On CNN's State of the Union Sunday, anchor Dana Bash did her dead-level best to ensnare Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) in a logic trap. Unfortunately for Bash, Rubio saw the gotcha question coming from a mile away, and utterly nailed his response.
BASH: "Senator, you called President Obama 'pathetic' for offering condolences to Fidel Castro's family, but, you know, he wasn't the only world leader to do so. Even Pope Francis sent a telegram expressing sentiments of sorrow. As a practicing Catholic, what's your reaction to that?"
During Bash's self-satisfied question, one can practically hear producers high-fiving and popping champagne in the background of the CNN news room. Then came Rubio's response.
RUBIO: "Well, as a practicing Catholic, I believe in the theological authority of the Bishop of Rome, and that's what Pope Francis is. On political matters, however--particularly our foreign policy issues, I don't necessarily believe that that binds those of us in the faith in terms of issues of foreign policy. I still respect it, but it's a very different thing. Pope Francis is the leader of a religious organization, the Roman Catholic Church. Barack Obama's the president of the most powerful country in the world.
What I called pathetic was not mentioning whatsoever in that statement the reality that there are thousands upon thousands of people who suffered brutally under the Castro regime. He executed people, he jailed people for 20-30 years, the Florida straits--there are thousands of people who lost their lives fleeing his dictatorship. Not to acknowledge any of that in the statement, I felt is pathetic, absolutely."
Rubio knocked it out of the park.
Asking questions in the manner that Dana Bash did is a very common tactic of the Left. They try to trap conservatives in a logical box from which they cannot escape without contradicting themselves. With Rubio, it was a simple set-up: The leader of your faith, whom you deeply respect, offered "sentiments of sorrow" for Castro's family. President Obama did the same. You called Obama pathetic. That means you called Pope Francis pathetic as well. Gotcha!
Unfortunately for Bash, there's a weak link in her argument. She failed to distinguish the difference between the roles Pope Francis and President Obama play on the national stage.
Francis, as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, exists outside the realm of politics as we perceive it. In this specific instance, his job wasn't to condemn Fidel Castro. Rather, he was to accomplish two objectives with his telegram: express condolences to Raul Castro for the death of his brother, and offer prayers for the people of Cuba going forward in the wake of Fidel's passing.
Cuba is a majority Catholic nation, and as such, it was even more imperative that Francis make a declaration of some sort. The fact that he eschewed referencing Castro's innumerable atrocities doesn't mean he accepts them.
Here's Pope Francis' telegram in full:
"Upon receiving the sad news of the death of your dear brother, His Excellency Mister Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, former president of the State Council and of the Government of the Republic of Cuba, I express my sentiments of sorrow to Your Excellency and other family members of the deceased dignitary, as well as to the people of this beloved nation. At the same time, I offer prayers to the Lord for his rest, and I trust the whole Cuban people to the maternal intercession of our Lady of the Charity of El Cobre, patroness of this country."
Barack Obama, on the other hand, is the President of the United States. As the leader of the free world, Obama has the power to embolden despots by refusing to condemn them, or engender change by challenging their behavior. He chose to do the former, and it was craven.
Here's President Obama's statement in full:
"At this time of Fidel Castro’s passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people. We know that this moment fills Cubans - in Cuba and in the United States - with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.
For nearly six decades, the relationship between the United States and Cuba was marked by discord and profound political disagreements. During my presidency, we have worked hard to put the past behind us, pursuing a future in which the relationship between our two countries is defined not by our differences but by the many things that we share as neighbors and friends - bonds of family, culture, commerce, and common humanity. This engagement includes the contributions of Cuban Americans, who have done so much for our country and who care deeply about their loved ones in Cuba.
Today, we offer condolences to Fidel Castro's family, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Cuban people. In the days ahead, they will recall the past and also look to the future. As they do, the Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in the United States of America."
The highlighted portion of Obama's statement was particularly egregious. Obama's declaration that Cubans are filled with "powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation" can only be compared to the obtuse way one might compliment someone's cooking after forcing down a terrible meal. In just 56 words, President Obama whitewashed decades of barbarism, inspiriting Raul Castro and those like him.
Political leaders and religious leaders exist in very different worlds, and their jobs require very different approaches. It's the responsibility of the president to condemn dictatorship, atrocity, and oppression. Obama failed to do this, and is rightly being called pathetic for his failure.