Fifty Shades of Yellow Ribbon

As political junkies may remember, when Mike Huckabee announced on his Fox News show that he was not running for president in 2012, he immediately preceded the big news by interviewing, then playing bass guitar with, the atavistic rocker Ted Nugent.

Well, as Sarah Posner reports, this time around, as Huck announced he was running, he had a slightly less edgy musical intro than “Cat Scratch Fever:”

If you were alive (and sentient) in the 1970s, you must have heard [Tony] Orlando’s smash hit (with his partners, Dawn) “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree,” which shot to the top of the pop music charts the same year that Roe v. Wade was decided. Forty-two years later, Huckabee thinks abortion is like the Holocaust and slavery. For Huckabee, Roe v. Wade is out; Tony Orlando is still in.

At Huckabee’s campaign announcement speech today in Hope, Arkansas, Orlando, now 71, performed “Yellow Ribbon,” as well as a song he composed for Huckabee, a hackneyed ode to why he loves America, “our home town.”

Yeah, Huckabee has devolved a lot since 2008 in terms of coolness, when his bass guitar playing and generally upbeat and even jokey demeanor made him a media favorite, particularly among the MSM types who had no idea what Huck was talking about when he slipped into Christian Right dog whistles.

Sarah views Huck’s whole act this year as “revanchist,” as the deliberate product of an eight-year effort to replace the man who was “conservative but not angry about it” with a vengeful culture warrior. I’m not as sure as she is that this is “anachronistic,” though there are other variables that affect its effectiveness, including the heightened opposition for Christian Right voters and Huck’s new economic themes. Who knows: given his decision to attack other Republicans for messing with Social Security and Medicare, maybe Huck’s gunning for an outsized share of the senior vote–i.e., voters who fondly remember Tony Orlando.

I’m old enough to remember ol’ Tony myself, but will always associate him most intimately with an entertainer who, were he alive, probably would not be on Team Huck: Andy Kaufman.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.