One of the keys to good health is moderation. Too much of something—even if that thing is good for you—can be harmful. The same applies to politics. Party affiliation and a passion for the issues are good things. And they can also be taken too far.
In a recent letter to Chattanoogan.com, Paul Smith, chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, took issue with a June 11 appearance by former Arkansas Gov. and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee at Southern Adventist University’s Empowered by Wellness Summit. According to the university’s website, the host of “Huckabee” on the Fox News Channel would be putting politics aside to tell the story of “one man’s successful efforts to drastically improve his own health.” (Previously diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, Huckabee would eventually lose 110 pounds and run four marathons.)
Aware of Huckabee’s open support of Chuck Fleischmann, Smith contacted Southern Adventist's President Gordon Bietz to voice his “serious concern” about the visit. Smith wrote that although Bietz “gave me his word” that Huckabee’s visit wouldn’t be political in nature, the Times Free Press’ coverage of the event seemed to contradict that assessment.
“Frankly, this appears to be interference in not only the Republican primary, but, by omission, in the Democratic primary as well,” Smith wrote. “In order to have a great America, we must give all candidates an opportunity to express their vision for America to the public for their consideration.”
Smith then praised Southern as “a great institution of higher learning” and touted the integrity of both Bietz and the university before then accusing it of “endorsing a particular candidate.”
“There are considerations invoked of an educational institution’s tax-free status if this is the case,” he continued. “We call upon SAU to either allow all candidates (or their endorsers) to speak on campus or to adhere to the strictest standards prohibiting all political endorsements—overt or tacit.”
I salute Mr. Smith for his devotion to his party. He’s only doing his job. But some battles are more worth fighting than others, and, well, this one seems a little silly.
First off, improved health and wellness would do far more to build “a great America” than any candidate “expressing his vision”—unless the health and wellness of our nation is the candidate’s vision. But that’s a topic for another discussion.
Secondly, if Huckabee was supporting one of Smith’s preferred candidates, would Smith have written a letter of complaint? I somehow doubt it. (Full disclosure: I’ve never met Smith, so this is pure speculation. Then again, Smith didn’t actually attend the Huckabee event, so his letter is fairly speculative as well.)
Also, although the TFP article quotes Huckabee as saying—among the comments that likely rubbed Smith the wrong way—"When the government tries to dictate our behavior, they always mess it up," it also cites Huckabee as praising the government’s role in anti-littering, anti-smoking, seat belt and anti-drunken driving campaigns. Smith should have been happy to hear these remarks. Sure, he may have a point that Huckabee gave a speech that was (at least partially) different than was advertised, but if anybody is at fault for going off script, it’s Huckabee, not Southern.
Lastly, and most importantly, if politics in America has reached the point where party leaders find it necessary to monitor and combat perceived political bias on the health and wellness lecture circuit, this nation is doomed.
Bill Colrus writes about local news, culture, and media. You can find him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or reach him at email@example.com. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.