The meeting next week between President Obama and Pope Francis is a meeting of a moderate and a leftist, reports The Washington Post. Obama’s the moderate. But it has “huge potential” for “two world figures” to forge a mind-meld on “social justice.”
Washington Post religion reporter Michelle Boorstein’s article is transparently, thoroughly a press release on Obama’s behalf. All of its sources, on the record and off, are liberal Obama aides and sympathizers. “Some said the trip would be only positive for Obama for several reasons,” and then Boorstein lists them. No tough words on abortion, marriage, or Obama mandating that Catholics pay for contraception? “Most Vatican-watchers” guess it will never come up:
Some prominent U.S. Catholic conservatives — including bishops — have spoken out strongly against the part of the Affordable Care Act that mandates contraception coverage and have characterized Obama as an opponent of the church and of religious freedom. But most Vatican-watchers predicted that the pope would not speak directly about the mandate to Obama when the two men meet alone, although it’s possible that the topic of domestic religious freedom could come up when other Vatican officials meet with U.S. leaders.
The meeting between the president and the pope “should be a warm and personal, pastoral discussion,” said one adviser to the administration on the Catholic Church, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to be seen as speaking on the matter before White House officials.
That’s when Boorstein started listing all the reasons it would be “only positive,” including how they can bond over being trashed by conservatives:
Michael Sean Winters, who covers the church for the National Catholic Reporter, said the two men may find connection in having the same opponents.
Francis “knows that there is a conservative narrative that contains the pope and the president in a very negative light. So their criticisms of Obama are taken with a grain of salt,” Winters said.
Talk about your grains of salt! Utterly forgotten by Boorstein (and apparently Winters) was his anger about the contraception mandate, as a "Catholic first and a Democrat second," as reported by CBS two years ago: “I'm still very angry about this. I really think he has imperiled his own presidency, which I think has achieved great good for the country.”
The worry and risk, apparently, is the pontiff will expose how painfully moderate the president has been:
While there’s a clear appeal to being seen with the planet’s most popular pastor, experts say the trip isn’t without risks for the president. Francis is likely to raise concerns about war and poverty, areas where the Argentine Jesuit appears to favor more left-leaning solutions than does the White House.
“Francis is capable of putting some direct leads in front of Obama [about focusing on the poor], and that will require something more than the obligatory response, ‘It’s nice to hear you,’ ” said one Democratic strategist who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the White House wants all information about the trip to run through its communications office. “My guess is the pope would like to see much more explicit work on behalf of the poor. Obama can point to what he’s done. It is certainly not a full alignment.”
Why on Earth is it necessary for this empty guesswork requires anonymous sourcing, except to curry White House favor? Fear not, Washington Post readers. It's obvious the White House has been granted its wish for all the trip information to run through its communcations office.
Boorstein contacted Obama’s last ambassador to the Vatican for the “huge potential” chatter:
Generally, however, Vatican-watchers saw huge potential in the meeting between the president, who has focused often on poverty, and the pope, who publicly pined upon his election for “a church that is poor and for the poor.”
“Some said that under [Pope John Paul II] and [President Ronald Reagan] there was a meeting of the minds, and it’s potentially true again under Obama and Francis around the issues of social justice,” said Miguel Diaz, a Catholic theologian who served as Obama’s ambassador to the Vatican from 2009 until 2012. “This is the first African American president and the first Latin American pope, a man who has chosen the name of Francis [after a saint who chose poverty over wealth] and a president who has a history of issues related to social justice like universal health care. I think there are a lot of convergences around these two world figures. . . . I think these two men want to meet each other.”
It’s on stories like these that we should recall that the managing editor of the Post is Kevin Merida, a man who penned captions for a best-selling coffee-table book for Obama-loving liberals titled “Obama: The Historic Campaign in Photographs.” He was named the Post’s national editor during the Obama transition in 2008. When Washingtonian magazine asked him at the time how he would run the national desk, he said, “We’re witnessing the rebirth of the country. We have to ask ourselves, ‘What did we produce to help people understand the moment of great change?’”