Palin, Steele and Other Conservative Christians Not 'Normal'? More Hypocrisy from 'Hardball'

By S.E. CuppRepublican Commentator/Author, "Why You're Wrong About the Right"

Chris Matthews, along with Lois Romano of the Washington Post and David Corn of Mother Jones, devoted 10 minutes of last night's "Hardball" to lamenting the religiosity of Republicans.

"Why does everything sound like the 700 Club?" Matthews flippantly probed his like-minded panelists. The criticism came in response to recent sound bites from Sarah Palin and Michael Steele -- two very popular go-to targets of the left.

Palin told a crowd of friendly Republicans that before her vice presidential debate against Joe Biden, she couldn't find anyone in the McCain campaign that she wanted to pray with. Politically unwise to air out old grievances against a still-respected Republican senator? Perhaps, but Matthews implied it was some kind of cultish crusadeto put a Bible at every bedside. For her admission, Matthews doesn't think Palin is "normal" -- which is exactly the kind of rigorous analysis we have come to expect of the veteran newsman who has hinted at running for office himself.

And Steele, chair of the RNC, told a reporter about his own possible run for office, "God has a way of revealing stuff to you. If that's part of the plan, it will be the plan." To this, Romano resoundingly declared, "He's gone off the reservation." And Corn said ominously, "Any time someone says 'I'll do this if God wants me to,' I get suspicious."

"Suspicious" is a good characterization of the liberal attitude toward Christianity. The media was "suspicious" of Palin throughout the campaign, accusing her of speaking in tongues, and admonishing her for her pro-life position. And they were "suspicious" of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal for his "extreme Catholicism," as the Huffington Post called it, after reading a college paper in which he describes an exorcism experiment.

And of course they were "suspicious" of President Bush, who was chided for public admissions of his faith time and again. Newsweek's Howard Fineman said that his 2005 inaugural address "was the closest thing to a sermon I can remember."

But the media conveniently ignores that Democrats are religious as well. In fact, 78 percent of this country is Christian, according to the CIA World Factbook. Less than 16 percent say they are not religious. And 48 percent of Democrats say they are "absolutely committed to Christianity."

A bona fide media darling, President Clinton, wrote in his book "Between Hope and History,"

"I believe the First Amendment does not require students to leave their religion at the schoolhouse door. There is absolutely nothing improper about students wanting to reflect upon their faith. They can express their beliefs in homework, through artwork, and during class presentations, as long as it's relevant to the assignment. They can form religious clubs in high school."

If Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee said this, they'd be declared Christian jihadists, or some similarly hysterical and offensive equivalent.

And it's not entirely without precedent in American politics to synthesize religious doctrine and political agenda. Joe Lieberman delivered a speech to the Christians United for Israel conference in 2007 in which he used his religious beliefs to make an argument for foreign policy:

"By standing with Israel today, each of you has...taken up the torch that was lit in God's promise to Abraham 4,000 years ago, and carrying it forward to spread that light. I believe that Israel's rebirth in 1948 was divinely inspired by God."

Lieberman's religious acknowledgment was largely ignored by the media -- and rightly so. But President Bush, because he's a Christian, ostensibly, was lambasted for admitting he prays a lot.

But the hypocrisy is particularly magnified in Matthews' case. Unless we've forgotten the bizarre physiological effects then-candidate Obama had on his leg, it's amusing to consider that he has no problem injecting his politics into his journalism, but Sarah Palin and Michael Steele can't even acknowledge their religion -- because they're politicians.

Like any conversation about Sarah Palin on MSNBC, the "Hardball" discussion quickly devolved into one about her looks. She was compared to Dan Quayle, who was "also very good-looking," they said. When Matthews and his cohorts mock 78 percent of the country, and some of its most respected national leaders, is it any wonder his ratings lag significantly behind his competition on FOX and CNN?