The Note: The President and the Pope

ByMichael Falcone
September 23, 2015, 7:56 AM


--WHERE PRESIDENT OBAMA & POPE FRANCIS SEE EYE TO EYE (AND WHERE THEY DON'T): President Obama has found an ally in Pope Francis on some of the most important political issues of his presidency, but there are also areas where the leaders of the United States and the Catholic Church will likely never see eye to eye. The White House says the president and the pope's meeting in the Oval Office today won't focus on politics, but instead will be about their shared values. "I would not expect a robust discussion of a political agenda, but rather, I think it's an opportunity for the two men to talk about the values that they have in common, and there are many," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said. "I'm confident that there are areas where they may not see things the same way," Earnest added. "The president, even if he doesn't agree with him in every respect...certainly does hold the pope and his views in high regard." Here's a look at a few issues where the president and Pope Francis align and other areas where they are at odds in their beliefs, courtesy of ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ:

--POPE WEEK IN THE NOTE. The Note is setting aside a special place for daily insight and analysis of the Holy Father's trip. As our guide, we've enlisted the help of Father Michael A. Russo, an expert on the papacy who is serving this week as a media consultant for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In today's installment, we asked Father Russo (@frmikerusso), who also blogs at, to preview Pope Francis' visit with President Obama:

--FR. RUSSO: "Coming onto the world stage a mere two-years ago, Pope Francis looks to be a man fully aware that he has a limited time to affect his church, and the world. Much like President Obama, even popes concede that they have a 'term of office.' Pope Francis's arrival in the Alitalia jet yesterday at Andrews Air Force Base from Havana sharpens the point that his own diplomatic intervention as the 'go between' for Raul Castro and Barack Obama makes him one of the very few successful global leaders today. Pope Francis may be the very first pope to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.

"The live television coverage of the pope's arrival, the motorcade into Washington -- in his tiny black Fiat sporting the Vatican license plate, and surrounded by the security team in those large black SUV's makes for the stuff of "ceremonial politics." Such is the power of popes and presidents. Here television news, and the social media join the political establishment to declare a 'holiday.' This 'theater of power' provides the images, and just enough space for the words and gestures of a second-term president and a 78-year old religious leader to craft messages that have the potential to find a hearing for Catholics, Americans, and world citizens.

"More than the external exchange of gifts at the White House or the history of American/Vatican diplomatic initiatives, the pope and the president have plenty to gain from their friendship. They can turn the page, change the agenda, make the most of their limited time, and create a mutual legacy."



10 TIMES BERNIE SANDERS AND POPE FRANCIS SOUNDED ALIKE. Standing before a crowd of mostly evangelical Christian students at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, last week, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders admitted, "I am not a theologian, I am not an expert on the Bible, nor am I a Catholic." Still the presidential candidate wanted to quote Pope Francis: "I agree with Pope Francis when he says, and I quote, 'The current financial crisis originated in a profound human crisis, the denial of the primacy of the human person," Sanders said. "Now those are pretty profound words, which I hope we will all think about." Both men share a deep frustration about the status quo and, speaking on a range issues from climate change to wealth inequality, their words echo each other. ABC's MARYALICE PARKS has more.

HILLARY CLINTON OPPOSES KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE. Hillary Clinton has come out against the Keystone XL pipeline -- taking a stance on the controversial issue for the first time, ABC's LIZ KREUTZ reports. "I think it is imperative that we look at the Keystone pipeline as what I believe it is- a distraction from the important work we have to do to combat climate change, and unfortunately from my perspective one that interferes with our ability to move forward to deal with all the other issues," Clinton said in Des Moines Tuesday. "Therefore I oppose it."

CARLY FIORINA SUGGESTS SHE MAKES DONALD TRUMP NERVOUS. Is Carly Fiorina's rise in the polls making Donald Trump nervous? The former Hewlett-Packard CEO and Republican presidential candidate suggested that it might have something to do with why the current GOP front-runner has been attacking her on Twitter in recent days, ABC's JORDYN PHELPS notes. "It might seem that Donald Trump is getting a little nervous, maybe I'm getting under his skin a little bit," Fiorina said when asked about Trump's personal attacks against her during a media availability in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Tuesday. Fiorina has pulled into second place behind Trump in the latest CNN/ORC poll released following the second Republican debate, soaring to 15 percent from just 3 percent earlier this month, while Trump slipped 8 percentage points from 32 percent before the debate to 24 percent after.

BEN CARSON DEFENDS MUSLIM REMARKS: 'OUR REAL PROBLEM IS OUR POLITICALLY CORRECT CULTURE'. In Ben Carson's first news conference since his controversial comments about Muslims, Carson again stood by his remarks saying the real problem is our "politically correct culture," ABC'S KATHERINE FAULDERS and MATTHEW CLAIBORNE report. "Sharia law is completely antithetical to Americanism," Carson told reporters minutes before his upcoming rally. "We need to fix America, and we need to get people to actually start listening and being capable of understanding our constitution."

CHRIS CHRISTIE ORDERS NATIONAL GUARD LEADER TO LOSE WEIGHT. Gov. Chris Christie is asking someone else to lose weight -- the leader of the New Jersey's National Guard. ABC'S ADAM DESIDERIO reports, the 2016 presidential candidate, who has struggled with his own weight problem for years, has given Air Force Brig. Gen. Michael L. Cunniff 90 days to meet the U.S. military's fitness requirements and slim down after learning he was reprimanded by the Pentagon last year for his excessive weight and for missing physical-fitness tests.

BERNIE SANDERS RALLIES STRIKING FEDERAL WORKERS IN NOD TO POPE. ABC's BENJAMIN SIEGEL and MARYALICE PARKS report, Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders received a warm welcome from federal contractors striking on Capitol Hill Tuesday, telling them at a rally before Pope Francis' arrival in the United States that they have the right to earn $15 an hour and to form a union. "As we welcome Pope Francis to the United States, I hope that every member of Congress and the president will heed his call for social and economic justice," Sanders said before calling on President Obama to sign an executive order giving federal contract workers $15 an hour.


HILLARY CLINTON MEETS THE EX-JANITOR WHO DONATED $1,000 TO CAMPAIGN. Pinching pennies paid off for the former janitor who scrimped and saved to donate $1,000 to Hillary Clinton's campaign. Marquis Boston was invited as a special guest at Clinton's fundraiser Monday night in Little Rock, Arkansas where he got a chance to meet and take a photo with the Democratic presidential candidate. Clinton posted the photo of her meeting with Boston on her Instagram account Tuesday, where she thanked him for his support,ABC's LIZ KREUTZ notes. Boston, a 34-year-old, Little Rock native, budgeted and saved up, cutting back on things like groceries and haircuts over the past year so he could make the $1,000 donation to Clinton's campaign.


@KFaulders: Riding on the @healerhauler today!Stay with me and @ABCPolitics for updates. Pictured: Me with the bus driver, Trip.

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