The Pontiff and the President

Staff Columnist

“Donald Trump and Pope Francis may be more alike than anyone  realizes.” (William McGurn, “The Pontiff and the President”   The Wall Street Journal, Thursday May 23, 2017)

I trust that you, our readers will take this one as it is offered.  I’ll continue my neutral stance on our President, while offering a neutral opinion on him, and on the Holy Father.  Don’t let that apostrophe fool you.  Always keep an open mind.

McGurn:  “The Argentine pontiff and the American president meet for the first time at the Vatican on Wednesday.  (May 24th)  In the run-up to this meeting, the press has been playing up the contrasts:  the brash billionaire who celebrates his wealth versus the humble Jesuit  who calls the unfettered pursuit of money ‘the dung of the devil’.

The irony here is that Pope Francis and President Trump are more alike than commonly supposed.  The similarity begins with how insulting both can be to folks they disagree with. In his  presidential bid, Mr. Trump turned name-calling into an art.  Jeb Bush became ‘Low Energy Jeb,’,  Marco Rubio ‘Little Marco,’ Ted Cruz  ‘Lyin Ted,’ and most notable of all, Hillary Clinton ‘Crooked Hillary’.

But the Holy Father casts a mean first stone himself.  The same man who famously said who-am-I-to judge had no problem- in the thick of a U.S. presidential election – anathematizing anyone who would even think of building a border wall as ‘not Christian’.  Scarcely a year later, just as Mr. Trump was being inaugurated, the pope was back at it, saying he didn’t like ‘to judge people prematurely’ even as he invoked Hitler as a warning about the danger of electing populist leaders.

Mr. Trump is not the only one to feel the papal sting.  Manifestly Pope Francis regards a good part of his own flock as deplorables.  There is something distinctly Trumpian about the way Pope Francis speaks about his critics.

With all this, the penchant for insults is not nearly as dispiriting as another Francis-Trump commonality that gets almost no attention:  The zero-sum mentality each brings to the debate about trade and a liberalized global economy.”

More from McGurn:  “Mr. Trump famously rails against trade deals such as NAFTA as helping Mexicans and other foreigners at the expense of  Americans.  Long before he arrived in the Oval Office, he campaigned on the idea that U.S. companies were unpatriotic if they relocated factories overseas.  In this cramped view, whether they labor in these factories on their home soil or come here to find work, Mexicans are no more than job-seekers.”

“Alas, the pope is the other side of the same materialist coin.  He treats commerce from North America as but the latest form of yanqui imperialism rather than the liberating investment ordinary Latin Americans so desperately need.  He betrays not the slightest understanding of the difference between a genuine free market – in which a little guy with a good idea can challenge the business status quo –and the crony variety that predominates in his native Argentina and much of his home continent.”

“Typical is the pope’s railing against ‘unfettered’ or unbridled’ capitalism – an abstraction that exists nowhere on this planet.  Typical too is this line from his apostolic exhortation ‘Evangelii Gaudium,’ in which he excoriates a world where  ‘it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

Now McGurn looks at the other guy:“For his part, Mr. Trump sees Mexican workers as a threat.  But the Mexican people have as much of a moral right to compete for their place in a global economy as we do – which includes competing for U.S. investment and manufacturing.  As for Mexicans coming here to work, no one likes illegality, but Mr. Trump would have a far better time addressing the problem if he could first acknowledge the reality that, at least in free societies, human beings are assets and not liabilities.”

And at the two subjects: “ Unfortunately, Mr. Trump’s low view of Latin American labor is matched by the pope’s crude and materialist understanding of North American capital and capitalism.  Never does it occur to Pope Francis that one reason that economies supposedly based on greed do better by the poor than socialist or ‘third way’ rivals is that, in a system of voluntary exchange, competition means that to succeed

Businesses must please their customers.”

So, the two men may be a bit alike.  I’d say maybe, but not in their basic thinking.  I’d say that, just maybe, each has a bit of maturing to do in his own job.  That would help, and likely will be accomplished in time.  More dialogue might help.

As the young Irish emigrants sang in the ballad:

“Those big airplanes go both ways.”


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