President Obama this morning tweaked his tepid sanctions against Russia for swiping Crimea from Ukraine before jetting to Florida for a pep talk to college students in Orlando and then heading for Miami to raise cash for dispirited Democrats before returning to Washington tonight. [For his part, Russian strongman Vladimir Putin unveiled his own retaliatory but meaningless penalties against the US, highlighted by a ban against Speaker Boehner from visiting Russia.]
The hard-pressed American president, who has long lost his image mojo, desperately needs a boost. Good news: it may come in the guise of Pope Francis.
The Pontiff, who has just completed his first year in the seat of St. Peter, still draws international raves. His openness and willingness to drag a hide-bound institution into the modern world has revitalized the Catholic Church.
While remaining true to the bedrock teachings of the Church, Pope Francis has energized it by moving beyond past hierarchical fixations on “abortion” and “sexuality” to reach out to the poor and dispossessed. Pope Francis is the PR rock star that Obama once was.
The President and Pope will meet in the Vatican on March 27 to discuss rising income inequality, a timely topic.
Obama heads a federal government, which is either dismissed as irrelevant by millions of Americans or held in scorn by politicos who were elected to serve the people.
In the March 10 edition of the Jesuit magazine America, John Carr wrote that the upcoming Vatican meeting is a contrast of a “young President growing older and more frustrated and an old Pope who seems to be growing younger and more empowered.”
As captain of the shipwreck, it’s incumbent on Obama to steer the beached ship of state back into the deep blue sea.
In adopting Pope Francis’ communications model, one grounded in transparency and inclusion, the President would forge his own second coming—on the image front.