President Obama just became the ninth U.S president to meet a pope; but is the president trying to get in the express lane to heaven? Or are his motives more…worldly? Fox and Friends thinks it might be because Obama is searching for the “halo effect” and they might be on to something. After all, this is one of the oldest plays in the political playbook. When you’re not too popular, be seen with someone more popular. That’s why Fusion’s Alicia Menendez always hangs out with Jorge Ramos.
And if you look at the numbers, you can see why: The pope has a 76 percent approval rating among Americans, but the president only has 44 percent.
Maybe the president and the pope aren’t twinsies, but there are some similarities. Let’s start at the beginning with two unlikely candidates. Out of the white smoke appears Mario Bergoglio, a bishop from Argentina, as the new leader of the Catholic Church, making him the first pope from the Americas. A Latin American who says goodbye to his predecessor’s sassy red shoes and chooses the name Francis as a commitment to the poor and displaced.
Then there’s Barack Obama, a junior senator from Illinois who beat out an establishment candidate in his own party and a seasoned political opponent in the opposing party, and captured the hearts of Americans with a message of hope and change.
But the surprise of their rise is only one part of the story. When it comes to equality, Pope Francis made big news with his comments about homosexuality, when he said that, “If someone is gay and searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
Granted…it took President Obama three years in office to make that sentiment real in the eyes of the law.
Could it be that there’s a powerful social tide moving us toward equality, and that President Obama and Pope Francis are riding the same wave? Or are the two going back to basics?
Pope Francis gave every conservative economist a heart attack when he denounced “trickle-down” economics, writing, “this opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts,, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”
This message is eerily similar to our president’s approach to economics….
So you can count up the lists however you like. The two men aren’t in perfect sync on questions of reproductive rights and scientific research, but they seem to have a lot in common when it comes to approaching other societal issues. But here’s one way in which they are fundamentally different: President Obama has a four-year head start on Pope Francis, and if we look at those trend lines in public opinion again, it would seem the more time the president spends in office, the less popular he becomes. Perhaps that should be a lesson to Pope Francis—-rhetoric is powerful, especially when it comes from the pontiff, but in time, those words must be matched with deeds if you want to remain Mr. Popular.
Credit: Alicia Menendez and Andrea Torres