President Obama’s sequester is getting most of the attention, but before many more days pass the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church will enter their conclave and most of the world’s attention will focus not on the overheated and overblown rhetoric coming from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. but on the new face, spirit and guide of international Roman Catholicism.
When Pope Benedict XVI announced his belief that a pope could step down from the Holy See — in an interview with German journalist Peter Seewald — he said the following: “In the name of tolerance, tolerance is being abolished; this is the real threat we are facing.”
What he meant by that is that left and far-left political leaders in the West, supported by elite opinion machines, are combining to attempt to delegitimize via ridicule or worse the traditional understanding of what makes a good life and indeed a good citizen. They aim not merely to best the opposition, but to crush it.
This sort of virtual mob mentality is everywhere in the U.S., and found at both ends of our political spectrum, but wielding government power only on the left.
It is the nature of conservatives never to attempt to shatter and shame their foes when voters put Republicans in power. Neither Ronald Reagan nor either of the Bushes were vindictive presidents. Both recognized that head-of-government duties ought always to be informed by head-of-state obligations. The latter is president of all the people and, outside of campaign season, should strive never to unnecessarily attack or belittle his political opponents.
President George W. Bush embodied this restraint, often to the dismay of his base — reappointing President Clinton’s judicial nominees at the beginning of his administration, developing the No Child Left Behind law with Sen. Ted Kennedy and pursuing a domestic policy derided on the Right as “big-government conservatism.” Obama, however, is a stranger to it, only last week declaring of Republicans that protecting “wealthy individuals or corporations” is “the thing that binds their party together.”
This divisive, demagogic rhetoric serves no useful political purpose, and thus we must assume it is sincerely held by the president. His Manichaean view of domestic politics is at odds with his near-absolute relativism concerning regimes abroad: No one not on his drone list bothers him, but all Republicans bother him greatly. He seems to seethe with contempt for them and their ideas, and to wish them not merely beaten but humbled. He is, in fact, the anti-Lincoln in this respect, and his acolytes at MSNBC and on the Web cheer this approach.
So perhaps amid their prayers for Benedict and for the cardinals, Americans concerned with the new pope might add a few, very specific intercessions for the selection of a leader who will speak against the rising intolerance of tradition in the U.S. and the West — and not just on the subject of Obama’s attack on the Roman Catholic Church and other faith-based institutions and companies via his contraception mandate, and not just on the subjects of marriage, abortion and end-of-life dignity, but also for a defense of the civility from which civilization proceeds.
Examiner Columnist Hugh Hewitt is a professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com.