A month from now the highly popular Pope Francis will make his first visit as Pope to the US. He is expected to continue to charm believer and unbeliever alike. While in the States, Francis will address a joint session of Congress and attend a worldwide conference on the family. Having recently penned a lengthy, but persuasive and accessible, review of our abuse of the environment, Francis can be expected to challenge technological development without anticipated consequence and to challenge other forms of complacent materialism.
Whether one is in accord with the Holy Father's teaching or not, he has been an international breath of fresh air.
It's too bad the pontiff is not free to size up the current state of American politics. Too bad because it can be reasonably speculated that an honest papal evaluation would illustrate well the irrelevancy of the empty bromides and stale trickle down ideas of the past -- not to mention their ungenerous nature to our fellow sister and brother.
Freedom of thought and expression would allow him to say what he wishes to be sure, but even the outspoken, non-judgmental; Francis knows the awkwardness of dipping into local political arguments. The Pope is not a politician, and as Tocqueville once noted, to ally faith with a popular political ideology is to undermine the long-term capacity of faith as a path to salvation let alone a force for earthly good.
But even without speaking of 2016 and a campaign that is almost too unreal to be seen through virtual reality glasses, some things need to be said:
First, it is hard to put Pope Francis and Donald Trump in the same sentence for a reason. It is undeniable that both represent disaffection with the status quo. Of course, the prescriptions of the two men are opposite. Trump extols avarice as a means for enriching real Americans and against the darkly intrusive forces of government and the illegal aliens that he claims are siphoning away our citizen opportunities; by contrast, the message of Francis is greater harmony with the human environment, deeper understanding of the needs of the poor, and unyielding advocacy and action in favor of social justice.
Trump and Francis are pursuing radically different objectives, but they do have one overlapping message that makes them popular -- and that is, individuals matter. The voice and actions of each of us is essential to cure what ails us. Indeed, for Francis simply getting his faithful to be accountable for our own lives is indispensable. Trump, too, emphasizes that individuals are not powerless. Of course, Francis wants us to take up this personal responsibility to feed the poor while Trump says he wants to "build a wall to keep the hungry out."
Meanwhile, Mrs. Clinton is bogged down humoring the media's questions on the "trumped up" or at least Trump-extended misdirection about email controversies. Most everything being alleged against the former Secretary in this vastly over-stated email caper is little more than hyper-bureaucratic back-biting. Unfortunately, deeply embedded in journalistic practice is a closet form of Watergatism. J-school training used to be based on factually outlining the who, what, when, why and how of news -- that is, facts or ideas that are in some dimension "new." Editorializing was reasonably kept to op-eds. Moreover, it was understood that not every person with a notepad or standing in front of a camera should think themselves a Woodward and Bernstein.
Things have been, to say the least, slow in the newspaper world and deeply redundant among the far less substantive digital substitutes, so perhaps it is not surprising that editors allow nonstories (like Hillary's personal email needs) to dominate one news cycle after another.
Why is it a non-story? Because, of course, the Secretary had every right to have a personal email account. Today's journalist is not the hero of the Nixon cover-up, but the unwitting accomplice of the Nixon dirty tricks squad. However oppressively the Donald assumes he is authorized to treat people yearning for food and freedom, not even he would suggest depriving the Secretary of State with basic rights, including free speech and association. Think about it: the government cannot constitutionally prevent government officials -- high or low -- from keeping a personal computer to write family and friend.
Indeed, it can be reasonably argued that the Secretary was being abundantly cautious undertaking to draw a line between personal, private business like the planning of Chelsea's wedding, and public business. Those in the federal workforce have ethical obligations to do just that, and if ethics were not sufficient motivation to have business and personal addresses running simultaneously, efficiency might well be as a good many workers find the PCs they have purchased for their children to be more capable than those found in government offices.
To be sure, there is also the matter of classified emails. The law of classified information must be observed evenhandedly, but it also must be applied in the light of history which includes vast over-classification, the misuse of prosecutorial judgment by independent counsels and the reality that any misstep by an employee sending something to an errant email address surely pales against the spreading of our cable traffic across the internet for public consumption by Mr. Julian Assange. Mrs. Clinton was appropriately no defender of Mr. Assange, as she eloquently distinguished real security secrets from matters that were no more confidential than the front page of the Post.
Mrs. Clinton made those arguments of prudence even as it was not to the liking of some in the far left of the Democratic Party anxious to abandon any secrecy even in diplomatic matters where such can be necessity. One can hope that those interacting with Mrs. Clinton about State business did not send classified correspondence to the Secretary's personal email address, but if it happened, please spare us the claim that such unintended omission is the equivalent of a specific intent crime.
No, the Pope will have nothing to say on our internal politics, but his eloquent and accurate appraisal of the on-going harm of the environment, our inability to meet the needs of the very poor and an economic system that places no limit on materialism let alone the obscene misdistribution of wealth that threatens democracy at its root, should be enough to know which candidate is wasting the nation's time when we can least afford it.
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