When the leader of a nation criticizes another leader publicly, using strongly religious terminology, the left finds itself in a bit of a dilemma. Before they can properly evaluate the flagrant conflation of church and state, with a temporal figure using the language and rationale of faith to espouse worldly policies, they first need to determine the target of the criticism.
In the case of Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, his usage of strongly Christian language, gestures, and dramatics in attacking President Bush at the United Nations the other day, the case gets muddled. The left would normally be very concerned about such a powerful figure using religious trappings to make his point.
But since Chavez was attacking President Bush, that mitigates some of the “curse” of what would normally be a major faux pas to the left.
This is exemplified by the Boston Globe this morning, when they proclaimed:
THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION deserves to be criticized for many of its foreign policies, but Hugo Chávez is not the one to do it.
Chavez gets treated with kid gloves in the piece. The unnamed author lists his various sins and misdeeds, but soft-pedals them and casts them as misjudgments and minor peccadilloes.
If I had access to the Boston Globe archives, I’d be very curious to see how they have treated President Bush’s past statements when he mentioned his own faith, and how it has shaped his policies and actions. (I don’t recall too many of those, but there have been a couple.) I think it would be a fascinating comparison with Hugo Chavez pronouncing Bush “The Devil,” referring to sulphur, and making the sign of the cross at the United Nations.
And I strongly suspect that a lot of the people who drive around with bumper stickers that say things like “The Last Time We Combined Politics And Religion, People Got Burned At The Stake” found themselves cheering Chavez’ “theatrics.”