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What Americans Owe Putin and the Pope


The Presidential Spin Machine was in high gear during President Obama’s recent European trip commemorating the 100th Anniversary of WWI and yet  the President revealed perhaps more than the President is usually wont to reveal – not only Presidential anxiety about being out-foxed regarding the Ukrainian – Russian situation but also, as he enters the ‘lame duck’ phase of his Presidency, a deep-seated apprehension as his own approval ratings continue to slide and who can he link arms with to pull him out of the pits.

It was a trip filled with memorable meetings and quotes and will be remembered as the occasion when President Obama first met Pope Francis, who brings an egalitarian face to the conservative church, and when the President gave perhaps his most incomprehensible speech ever while in Brussels – filled with saccharine-laden librettos that reek of outrageous falsehoods, exaggerated bravado and petty ideological misconceptions as if the US is a paragon of constitutional purity and a model of international law.

During an interview in the Netherlands Obama worried aloud that Manhattan will be nuked.   Now this is a big story whether it is an imminent concern that the mainstream media failed to follow-up on or a Presidential blooper.  In any case, to be on the safe side, Manhattan-ites have an existential right to immediately inquire about evacuation plans.

Here’s one snippet from the President’s speech indicative of how the Presidential mind is processing these days:

“Yes, we believe in democracy, with elections that are free and fair, and independent judiciaries and opposition parties, civil society and uncensored information so that individuals can make their own choices.”

In an astonishing stretch of the truth, that is exactly the opposite of what occurred (and continues to occur) in Kiev in great degree thanks to the US State Department’s intervention and support for a neo-Nazi related gang of thugs – thugs that beat up the chief of Ukraine state television station (among others) and that the President’s  strenuous opposition to “free and fair elections” in Crimea  are deemed ‘unconstitutional’ because he doesn’t agree with the outcome.

It was a high profile speech that has deservedly received considerable critique, not from the corporate media, of course, because they prefer to rely on  complimentary ‘readouts’ from the White House which understandably saves reporters a lot of time having to analyze the facts.

And isn’t it curious that Time magazine which just months earlier proclaimed Pope Francis as “Man of the Year” has recently criticized the Pope’s intervention on behalf of peace in Syria and calling his efforts an ‘abject failure’.

But what really captured my attention was a series of ‘visibly energized’  Presidential photos, more than just upbeat campaign photo ops, taken during that trip; one with Pope Francis, another with Italy’s newest unelected Prime Minister Matteo Renzi , and a third with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia who appeared visibly less impressed by whatever the President found so amusing.

Usually the President presents himself in a more sedate manner, calm and circumspect, a man to be taken seriously and a picture of Presidential composure but each of these photos reveal something off-kilter and almost loopy about the President’s photogenic poses. Where one might expect a certain gravitas when meeting a Pope for the first time, respectful and unpretentious, instead there was an uncomfortable edge as the President displayed a jaunty stride and preceded the Pope through a door, flattering that he is a ‘great admirer’ flashing his big, beautiful white teeth in a contrived pose and grinning like a goofball from ear to ear.  Despite the smiley-happy-face, there appeared to be little chemistry between the two men with the flavor of the meeting being the winner of the Heisman Trophy visiting the Pope.

While I am a sometime Obama-watcher, who am I to comment on the frequency of Presidential smiles.  One suggestion Mr. President – you might want to cut back on the coffee.

As the President described their meeting, he and the Pope “had a wide-ranging discussion” and that “It doesn’t mean we agree on every issue…. He challenges us.  He implores us to remember, especially the poor, who are affected by the economic decisions we make.”  Let’s read between the lines here:  When the President says ‘it doesn’t mean we agree on every issue’, a good guess is that the Pope hit a raw nerve with the thin-skinned Obama who is not known to encourage divergence among White House staff.

On the other hand, the Vatican statement gives a different glimpse as to what the Pope and President spent almost an hour talking about:

 “views were exchanged on some current international themes and hope was expressed that, in areas of conflict, there would be respect for humanitarian and international law and a negotiated solution…”

A good bet is that ‘international themes’ included the global economy and income disparity and that ‘areas of conflict” included Syria and the Ukraine and most significantly, that the Pope must have, in some way we may never know,  specified ‘humanitarian and international law’ as sensitive topics to a President who sees himself above the law.   It is an even better bet that the Pope read the President’s Brussels speech beforehand and, if he did, there can be little doubt that he read it for what it was –  a provocative,  understated call to war.   Unfortunately, we can surmise that the Pope did not grab Obama by the collar, go nose-to-nose with him and challenge the President’s glib words  about a ‘lack of empathy’ with regard to the plight of Detroit.

But the American public, after some bitter experience, appears to have finally learned the disingenuous nature of disingenuous politicians.  If not, the US would be engaged in war in Syria right now.   And who do we have to thank for keeping our young soldiers out of war but Pope Francis – and Vladimir Putin.

Unbeknownst to most of the American public, thanks to American media torpor, Pope Francis  sent a letter on September 5 to Russian President Vladimir Putin  just as the G20 Summit was meeting in St. Petersburg  with a request to intervene and stop the massacre in Syria specifically citing the “work and efforts of the 2013 Russian Presidency.”

The next day at the G20, President Obama rejected Putin’s overture despite what was reported by Reuters as a “20 minute one-on-one talk between Obama and Putin on the sidelines” and following a ‘tense group discussion” later in the day – and you wonder why Putin has been expelled from the G20 group.

On November 26, Putin visited the Pope at the Vatican with little notice by the western press after which a formal statement was issued that said “special attention was given to the pursuit of peace in the Middle East and to the serious  situation in Syria” indicative perhaps of a more straightforward, authentic ability to communicate.

All this makes a person wonder is there any Administration staff person at the White House, the State Department, the CIA or any other Federal department  doing the necessary critical analysis, someone preparing the background briefing papers for a President who believes in his own infallibility or are they all Democratic party hacks who care more about the future of Obama than the future of the planet?

Renee Parsons was a staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives and a lobbyist on nuclear energy issues with Friends of the Earth.  in 2005, she was elected to the Durango City Council and served as Councilor and Mayor.  Currently, she is a member of the Treasure Coast ACLU Board.


Renee Parsons has been a member of the ACLU’s Florida State Board of Directors and president of the ACLU Treasure Coast Chapter. She has been an elected public official in Colorado, an environmental lobbyist and staff member of the US House of Representatives in Washington DC. She can be found on Twitter @reneedove31

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