Friday, February 19, 2016

Pope Francis v. Donald Trump

The set to yesterday between Pope Francis and Donald Trump highlights the hypocrisy of the Republican Party and its presidential nomination contenders. It also highlights the hypocrisy of the evangelical Christian base of the GOP which wears its feigned religiosity on its sleeve, condemns those who do not conform to their psychotic sexual mores, and is in general the antithesis of living the Gospel message.  Hate, division, and Pharisee like behavior is the norm and not the exception.  Thus, the ridiculousness of those who argue that the Pope should stay out of politics. Its the Republicans, including Donald Trump who constantly infuse a poisonous version of Christianity into American politics.  Indeed, Trump, Cruz and Rubio have all yet again said they will overturn the Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell as they prostitute themselves to the Christofascists.   I disagree with the Pope on a host of issues and see him as often a hypocrite himself, but when the GOP's candidates compete to see who is the most Christian even as they push policies for the rich and seek to slash the social safety net, they have made themselves open game for much deserved criticism.  The New York Times looks at yesterday's war of words between Trump and Pope Francis.  Here are excerpts:

In his most audacious attack yet on a revered public figure, Donald J. Trump veered into risky political territory on Thursday as he denounced Pope Francis, seeking to galvanize Republicans who worry about border security and appeal to evangelical voters who regard Francis as too liberal.

After the pontiff’s remarkable contention that Mr. Trump “is not Christian” in proposing deportations and a wall with Mexico, the candidate said Francis’ criticisms were “disgraceful” and “unbelievable,” and he contended that the Mexican government had hoodwinked the pope into criticizing him.

Politicians rarely rebuke the Vatican so forcefully for fear of alienating Catholic voters, but Mr. Trump has been increasingly aggressive ahead of Saturday’s primary in South Carolina, where polls show a tightening race and the popular Republican governor, Nikki R. Haley, just endorsed Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

Mr. Trump’s attack on Francis reflected a political calculation that criticizing the pope would not hurt him with conservatives and might even improve his standing in South Carolina and in the Southern-dominated Super Tuesday contests on March 1. Some evangelical denominations in the South and elsewhere take a dim view of the Catholic Church, and many other social conservatives have been critical of Francis over his relatively measured statements about gays, birth control and divorce.

Attacking the pope could energize conservatives who think that Mr. Trump will go to greater lengths to halt illegal immigration than establishment politicians and power brokers like the Holy See, according to political strategists in both parties.

Still, the spectacle of the flamboyant billionaire businessman facing down the global leader of 1.2 billion Catholics was the presidential campaign’s most revealing example of Mr. Trump’s emotional instinct to make punching bags of those who cross him, whether it is Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, the leaders of longtime allies like Mexico, or the bishop of Rome.

In recent weeks, Mr. Trump has praised President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Saddam Hussein of Iraq while denouncing Democrats, Republicans and now Pope Francis with his provocative language, reinforcing fears in both parties that a President Trump would destabilize the United States.

Mr. Trump’s remarks could prove far more damaging to him in heavily Catholic states like New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, all of which have delegate-rich primaries where he is aiming for strong victories. He and his advisers have long seen working-class white voters as a core part of his electoral base, as they were in his successful primary campaign in New Hampshire last week.
But many of these voters are Catholics who, whether they like Francis or not, may blanch at Mr. Trump’s denouncing the pope for advocating the church’s position favoring compassion toward immigrants.
“Trump can take on former presidents, governors, senators, fellow candidates and the media, but I think he should just take a pass on arguing with the pope on what makes a better Christian,” said Edward Rollins, a former political adviser to President Ronald Reagan and other Republicans. “It’s a fight Trump can’t win. And shouldn’t try.”

Republican rivals seized on Mr. Trump’s pope comments to raise questions about his temperament, yet stopped short of questioning his faith or endorsing the pontiff’s criticisms.

“A lot of Southern evangelicals have looked hard at Trump and said, ‘I wish he wasn’t potty-mouthed, I wish he wasn’t thrice-married, but I believe he is going to fight for my Christian way of life, and having a strong fighter is important,” said Scott H. Huffmon, a professor of political science at Winthrop University in South Carolina and director of the Winthrop Poll there. “And the kind of people who like the pope for some of his social views aren’t likely to be Trump voters anyway.”

Mr. Trump has had “remarkably strong support” among evangelical voters in South Carolina, a group that made up about 65 percent of Republican presidential primary voters there in 2012. Catholics made up about 13 percent of the Republican primary vote that year, according to Mr. Knotts, who said he did not expect Mr. Trump’s remarks to hurt him in Saturday’s primary.

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