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Bill Shipp - An end of class?

As the second most important date on the Christian calendar approaches - as the holiday we celebrate with gusto jingles our way - both political parties show the world that America's best-of-class politicians are little more than blackhearted barbarians.

Unexpected front-running GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee suggests that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney subscribes to a religion that believes Jesus and Satan were brothers. And only eight shopping days remain.

Bill Shaheen, a New England campaign leader for Hillary Clinton, apologizes and resigns from his campaign job after reiterating the old news that Barack Obama used cocaine in his youth. Democrats ought to let the world know about the drug issue before Republicans try to club the donkeys to death with dope charges, the Democratic chieftain explained. No matter. The PC-wing of Democrats can't have a white consultant even hint that a black candidate has a coke problem - it's just not done. Off with Shaheen's head.

Peace on Earth. Goodwill to men.

Both mini-fusses leading up to the Iowa caucuses and the early primaries tell us something about our national campaigns that we may not want to know. For starters, the campaigns are bogged down in trivia. The cocaine-and-Jesus brouhahas show plainly that our national news media, which has turned into America's herd boss, is stampeding both parties up a trail of foolishness. Britney Spears and Paris Hilton would fit right in.

If the parties became serious about restricting these stupid fights, they would make a holiday rule: No mud-slinging two weeks before Christmas. Sing carols and play pretty.

Alas, they'll never do it.

Take note: A time-tested Southern political rule is about to kick in. When an election fight boils down to a battle between class and no-class, no-class wins nearly every time.

Remember Reagan opening his 1980 campaign at bloody and disgraced Philadelphia, Miss.? Or Wallace at the schoolhouse door? Or white officials whisking MLK off to the DeKalb jail and then to Reidsville on the cusp of an election season?

Let's move back to the here and now. My guess: All other things aside, Mitt Romney is the Republicans' best candidate for president. One has the feeling he is competent and quick and would sense when the country is about to run off a cliff.

Romney's battle over Mormonism is said to be as crucial to saving his campaign as JFK's "great Catholic speech" was to preserving Kennedy's victory. If you believe that, you must believe revisionist history. In fact, Kennedy's Catholicism barely caused a ripple in the South. Kennedy - under the guidance of Democratic wizard Griffin Bell - carried Georgia in the 1960 election by a greater margin than any other state except Rhode Island. Ty Ty Baptists lined up right alongside Savannah Catholics for JFK. The pope was a straw man. It was the last time - nearly 50 years ago - that a Democratic presidential candidate would swallow the state as easily as an oyster. The 1930s era of widespread and virulent anti-Catholicism had all but disappeared. Reports that the pope planned a summer home on the upper Chattahoochee never worked out.

I laughed then and laugh now at the feared approach of the pope. The Mormon issue has a meaner, sharper edge to it. Is Huckabee right? Is Romney's little-known and less understood faith too sinister for America?

There are questions about Huckabee too. He reminds me a bit of the late Gov. Marvin Griffin of Georgia, a talented orator with an unmatched wit and the last hard-line and plainspoken segregationists. However, when I listen to Huckabee, I do not hear Griffin's intelligence.

Just beneath his veneer of jocularity, Huckabee carries a heavy load of demagoguery related to immigration, health care, climate change and so forth. In many ways, he is typical of the so-called faith-based politicians who have taken control of the Southern GOP and may one day move a genuine representative of their own kind into the White House.

P.S.: Actually, Mormonism could be the religious red herring of this election cycle. If we end up with Huckabee against Obama, the theological and cultural fur will really fly. Forget Joseph Smith's golden plates and Romney's underwear. When you have one candidate from a church that won't allow women in the pulpit against another whose church trumpets its acceptance of gays, lesbians and transgendereds, that's a battle that will attract some attention.

You can reach Bill Shipp at P.O. Box 2520, Kennesaw, GA 30156, or e-mail: shipp1@bellsouth.net.