Saturday’s Washington Post is topped by a photo of Barack and Michelle Obama with Pope Benedict, but the image might be misleading, if you think there’s an actual story on the Vatican visit in the Post. Instead, the visit is buried in the last two paragraphs in an article praising Obama’s personal and racial charisma in Italy. Post reporter Michael Fletcher found great import in the color of the president’s skin and his father’s history:
White House aides said that during the discussions on hunger this week, Obama personalized the appeal for more aid, pointing out to other world leaders in the room that he still has relatives in Kenya who live in villages mired in poverty.
"You could have heard a pin drop," said a U.S. official who briefed reporters about the meeting.
Obama said after the summit that he had talked about his father's journey from Kenya to the United States in search of better educational opportunities. At that time, he said, the per-capita incomes in Kenya and South Korea were comparable. South Korea has since become highly industrialized and prosperous, he said; Kenya and many other developing nations still struggle.
"The question I asked at the meeting was, 'Why is that?' " Obama said. "The point I was making is: My father traveled to the United States a mere 50 years ago, and yet now I have family members who live in villages -- they themselves are not going hungry -- but live in villages where hunger is real. And so this is something that I understand in very personal terms."
The Post's smoochy account didn't explain how Obama's Aunt Zeituni, an illegal immigrant from Africa, lives in Boston public housing. Isn't that Obama inaction "in very personal terms"? How many of his own book-royalty millions has he pledged to feed his relatives in Africa?
Fletcher’s story never answered Obama’s question of why Kenya has struggled. It seemed merely designed to showcase Obama’s charisma. The headline of the story was "G-8 Countries Pledge Food Aid for the Poor," that G-8 countries pledged to raise $20 billion for food aid for the world’s poorest countries. (It’s not clear if this is a big headline or press-release blather, since the figure was "up from a $15 billion pledge that Obama secured in the spring during a meeting with world leaders.") Fletcher helpfully cited the White House claims that rising food costs have left "as many as 100 million people at risk of abject poverty."
Obama’s Vatican visit was disposed of in paragraphs 19 and 20, in 67 words. They weren’t about the Pope's latest encyclical or Obama’s liberal stands on abortion and embryo-destroying stem cell research, but about Ted Kennedy:
At the summit's conclusion, Obama went to Vatican City, where he, first lady Michelle Obama and their two daughters had an audience with Pope Benedict XVI.
Afterward, Obama gave the pope a letter from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and asked the pontiff to pray for him, White House national security aide Denis McDonough said. Kennedy, a Catholic, was diagnosed a year ago with terminal brain cancer.