by Carl E. Olson | CWR blog
Today's meeting between Francis and Obama accentuated differences as much or more than it did similarities
How quickly things change. It wasn't that many years ago that Barack Obama—as a candidate, and then as President of the U.S.—was lauded with praise and descriptives that, if applied to a pontiff, would have caused many to wonder, "Has the Church declared the Pope to be the Fourth Person of the Trinity?" In 2008—which in the Age of the Internet is roughly 259 years ago—the victorious Obama told an ecstatic crowd in St. Paul, Minnesota, "America, this is our moment. This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past. Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face. Our time to offer a new direction for the country we love."
And then these rather famous lines:
The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment - this was the time - when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals.
Those were the good 'ol days, before reality—in the form of daily governance and a dubious reworking of the nation's healthcare system—set in. There are many other factors, of course, all of which have led to a steady decline in the President's popularity, to the point that the Pope is, percentage-wise—twice as popular, as The Daily Caller notes:
Pope Francis currently enjoys an 85 percent approval rating among American Catholics and a 63 percent approval rating among all Americans, according to a new poll from the Saint Leo University Polling Institute.
Just 5 percent of American Catholics and 8 percent of all Americans have a negative view of Pope Francis’ job performance.
Meanwhile a new AP-GfK poll found that just 41 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s job performance, which is the second lowest point the poll has ever hit, according to the Washington Post. Some 59 percent of Americans disapprove of Obama, which is a percentage point greater than the previous high in December.
To be fair, Obama was elected by a generally fickle block of voters, and most Presidents suffer a steady decline in popularity, in part because the Age of Celebrity cannot long bear to be engaged, never mind married, to yesterday's savio—er, celebrit—uh, once-in-a-lifetime leader. (Remember when Justin Bieber and Tramp GaGa were the hottest items around?) The vigorous and often vicious 24/7 grind of news and commentary tends to eat up nearly anything of transitory character, including statements long on promise but short on clarity and, in many cases, sound principles.
The irony, in short, is that President Obama has been losing clout and stature, in part, because he is now drowning in the waters of instant celebrity and cult of personality that he once strode upon like a post-modern, post-political messiah.