March 26, 2014

Politico: Obama Wants ‘Halo Effect’ From Pope Francis, ‘Whose Cool Factor Far Outweighs His Own’

Someone needs to tell the Politico’s Carrie Budoff Brown that it isn’t 2008 any more. While they’re at it, that person also needs to inform her that the Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, could give a rip about whether or not he is perceived as “cool,” and certainly isn’t Obama’s “replacement.”

Budoff Brown wrote tonight that President Barack Obama’s meeting tomorrow with the Pope “is a rare chance for Obama to associate himself with a world leader whose cool factor far outweighs his own.” Gag me. Obama’s ability to move merchandise, one of the supposed indicators of “cool” tanked in the fall of 2009 and has never come back. Excerpts for readers who can stand more such drivel follow the jump (bolds are mine):

Obama wants halo effect

ObamaMirror

President Barack Obama was once the biggest superstar on the international stage. On Thursday, he heads to the Vatican to benefit from the popularity of his replacement: Pope Francis.

The visit is 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 will 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.

Francis has a 76 percent approval rating among Americans, according to a Gallup poll published Wednesday. Obama’s approval rating in the daily Gallup tracking poll was 42 percent.

But even in Vatican City, Obama may not be able to escape the issue that’s dogged his presidency: Obamacare.

The contraceptive mandate has strained his relationship back home with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and it came up at a January meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and his Vatican counterpart, Archbishop Pietro Parolin. If Francis presses Obama on the mandate, the contraceptive controversy could distract from the White House’s aim to show common cause with the pope on issues that Obama still hopes to advance in his second term.

… 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.

All you need to know about Denis McDonough’s alleged “observant Catholic” status is that James Salt, the executive director at Catholics United, described him nine years ago as “my kind of Catholic.” The group’s latest press release calls on President Obama to “to address the moral responsibility to act on climate change and conserve our natural and cultural heritage at his March 27 meeting with Pope Francis.” Puh-leeze.

Concerning matters of substance which happen not to be based on hoaxes, Obama’s only hope is that Francis doesn’t “press” Obama on the contraception mandate and abortion in general publicly. It’s hard to imagine that the Pope will be completely silent on those matters. I have little doubt that the press will end up portraying this meeting as some kind of success for Obama, especially if the words “income” and “inequality” end up in a sentence coming from either person. They won’t be at all interested in discussing the Pope’s public admonishments if they occur, or finding out about the virtually certain private ones.

One thing you can count on is that the Pope won’t be discussing his “cool factor.”

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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