They have learned to proceed with all due caution when questioning you-know-who.
Fourteen months ago Sarah Palin knocked Pope Francis, whose political ideology is some 60-80 degrees to the left of President Obama, remarking "he's had some statements that to me sound kind of liberal, has taken me aback, has kind of surprised me," She added "unless I really dig deep into what his messaging is, and do my own homework, I’m not going to just trust what I hear in the media." No doubt the original media report was largely accurate but Palin, remembering the first (or second or third) rule of politics "Thou shalt not criticize His Holiness," later added "It was not my intention to be critical of Pope Francis," Oh, of course not.
Thirteen months later, Marco Rubio, a Roman Catholic and second-generation Cuban-American, would walk amongst the same land mines as had the ex-governor. He argued at a news conference "I think the people of Cuba deserve the same chances to have democracy as the people of Argentina have had, where he comes from; as the people of Italy have, where he now lives. " Prudently, in the same response he maintained "My understanding is that the influence that His Holiness had was on the release of Mr. [Alan] Gross, which I've not criticized."
Careful there, Senator, lest your principles win out over sound political instincts.
Comedian Bill Maher did it (video, below) last night on his "Real Time." Professor of ecology and evolution Jerry A. Coyne has done so in the pages of The New Republic. But we are unlikely to hear from a public figure a (justified) cry of outrage because (as in video at top)
On a trip to the Philippines this week, Francis, after decrying “murder in the name of God,” carefully delimited how far magazines like Charlie Hebdoshould go: "One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people's faith, one cannot make fun of faith."
Then, punching the air, he made an implicit comparison between the “offensive” behavior of those who satirize religion and those who would insult his mother.
"If Dr. Gasbarri, a great friend, says a swear word against my mother, then a punch awaits him," Francis said. "It's normal, it's normal."
The Associated Press' Nicole Winfield, who has a future in stand-up, remarks "His pretend punch aside, Francis by no means said the violent attack on Charlie Hebdo was justified. Quite the opposite: He said such horrific violence in God's name couldn't be justified and was an 'aberration.' But he said a reaction of some sort was to be expected."
Hey, Nicole: what part of "that is a provocation and...." don't you understand? (my excuse for "what part of no," below). It was "a pretend punch," Winfield claims, as if the Pope needed to pummel his companion to make his point.
Ever diplomatic, Pope Francis refrained from warning "nice little life you have there. Hope nobody blows it away if you offend Muslims."