Sunday, April 10, 2005

George W. Bush cozies up to a much-loved figure. Instead of throwing up, I choose to weep.

President Bush pays tribute to the life of Pope John Paul II:

"And by his own courageous example in the face of illness and suffering, he showed us the path to a culture of life where the dignity of every human person is respected, and human life at all its stages is revered and treasured."

This phrase "culture of life" has become very important to the Bush Administration in promoting restrictions against abortion, embryonic stem-cell research and euthanasia. And President Bush found common ground with the Pope on these and other issues regarding the value of human life.

In a press conference last Monday, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan tried to drive that point home, using the "culture of life" phrase four times in describing the relationship between President Bush and Pope John Paul II, who met three times during Bush's Presidency:

"The Holy Father is someone who stood for freedom, for human dignity and promoting a culture of life. And there are many values that the President shared with the Holy Father, and he had great respect for his moral leadership in this world."

But aligning the President with the Pope can also bring out the differences between the two men. When asked about the Pope's opposition to the death penalty, and how Bush's support of capital punishment doesn't quite jive with his embracing the Pope's "culture of life," McClellan responded:

"I think the President's views are well known. I don't think now is the time to talk about where they may have differed on one or two areas. This is a time to honor a great moral leader, someone who, as the President said, was a hero for the ages."

Oh yes, we can talk about the Pope and the President as long as we talk about the issues they agreed upon. Good show, Mr. McClellan.

The White House Press Corps didn't give up that easily, however.

Reporter: "Does the President see it as a contradiction that he adopts only part of what Pope John Paul said was the culture of life?"

McClellan: "No, let's separate out -- I mean, because I spoke about this issue last week, and why the President's view is the way it is. And that's because we're talking about the difference between innocent life and someone who is guilty of horrific crimes..."

Fair enough then, but one occasion in the States, the Pope made his response to that line of reasoning well known. Speaking of the increasing number of countries banning the death penalty, he said, "A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil."

Another issue that the Pope and President Bush disagreed vehemently on was the War in Iraq. While many this past week have tried to downplay the Pope's opposition to the war, the fact remains that in March of 2003, Pope John Paul II felt that the impending war with Iraq was "Immoral, illegal, unjust."

Pretty hefty language, essentially calling the war sinful, against the law, and in opposition to the just character of God.

It's one thing to say that President Bush and the Pope agreed on some matters concerning the value of human life. It's another thing to spin their agreements with the phrase "culture of life" which ignores how extreme their disagreements were. While not an outright lie, using the phrase is most certainly a half-truth, failing to point out the obvious: according to Bush the "culture of life" does not extend to everyone. And many conservative Protestants and Catholics have bought it, hook, line and sinker.

What's worse is that no one cares much anymore when the White House spins half-truths and omissions like this anymore, because it's been done so often that we've become immune to it. It's just one more lie.

But who cares? It's just one little lie -- It's not like it's gonna kill anyone...


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