Of all the more popular political sins, my personal favorite has always been hypocrisy. One of the wonderful things about hypocrisy is that it so often comes around to bite the hypocrite on the butt. It's widely practiced by people on both sides of the great political divide, but my friends in the Republican Party are working hard to raise the level of insincerity to new and dizzying heights.
I thought they'd pretty well defined intellectual dishonesty with their strong, principled stands on defending our individual rights from intrusive government actions at the same time they were telling women what they could and couldn't do with their own reproductive choices. Then they were in a rage about the growing and unmet need for veterans' medical services after they'd cut the Veterans Health Administration budget.
But they blew right by those as they stood tall for individual property rights while they promoted a Canadian corporation's efforts to force American farmers to sell American farmland so the XL Pipeline can carry Canadian oil to be refined for international markets.
However, I'm in absolute awe at the latest level of collective dishonesty in Republican reactions to the papal encyclical on climate change. Laudato si' ascribes strong moral and ethical considerations, and roundly criticizes people and nations that continue industrial and societal practices which science tells us are fouling the air we breathe, the water we drink and the land on which we live. There is, according to the Holy See, a moral issue in despoiling the earth.
It's hilarious to watch the same people who are so fond of swathing their political agenda in moral imperatives absolutely tremble in outrage when part of that political agenda is branded as immoral by the leader of 1.25-billion Catholics.
The right wing message machine attacked immediately. Rush Limbaugh said the encyclical confirmed that His Holiness is a "Marxist," "aligning himself with those on the left who want to leave "everybody... living equally in misery."
Michael Savage called him an "eco-wolf in pope's clothing. He is a stealth Marxist in religious garb." Savage further observed, "He sounds like the false prophet in revelation ... directing mankind to worship the Antichrist."
Former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan suggested that the church might be "making a mistake by acting on unsettled science." Unsettled?
Lou Dobbs of Fox Business claims the Pope is "talking about a new world order; he's talking about a new global organization."
And Fox Contributor Andrew Napolitano said the Pope wants to "shame people into distributing wealth" based on "alleged" global warming. And these were some of the more restrained comments.
Yet even more amusing are political figures who routinely embrace government policies based on moral foundation when it comes to abortion rights or same-sex marriage, and then run like striped-ass apes from a moral government policy about clean air because it might offend the petrochemical and coal industries. They haven't outright attacked the Pope, but they're totally dismissing him.
"I don't get economic policies from my bishops or my cardinals or my Pope," said presidential candidate Jeb Bush, a Roman Catholic. "I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting into the political realm." Like abortion rights and marriage equality?
Fellow candidate Rick Santorum said, "'I think we (the Church) probably are better off leaving science to the scientists and focusing on what we (the Church) are good at, which is theology and morality."
Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) suggested the pope ought to mind his own business on matters of global environmental debate. "The pope ought to stay with his job," he said, "and we'll stay with ours."
"I don't want to be disrespectful, but I don't consider him an expert on environmental issues," said Texas Rep. Joe Barton, a senior Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee and well known expert on environmental issues.
The rich irony of these reactions is that, in addition to avoiding anything that might upset the aforementioned petrochemical and coal industries who contribute huge, huge dollars to campaigns and candidates who toe their line, these politicians are also terrified of offending their own far right political base.
These are the true believers. They have listened to every word conservative politicians have said for decades about the evils of big government, about protecting individual rights from constant attacks by liberals and the liberal media, about defending America from hordes of illegal immigrants and slashing taxes for big corporations and businesses so everybody who works for a living will make more money.
And the true believers believe it. They've accepted every word. It fits into their belief systems and they're not about to change their minds about any of it, no matter what. And in 2010, conservative politicians organized these true believers into a potent political force with the advent of the Tea Party movement. And conservatives rode their wave of true believers into majorities in the U.S. House and Senate, and many state legislatures.
But now these true believers have been awakened. They are politically active. And if any politician doesn't see things exactly the same way they do, that politician will be eaten alive.
There's their dilemma. "Moral" positions on women's issues, voting rights, marriage equality and immigration threaten the conservatives' hold on power because most Americans disagree with them. But if they moderate their positions even just a little bit to appeal to the broader electorate, their base voters will devour them.
Ain't hypocrisy wonderful?