White House Trolls Republicans By Noting How Similar Pope’s Speech Was To Obama’s Prayer Breakfast

Just months after Republicans lost their minds over President Obama’s “offensive” comments during the National Prayer Breakfast, those same conservative lawmakers had to sit in the Capitol listening to Pope Francis echo those very same ideas. If they had hoped no one would remember that particular tantrum, they are about to be very disappointed. The White House just pointed it out – probably while stifling laughter.

Shortly after the pope finished his remarks at a joint session of Congress to enthusiastic applause, White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz tweeted an article that had noted just how similar the pope’s comments on religious extremism – particularly the Christian kind oft-ignored by conservatives – was to that of Obama’s point at the National Prayer Breakfast in February.

As Pope Francis has pointed out previously, religious atrocities are not limited to the Middle East or to one particular religion. And it will take people of all religions to help combat violence.

“Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms.”

Writing for U.S. News and World Report, Gary Emerling noted that while the pope’s comments were intentionally inclusive and not likely to ruffle many feathers, the “reaction might be different if they were given by another world leader.” Say, for example, President Obama.

In February, Republicans had what could be considered generously as a Chernobyl-like meltdown when Obama said the exact same thing:

“Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ … So this is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith.

The premise that all religions can be dangerous in the wrong hands doesn’t seem like it would be controversial – history is littered with examples – but somehow it was taken as an affront to American Christians. Jim Gilmore, the former Republican governor of Virginia, brashly stated at the time that Obama’s words were “the most offensive I’ve ever heard a president make in my lifetime.” Bold claims for a man who lived through the presidencies of guys like Johnson and Nixon, both of whom frequently used the n-word when describing African-Americans.

In the lead up to the pope’s visit to the United States, many politicians and writers have tried to claim Pope Francis as a “Democrat” or a “Republican,” however the more obvious conclusion is that he is neither. He’s the pope, not an American politician. However, if there is an overlap between what he has fought for and that of President Obama, it may be because both men are being driven by compassion. Whether it be calling for treating immigrants with dignity, addressing the nasty effects of climate change, or condemning religious extremism, the heart of the issue is a sense of compassion for one’s fellow man. If those calls for care increasingly align with the “liberal agenda” than perhaps that reflects more on the state of the Republican Party than it does on Francis or Obama.

It will be fun to watch Republicans do incredible feats of mental gymnastics to justify bashing President Obama for the very same kinds of things that they just applauded the pope for stating. Unless, of course, they are finally willing to admit what we already know: Their “outrage” towards Obama is little more than politically-motivated hackery meant to diminish a man who has done nothing wrong, but they love to hate.

Feature image via White House/Pete Souza