POLITICO: POTUS in the Pope’s penumbra

From Politico:

Obama’s papal audience

VATICAN CITY — President Barack Obama was once the biggest superstar on the international stage. On Thursday, he headed here to benefit from the popularity of his replacement: Pope Francis.

The 50-minute meeting was a rare chance for Obama to associate himself with a world leader whose cool factor far outweighs his own, and it comes at a critical time in his presidency. The White House is still recovering from what aides call a “lost year,” and the president’s job approval ratings at home are dipping to new lows.


Obama planned to use the closely watched meeting to show how aligned he is with the pope on income inequality, poverty and immigration — issues important to both the White House and Democrats as they try to paint Republicans as insensitive to the needs of Americans before the upcoming midterms.

He needs the Francis bump,” said Chad Pecknold, a theology professor at The Catholic University of America.


White House aides — starting at the top with chief of staff Denis McDonough, who is an observant Catholic — speak excitedly about that connection to the pope. And that’s the sense among their outside allies as well. Francis is a huge help in talking about income inequality, they feel, both because he elevates the issue and depoliticizes it, putting the Democrats onto higher moral ground.

This reminded me of the argument in The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise by Arthur C. Brooks.  We must learn to present arguments in such a way that those with patently (or at least arguably) errant positions cannot merely appeal to emotion and, thereby, claim the “moral high ground” from those who tend to cite statics, which sound cold.

Just thinking out loud.


From Charles Krauthammer on FNC (Andrew Napolitano heard to laugh in the background at the same time I did):


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. mburn16 says:

    Politics and Religion are perhaps my two greatest intellectual/spiritual loves. And, following both closely…I would have a hard time identifying any large contingent of the American voting population where Pope Francis is popular but Barack Obama is not…or at least, where Pope Francis’ pronouncements on issues like poverty, etc. are popular, but Barack Obama’s are not.

    Ironically, President Obama probably would have gained more from a friendly relationship with Pope Benedict XVI than he will from one with Pope Francis.

  2. Pingback: Pope Francis Meets The Man Who Told The Lie of the Year (Video) | Nice Deb

  3. jeffreyquick says:

    I read this AM that the President had told Pope Benedict that he would do what he could to reduce the number of abortions., and that Pope Francis had discussed religious freedom with him this time. If the followthrough on the one is anything like the other, we may be cellmates.

  4. LarryW2LJ says:

    “White House aides — starting at the top with chief of staff Denis McDonough, who is an observant Catholic”

    Now what exactly does THAT mean – “observant Catholic”? He goes to Mass? I understand that some of the social issues presented by Mr. Obama may have their merit. But how can any Catholic who wants to be the salt and light of this world, work for this man? There is so much to be wary of – and I’m sorry if I am “obsessing”, but the man (Mr. Obama) openly and proudly supports abortion and infanticide.

    I couldn’t in good conscience, even vote for the man, there’s no way on God’s green earth that I’d be able to work for him.

  5. J_Cathelineau says:

    It seems that the big expectations of the Obama gang and the liberal press was far from being fullfilled, and the Vatican press statement was that:
    “questions of particular relevance for the Church in that country, such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection, as well as the issue of immigration reform.”


    (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama heard the Catholic Church’s concerns over his health care plan while on a visit to the Vatican on Thursday.

    Even here in Argentina the press (ultraliberal, that is) is almost trying to cope with disapointment.
    I think that they cant take all the juice of this (for them) sour lemon.

    I feel myself quite relieve. I thought it was going to be awful.

  6. tcreek says:

    A missed teaching moment by the pope?
    Can you imagine the worldwide headlines?

    A Hugely Popular Pope Rejects Meeting With President Obama Because Of Obama’s Support For Abortion, Same Sex Marriage And The Denial Of Religious Liberty For U.S. Catholics.

  7. benedetta says:

    jeffreyquick, Could you post a link regarding the President’s statement that he intended to reduce the numbers of abortions?

  8. Lyons says:

    The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

  9. benedetta says:

    tcreek, Actually, our Holy Father’s gracious welcome extended to Obama who has persecuted Catholics through his policies is quite a stunning Christian statement altogether. The Christian does not fear worldly persecution because he has the confidence of Christ who has overcome the world. The Christian is charitable towards, prays for, and does good to, his enemies. Like God’s mercy, the door has always been open to not only Obama but all those ‘catholics’ in his administration who have been horrible toward Catholic Americans through their actions…Biden, Pelosi, Kerry…they are not shut out. So maybe they will reconsider their party’s treatment of prolife after knowing the beauty of God’s mercy. Or, maybe not. Either way, the Christian message will yet endure through even this.

  10. benedetta says:

    A google search of “Obama promises to reduce number of abortions” yielded a Reuters article that states that he said this back in 2008 when he met with Pope Benedict. I have seen no reporting that he has renewed this promise now to Pope Francis…now, when he said, “everything”…I mean, what would that include…?

    Reuters today: “When Obama met then-pope Benedict in 2009, the pope raised abortion, a sensitive issue for many U.S. Catholics as the Church considers abortion a grievous sin. Obama promised to do everything he could to reduce the number of abortions.”

  11. tcreek says:

    Barack Obama meets Pope Francis: conservative Catholics will *hate* this photo. – Damien Thompson in his blog at The Telegraph.

  12. J_Cathelineau says:

    Ok…one way is to think about a statement that was not, and a certain picture. That is what the enemy wants.
    In my page I will write that “A Hugely popular Pope manifest his concern about religious freedom in US” and put another pic were Obama is foolishly smiling behind a serious pope. Both things are true.

    That is what i got, that is what im going to use. Yesterday we were on the brink of a terrible defeat, and we escape undamage. In present times that counts as a victory in my book.

  13. Urs says:

    What meeting with the Secretary of State? I watched the whole hour and 25 minutes from the time the cars drove up to the time the entourage walked out the door. Obama was with the pope for an hour total. 10 minutes of that hour was when everyone was around the pope. 50 minutes of it, Obama was in a private audience ,,,,no one else from the US group was in there with him, Everybody else, including John Kerry was standing around waiting for Obama while he was talking to the pope….There was NOT a separate meeting with the secretary of state- unless they mean that John Kerry was chatting with someone while he was waiting with the whole group for that 50 minutes. John Kerry did not go in with Obama when he was having his private meeting with the pope…What on earth are they talking about???

  14. JonPatrick says:

    Urs, perhaps Obama met with the Vatican Secretary of State?

  15. majuscule says:


    Is there a Vatican Secretary of State? Perhaps that was what they were referring to?

    Ah, I just googled it:

    But Obama said those discussions took place with the Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, not with Francis. ‘‘We actually didn’t talk a whole lot about social schisms in my conversations with His Holiness,’’ he added. ‘‘In fact, that really was not a topic of conversation.’’


  16. Urs says:

    Nevermind… They were talking about the Vatican Secretary of State on the video above. I thought they meant OUR secretary o state….They didn’t show that part in the 1 1/2 hour video from CTV. That must have happened before Obama came out….but he and Pope Francis were back together by the time he came out…. Sometimes , it takes me a while… to get all the pieces of a story put together in the right order… sorry about that :o

  17. Urs says:

    @majuscule Thanks! I appreciate it :) John Kerry was there….and it never occurred to me to think of a DIFFERENT Secretary of State….like the Vatican Secretary of State! Duh! I am a little slow sometimes…It was kinda fascinating watching all of out US entourage walk slowly and formally through the Vatican just to wait outside the meeting for 45 minutes for Obama to come back out . A few of them did get introduced to Pope Francis at the end.. Then they all walked
    s l o w l y and formally back out of the Vatican again. to their waiting cars. Have we been paying for ALL of those people to go on this little European tour with Obama???.
    I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised because they did not act arrogant. They were all wearing black. The ladies had on black veils…they even seemed almost respectful. I was not embarrassed by them at all…It was quite different from watching them on the media here.

  18. BLB Oregon says:

    Considering that the President has been criticized for taking time to fill out NCAA brackets that could have been used to actually do his job, I don’t think the mere achievement of meeting with the Pope is going to do a thing for his popularity, one way or the other.

  19. Urs says:

    @ JonPatrick. You are right! Thank you. That IS what they were talking about.

  20. The Masked Chicken says:

    “I read this AM that the President had told Pope Benedict that he would do what he could to reduce the number of abortions…”

    Ironically, it may be that his idea to reduce abortions is to increase the amount of contraception.

    What a farce this is. Political theater. If Obama does not come back from this trip and drop the HHS mandate, then this is nothing but a show, for he will have learned nothing and understood nothing about true Catholicism. I am hardly uplifted by this meeting. “Hello, your Holiness. Excuse me, while I act to destroy your Church in America.”

    Stalin, was famously asked, “The Pope! How many divisions has he got?”

    If the HHS mandate is not dropped, someday, someone might ask, “The Pope! How many lawyers has he got?”

    Still, we pray.

    The Chicken

  21. Charles E Flynn says:

    What the Pope Told President Obama About Abortion , by David Weigel, for Slate.com.

  22. makreitzer says:

    All the photos from this meeting made me long for the approach Pope Benedict took with Nancy Pelosi — NO PHOTOS, no photo op. Obama is an expert at manipulation and, once again we are seeing it. I just have to sigh and pray.

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