From Jesus to the band that’s bigger than Jesus:

“Actually I will confess this, if you play this spot backwards it says ‘Paul is Dead, Paul is Dead, Paul is Dead,’” the presidential candidate joked to reporters in Houston Tuesday. “So the next thing you know, someone will be playing it backwards to find out the subliminal messages that are really there.”…

The former Arkansas governor said the spot was last-minute and ad-libbed: “They had a bookshelf behind me, a bookshelf. So now I have these people saying, ‘ahhh there was a subtle message there,’” said Huckabee. “….I never cease to be amazed at the manner in which people will try to dissect the simplest messages, can’t even say ‘Merry Christmas’ anymore without somebody getting all upset about it.”

Even this goofy little aside is evidence of Huck’s shrewdness. Matt Taibbi began his sneering profile of Huckabee with the story of how the candidate sought him out after an event, knowing he was from Rolling Stone, and charmed him with the saga of how he came to pardon Keith Richards. The media stereotype of evangelical Christians is one of hopeless squares, almost hermetically insulated from the culture they live in; for Huck, as a minister, that goes double. Dropping classic rock references on them is instantly disarming, the near equivalent of an in-joke in referring to a shared experience. The press loves it, too, hence the frequent mentions of Huck playing bass in a band. Why, he’s almost human!

Anyway, how silly of us to have detected any sly symbolism in this studiously non-political ad that offers nothing but goodwill and visions of dancing sugar plums to all who behold it. And how cynical of Ace to wonder why, being studiously non-political, it’s only running in the key early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

Exit question: Anyone here signed up yet for, er, Huck’s Army? They are, in fact, waging war against dark forces.

Update: After endless threats from Christian conservatives like Dobson to bolt the party because McCain and then Giuliani and then Thompson weren’t good enough, I suspect I speak for a lot of Republicans when I say we’re in no mood for this.

More and more, the attack on Huckabee has become a not very subtle attack on his Christian fundamentalism. This would pose no problem if the Republicans could dispense with the vote of Christian fundamentalists, but it cannot hope to win the indispensable states in the South without them. This is simple arithmetic. Now all would be well if the Christian fundamentalists were the clueless morons that they are alleged to be by those cultured despisers, but they are not. At the very minimum they have the same intelligence of sheep who, if fleeced once too often, will begin to think that they are merely being used, and not looked after. The Left has long charged the Republican establishment with cynically manipulating Christian social conservatives in order to further the agenda of the vested interests, duping the hicks with promises of cultural conservatism in order to get them to swallow tax breaks to the greedy rich. If the Republican establishment is really interested in self-immolation, they need only give Christian conservatives a good reason to suspect them of such crass manipulation of their deeply held convictions by those who look down on them with contempt and derision.

In short, handle Huckabee with care. Oppose him, if you wish, but do so in a way that preserves both his dignity and those of the people for whom he speaks so eloquently. Otherwise sooner or later they will find another home, and it will not be in the Republican Party.

Precisely the sort of unifying resentment Huck’s trying to nurture by injecting religion into his campaign and then waiting for the attacks to come. Harris refers earlier in the piece to the “Anybody But Huckabee tsunami” sweeping the GOP, which he traces to some sort of establishment panic at the fact that Huck didn’t cater to monied interests to earn his lead. Pure garbage: It’s because he’s suspect on nearly every major issue. Suspect on crime, suspect on taxes, suspect on immigration, suspect on terrorism per his “do unto others” policy — which, I suppose, qualifies in Harris’s mind as the sort of attack on fundamentalism at which he’s threatening to balk. If you’re looking for a reason to be offended, odds are you’ll find one. The great conservative crack-up was bound to come sooner or later; I guess this is it. Let’s get on with it.