Tuned In

Alex Keaton Beats Jesus

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You would have thought that Alex P. Keaton and conservative radio god Rush Limbaugh would be pretty simpatico. But you would have thought wrong. After actor Michael J. Fox shot a TV ad for Missouri Senate candidate Claire McCaskill, criticizing her Republican opponent Jim Talent for opposing expanding stem-cell research, Limbaugh accused Fox of exaggerating the ravages of his Parkinson’s disease–Fox jerks and twitches jarringly in the video–for effect. Fox, Limbaugh said, was either acting or, at minimum, foregoing medication to look as ill as possible, it apparently being deceitful to let viewers see that Fox is, you know, sick.

Leave aside the boorishness of Limbaugh’s remarks, as well as the fact that he is not necessarily the guy who wants to be criticizing other people about their medication. What he was really articulating was frustration with a Democratic strategy that gives Ann Coulter conniptions: signing up spokespeople who are so sacred and sympathetic–Christopher Reeve, 9/11 widows–that to rebut them seems crude. Republicans, of course, never resort to using sanctified, above-reproach mouthpieces. That’s why they chose to respond to Fox’s commercial with… Jesus.

Yes, Jesus. In a response ad from stem-cell-research opponents Missourians Against Human Cloning, actor James Caviezel–Jesus from Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ–kicks off one of the weirdest political spots in recent memory. Sitting in front of a piece of religious statuary, lest thou misseth the point, he kicks off the spot with a mind-boggling foreign-language introduction that some have speculated is Christ’s historical language, Aramaic, but to me makes him sound like Borat. The rest of the ad–featuring Missouri athletes and Everybody Loves Raymond star/conservative gadfly Patricia Heaton–has a viral-video rawness that plays fine on a PC (as I saw it), but may not translate as well on TV. Former St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner, with a stubbly beard, shot against a brick wall with echoey audio, looks like he’s speaking in a hostage video. (The ad was planned to air during last night’s rained-out World Series game and its spokesjocks include scheduled Cardinals’ starting pitcher Jeff Suppan.)

In attacking Fox, Limbaugh gave the Democrats the gift of taking an ad in a state campaign and nationalizing it–the holy grail for Democrats has been to nationalize this election–by raising the curiosity of people who might not otherwise have paid attention to the issue. (Just what is Rush so ticked about? How bad is Fox shaking, anyway?) The nationwide reach of the ad has been advanced, free of charge, by YouTube, which also carries the GOP response ad. But so far, Fox is winning the national battle, both on numbers and message. Fox’s ad has generated at least a million and a half YouTube views as I write–making it by far the most-watched clip of the week–the rebuttal (which, to be fair, was posted later), not quite half a million. (You can also find numerous amateur response videos on both sides at YouTube, including a brief, bland video of support from a young woman, breatheasy7000, which has garnered almost 200,000 views, apparently because she’s hot.) More important, the Fox ad talks about stem cells in broad, emotional terms that people in any state can understand. The GOP ad is framed to argue a state ballot initiative, leaving most Americans watching it out of curiosity to wonder what "Amendment 2" is and why they should care.

A week and a half left in this election season, and a saintly actor has already done battle with the Son of God. That clearly leaves only one place to go. Morgan Freeman‘s phone must be ringing off the hook.