ROME — 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.
Hey, if you’re gonna be surpassed, might as well be by the Pope, but it must still be hard for the presidential ego to cope:
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.
Can we just sit back for a moment and relish that Politico must describe the Pope as having a “cool factor” that outstrips President Obama’s? God is good and works in unexpected ways.
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.
Sure, they’re totally in agreement when Obama’s not shutting down the Little Sisters of the Poor by forcing them to pay for contraception.
The Pope is quite popular with the people, which means he’s quite popular with politicians:
Pope Francis is fresh from turning down an invitation from Noah‘s marketing department to meet with the film’s star, Russell Crowe, in an effort to boost pre-release interest among Catholics (I suspect, though we aren’t usually the target audience for “Biblical” films, or for that matter, “Christian Rock” which can only be called “Rock” in the loosest sense of the term and if you consider Nickleback to be a legitimate inspiration for any musical movement).
Anyway, Pope Francis has already turned down one remarkable offer to be used as a pawn in a complex marketing strategy, so it only makes sense that the most attention whorish body in America outside of Hollywood would also make overtures for his attention. Yes, America, Congress has invited Pope Francis to speak, clearly believing they will not all shrivel and die in his presence as their demons leave them to pursue other activities, like lobbying.
Make it three complex marketing strategies, one of which was just harder to get out of.