I like Mike Huckabee, but the emotional big-finish aspect of his speech just now was one of the weirdest such homilies I have ever heard.

If you didn't hear it, it was a long, folksy story whose moral was important and completely true: every generation of Americans owes its liberties, its institutions, its prosperity, and many of its other bounties to previous generations who have fought for, built, and preserved the elements that make America free, rich, and strong.

(Story in a nutshell: on the first day of school, students are puzzled to see no desks in one classroom. The teacher won't let them have desks until they explain how students "earn" a desk. Punchline, delivered as a row of decorated veterans bring the desks in: You don't have to earn them! These people already earned them for you.)

Why the story is weird, apart from the fact that the teacher was putting the question in a deliberately obscure way: Every country has desks in the classrooms! This has absolutely zero to do with what makes America great and what Americans have died to protect and defend. Burma has no freedoms, but I have seen its students sitting there at desks. I have seen the same in Kenya and Vietnam. There are school desks in Cuba and North Korea. The old Soviet Union was full of 'em.

You want to make this story work, you tie it to something that actually is unique to a free society: Eg, a voter registrar tells people "You can't vote, until you tell me how you earn the right to vote" -- and then ushers in veterans to say, We earned it for you. Or a jury trial. Or a church service Or the right to complain about a government policy. Or a seat in a university that has been allowed to flourish despite official government doctrine. Or people being sworn in as naturalized citizens. Or a thousand other touches of real American freedom.

A minor point, so why mention it: somehow a little portion of each of our brains and souls is zapped away each time a prominent figure says something that is obvious nonsense -- remember, the Nazis had school desks too! -- and knows he can count on a cheer by a closing reference to country and flag.

Now on to watching Rudy Giuliani, who I am sure will employ no such b.s. tricks .

UPDATE: This post a year and a half ago from World Wide Webers explained the full background of the strange desk story. I thought the story was just nonsensical. It turns out to be both nonsensical and cliched.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.