What's the sudden affinity for the devil?
BOSTON ‹ So what's the deal with the devil anyway? First, Hugo Chavez, the sulfur-sniffing president of Venezuela, calls President Bush the devil. Then before the air even clears, Jerry Falwell is cheerfully and unfavorably comparing Hillary to Lucifer.
At a summit of so-called "values voters,'' Falwell handicapped a presidential race between Hillary and the devil. Nobody, he said, could energize the base like Hillary Clinton: "If Lucifer ran, he wouldn't.''
Falwell insists this was said "totally tongue-in-cheek,'' or maybe forked-tongue in cheek. I believe him, although I remember when he blamed "the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians'' for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
But have you noticed that when we talk about demonizing our enemies, it's getting awfully literal?
Hitler used to be the all-purpose, generic bad boy. An endless list of people have ended up in comparison with him, not always favorably. It runs from Bill O'Reilly to Martha Stewart with stops along the way for terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Justice Antonin Scalia. Not long ago, Rick Santorum compared the Democrats to Hitler and Robert Byrd compared the Republicans to Hitler. Donald Rumsfeld even compared Chavez (see above) to Hitler. And Ohio Sen. George Voinovich called Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a "Hitler type of person'' though the Iranian president doesn't even believe in the Holocaust.
Now the devil is getting his due. In the wild world of the Internet more candidates stand nominated for the title of Antichrist than for American Idol. They include Bill Gates and the pope, David Hasselhoff and Prince Charles and anyone born on June 6, 2006 ‹ don't ask.
Remember when Ronald Reagan talked about the Soviet Union as the "evil empire''? Evil as in d-evil? Ayatollah Khomeini famously called the United States the "Great Satan.'' Bob Jones of Bob Jones University once called George Bush I the devil. And George I called Saddam Hussein the devil.
Of course, radical Islamists casually label America "evil'' all the time. Osama bin Laden called for a theological war between Muslims and global crusaders or, rather, "Satan's U.S. troops.'' President Bush in turn defined North Korea, Iran and Iraq as the "axis of evil'' and promised a war to rid the world of evildoers. And let us not forget Pope Benedict XVI, who recently channeled a medieval Byzantine emperor saying that Islam was "evil and inhuman.''
Happily, we can ignore the Chavez charge. The National Association of Evangelicals reassures us in a press release: "NAE theologians and scholars have conducted a thorough exegetical study of the biblical texts concerning the person, disposition and earthy manifestations of Satan (Beelzebub, Lucifer, Prince of Darkness). They have concluded incontrovertibly that, contrary to the assertion of Hugo Chavez, President Bush is not the Devil.'' Heck, Bush doesn't even wear Prada.