like the war she asked them, I'm told, what their New Year's resolutions were. And they told her.

I haven't checked, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Jefferson Memorial moved three inches off its foundation.

Mike Huckabee, the former Baptist preacher, seems to be winning the God game for the Republicans. The most recent polls put him at 35 percent, compared to 27 for Mitt Romney, the previous front-runner.

Asked to account for that, Huckabee said: "There's only one explanation for it, and it's not a human one. It's the same power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves feed a crowd of 5,000" Poor Mitt. He's forced to spend his time convincing Iowa's conservatives he's more religious than that and, like any good Christian, that he hates illegal immigrants more than Huckabee does.

But always he makes sure to say things like: "Most of us believe in God." "Marriage is between a man and a woman." To which smart aleck Huckabeephiles might say "…and a woman and a woman and a woman." (I myself, by the way, would never make a joke like that. It is racist.

It is sexist. It is Mormonist. I'm just reporting the news.) Romney tried to gain an advantage by saying that Huckabee, when governor of Arkansas, issued more than 1,000 pardons to convicted criminals.

Huckabee's forces shot back by planting a scurrilous story that Mrs. Romney had given $150 to Planned Parenthood in 1994.

I'll tell you, politics can be a dirty business.

John McCain, who is disappearing from the radar screen in Iowa, is left with issues like the mortgage crisis or the war (when debate monitors are out of the room) or even campaign finance. How he ever expects to get nominated talking about things like that I'll never know.

The religious issue isn't that big a deal in the Democratic contest in Iowa.

Once you lay to rest the rumor that Barak Obama is a secret Moslem there's not much there.

Democrats tend to argue about which of them is more electable. Hillary Clinton thinks she is because she's spent time in the White House. Obama says he's the one who can mend the frayed seams in the fabric of the party and, later, the nation. John Edwards says he's got the best policy positions and Joe Biden claims to have the most expertise, Bill Richardson the most experience.

There's some truth in all of those claims but you have to wonder whether anyone cares.

Looking at the Republican candidates, you would think that any of the Democrats would be electable. This is the weakest Republican field -- in terms of credentials and experience --in memory. The only one among them who seems as though he could do the job without adult supervision is McCain and his party doesn't like him much.

Still, that's why they have elections, isn't it? I'll just be happy to see the back end of the Iowa caucuses. I'm religioned out.