Huckabee takes over crazy where Sheen leaves off

When saying outrageous things becomes a commodity

March 05, 2011|By Jean Marbella, The Baltimore Sun

I'm with you, Huck.

I couldn't agree more with Mike Huckabee, who dissed Natalie Portman last week. Portman, outrageously, won the best actress Oscar for her pinched-face, baby-voiced mewling as a tortured ballerina in "Black Swan."

A travesty! Especially when obviously the award should have gone to Jennifer Lawrence as a tough backwoods girl battling her extended meth-brewing clan to save her own family in "Winter's Bone."

What? What's that you say? Huckabee actually was slamming Portman not for her undeserved statuette but for the unwed actress' baby bump?

I take it back. You're on your own, Huck.

Is there some physical law, along the lines of no mass ever being lost in the universe, that no week can go by without someone making a public fool of him- or herself? Just as Charlie Sheen was, finally, running out of material, along comes the one-time Arkansas governor and current Fox-TV gabber to fill the vacuum.

It was a busy week for Huckabee, beyond criticizing Portman for allegedly glamorizing unwed pregnancy. He also found time to claim President Barack Obama's childhood in Kenya and tales of the Mau Mau rebellion made him an anti-British imperialist — a statement bizarre on so many levels, from the fact that Obama never lived in Kenya as a boy to that other fact of our own American Revolution against England.

Huckabee backtracked, saying he meant Indonesia, not Kenya, which only bollixed things up more because that Asian country was a Dutch rather than British colony and, of course, had nothing to do with the Mau Mau rebellion.

And then it was time to take on single motherhood. Egged on by radio host Michael Medved, who noted that when Portman went onstage to receive her Oscar, "she was very visibly pregnant, and it's, really it's a problem because she's about seven months' pregnant, it's her first pregnancy, and she and the baby's father aren't married, and before 2 billion people, Natalie Portman says, 'Oh, I want to thank my love and he's given me the most wonderful gift.'" Medved continued: "He didn't give her the most wonderful gift, which would be a wedding ring," although Portman was wearing an engagement ring. "And it just seems to me that sending that kind of message is problematic."

Huckabee took the bait and said Portman and other starlets give "a distorted image" of unwed motherhood, and "it's unfortunate that we glorify and glamorize the idea of out of children wedlock." (Yes, that's what he he said, but you probably get where he's going with this.)

Never mind the whole hypocrisy thing, as numerous websites quickly resurrected admiring things Huckabee said of previous unwed mothers, such as 18-year-old Bristol Palin: "It ought to be a reminder that here is a family that loves one another. They stuck with each other though the tough times, and that's what families do." Or about 16-year-old Jamie Lynn Spears, Britney's sister: "Apparently, she's going to have the child, and I think that is the right decision, a good decision, and I respect that and appreciate it. I hope it is not an encouragement to other 16-year-olds who think that is the best course of action. But at the same time I'm not going to condemn her."

And never mind the whole doomed-to-repeat-it thing, as we now replay Dan Quayle's long-ago moralizing about another Hollywood single mom, the entirely fictional TV character Murphy Brown.

What was maddening then is still maddening now: the use of a glittery actress as cover to make a point about an entirely different person, specifically, the perennially demonized welfare mom.

If we're going to have a discussion about serious issues — whether it's teenage pregnancy or welfare or poverty — let's have it. But that would be harder to do than flippantly throwing out a flashy allusion, as if single women are having babies just because Portman is.

Huckabee went on to say, "Most single moms are very poor, uneducated, can't get a job, and if it weren't for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death and never have health care."

Is that even true? Actually, after welfare was reformed in 1996, the number of children on that public assistance went down, and, in part because of what the new law mandated, the number of their mothers who work went up.

What's also noxious about all this, whether we're talking about Sheen or Huckabee, is the commercial benefit to acting outrageously or saying outrageous things. Sheen has signed endorsement deals for his hot-out-of-the-box Twitter and Facebook accounts, and Huckabee not so coincidentally is making news with his pronouncements while on the road promoting his new book.

Talking crazy, it turns out, has just become another means of product placement.

It's bad enough that the meltdown of Hollywood celebrities is considered entertainment. Now saying outrageous — if not just plain false — things is the way to draw attention to your political candidacy.

jean.marbella@baltsun.com

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