You're really stretching, Glenn
And you ought to knock it off. Maybe it was a slow news day, and you needed to fill space over at Salon, but this is just silly. Yes, Obama's recent mailers in South Carolina seem a little overly Jesus-y to me (you can see images of them at Salon), but no more so than I would expect from any candidate who has to overcome a right-wing whispering campaign saying that you're a secret Muslim who was sworn into office on the Koran and who turns his back on the flag when saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
Side note: I don't have a problem with a candidate who does any of the above, but Obama is running for President, and the majority of voters, sadly, do seem to care about that stupid sort of crap, so I completely understand why he's fighting back.
It's the comparison with Huckabee's campaign that's the most galling, frankly.
Instead, I'm focusing solely on Huckabee's explicit religious appeal for votes, which conveys this message: "Like you, I'm a Christian; my Christianity is central to who I am and how I will lead; and therefore, as a devout Christian, you should vote for me for President." Huckabee was criticized extensively for that appeal. Does anyone doubt that this same message is at least part of the brochure which the Obama campaign is circulating in South Carolina? Regardless of the numerous, significant differences between them, how can one be criticized while the other be defended for employing what seems to be the same tactic?
You're glossing over the most important difference, and I don't know why--and I'm not going to impute motives here, either, though you're readily critical of Obama's supposed motives. But just in case it's not really, really clear, here's the difference:
No one's accusing Huckabee of being a Muslim.
That's it. If no one were accusing Obama of being a Muslim, of having been brainwashed at a madrassa as a child, of having loyalties that lay outside the nation (not to mention the dominant religious structure) and Obama came out with these mailers, then by all means, pile on. But he is being attacked that way, and in that most insidious of ways, via a whispering campaign. He's mentioned this in his speeches recently, so it's obvious the campaign is responding to this particular attack. That's the only logical reason that these mailers are so over-the-top. You can't judge his reaction as if he were some other candidate--his middle name is Hussein, and his biological father was Muslim, and people are making shit up about him. This is the kind of return fire we wanted from John Kerry in 2004 when the Swift-boating started, so why criticize Obama for firing back powerfully?
Edit: Greenwald updates, and so do I:
But I do think this question should be answered: the "Obama-is-a-Muslim" whispering campaign has been around for a long, long time -- more than a year ago, it made national headlines. If the primary purpose of this flier -- as Obama supporters insist -- was simply to rebut that false claim, why didn't Obama distribute this Christian brochure to Democrats in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada? Why is it only the heavily Christian South Carolina Democrats who received it? Didn't he want to rebut the Muslim claims in other states besides South Carolina?To the first part, that the whispering campaign has been around for more than a year, and that it made national headlines--so? The Vince-Foster -was-murdered-by-Hillary story has been around for more than a decade, but we still have to slap it down, in part because some people will believe anything, and in part because the opposition keeps putting it out there. You can't smack it down and expect it to stay down.
As to why Obama has taken this particular tack in South Carolina as opposed to doing it earlier, my assumption is that it has become more of a problem now. I've certainly seen more stories around about people getting the email again in the last couple of weeks than I did in the six months previous. He was also able to spend a lot more time in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada than he has been able to in South Carolina, and than he will be able to in upcoming states--it's easier to be a bit more low-key on certain subjects when you're spending 5 and 6 days a week in a place than when you're counting on television and direct mail to do your speaking for you.
But just in case the difference between the two campaigns--and therefore the criticism of the two campaigns--isn't clear, here it is. Huckabee is running on his faith--it is his campaign, just as it was for Pat Robertson in 1988. For Obama, it's a side issue--he is, in a sense, simply proving that he's Christian enough to be a president in this nation. I wish it weren't necessary for our politicians to do that, but as long as this nation considers atheists to be soulless heathens who would rape their dead mothers with stuffed horse cocks if it weren't against the law, that's what presidential contenders have to do--prove they're reliably Christian. So Obama is doing it. If he were other than who he is, this wouldn't be an issue, but if he were other than who he is, he wouldn't have as intriguing a story, and might not be the contender he is today.