Compared to Obama, the pope’s got it easy


New York Times News Service

President Obama is going to visit the pope! He’s been to the Vatican before, but not with this pope, who is perhaps the only person in the world almost everybody likes.

Except Rush Limbaugh, which sort of makes it even better.

The president’s visit, which is scheduled for March, comes at an interesting intersection in the two men’s careers. Pope Francis can currently do no wrong, and Obama can do no right. Recently, his administration decided to move its Vatican Embassy into a more-secure building, and the outcry was so intense that you’d think Obama had ordered a recreation of the Sack of Rome.

“A slap in the face to the 78 million Catholics in the United States,” one congressman screeched.

“Why would our president close our embassy to the Vatican?” twittered Jeb Bush. “Hopefully, it is not retribution for Catholic organizations opposing Obamacare.”

As political tweets go, this is a keeper on two counts. First, we can once again marvel at Republican politicians’ ability to insert the Affordable Care Act into everything. (Coming soon: How the individual mandate robbed Oprah Winfrey of an Oscar nomination.)

Second, we can mark the official end of the former governor of Florida’s career as the safe, sane fallback option in 2016.

But about the Vatican Embassy: The State Department has been trying to move it into a compound that includes the U.S. Embassy to Italy. This will save money and improve security. Instantly, certain parties detected a plot.

Two former ambassadors to the Vatican, Ray Flynn (Clinton) and Jim Nicholson (Bush), penned a blistering op-ed for The Wall Street Journal in which they called the move “a colossal mistake” that would squish the Holy See’s separate identity. Diplomatically, they attributed more intense feelings to others. (“Many have seen the move as a deliberate slap at the Catholic Church and the pope; some may even detect veiled anti-Catholicism.”)

Fast-forward to many variations on the headline “Obama Insults Catholics.” The State Department pointed out that the new quarters would be in an entirely different building, with an entirely different entrance than the Italian embassy. And that while the new embassy will not be in the Vatican, neither is the current one. Or that of any other country. The Vatican is only two-tenths of a square mile, and more than half of that is gardens.

“In fact, our new location is a tenth of a mile closer,” Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy said.

“It’s a clear diminishment of the importance of the Holy See post,” Nicholson said.

Cynics might wonder why we have an embassy for the Vatican in the first place. The total population is about 800 people, which is approximately one-eighth the seating capacity of Radio City Music Hall. It has virtually none of the attributes you find in an actual country. It doesn’t even have a cuisine.

But, obviously, nobody is going to disrespect the Vatican while Pope Francis is around. He won the world’s heart by quickly doing a few things that were so obvious, it’s amazing no previous pontiff figured them out. Such as: If you are going to talk about the poor all the time, you should try to avoid gold furniture.

Without changing any of the church’s reactionary rules on contraception, homosexuality or abortion, Francis changed the tone just by saying that Catholics should stop obsessing about sex. I cannot imagine what the nuns who ran my old high school would have thought about that theory. Really, it’s hard to overestimate what an incredible time-saver this is.

And instead of just pleading for greater charity toward the poor, Francis decreed that the world needed to drop the idea that when the rich got richer, everybody eventually benefited. Trickle-down economics amounted to a “crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.” This would have been where he lost Rush Limbaugh.

Ken Langone, the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot, told Cardinal Timothy Dolan that a rich benefactor to a rebuilding project at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York might hesitate to cough up his promised million-dollar donation because of the pope’s attitude. Dolan said he assured Langone that while the pope loves the poor, “he also loves rich people.”

Republican budget guru Rep. Paul Ryan said the pope’s apparent lack of enthusiasm for the capitalist system was due to an unfortunate upbringing. “The guy is from Argentina. They haven’t had real capitalism in Argentina,” he told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Even if Francis was down on capitalism, no capitalists wanted to sound down on Francis. Meanwhile, Obama has spent the past five years dodging calls for new taxes and protecting the insurance industry from healthcare reform. Stocks have been at an all-time high, and Wall Street hates him.

The moral is: It’s way easier to be pope.

© 2014 New York Times News Service

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald



    The dirty little secret on campus

    We are the stoop laborers of higher education: adjunct professors.


    Surviving in school

    You can get through high school in one piece

    I spend most of my day listening. As a high school guidance counselor, I encourage teenagers to talk. Feeling stressed, they say, is their automatic response to demanding teachers, parents’ high expectations and the drama of shifting friendship alliances.


    Tech’s upside outweighs downside

    As schools in South Florida begin to introduce Apple iPads and other mobile devices into their curricula, students are thrilled to arrived for class without a 20-pound monster of a bag on their backs. Why do they need to purchase new binders or a fresh set of erasers? What more do they need besides a computer repair or a new iPad case?

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category