As I was watching President Bush and 81-year-old Pope Benedict XVI walking along together on the tarmac of Andrews Air Force Base today on television, I was immediately struck by how similar the pontiff's visit was to that of Queen Elizabeth II. It had all the pomp and circumstance of a royal visit by some monarch from a foreign nation.
If you think for a moment how Benedict's visit to the United States is being handled, you may just agree with me about this. There has only been one other time in American history when the leader of the Catholic Church has ever visited the White House. That was October 6, 1979, when Jimmy Carter hosted Pope John Paul II at the presidential mansion.
During the entire time he has been president, George Bush has never before given a visiting leader the honor of picking him/her up at the airport (not even the Queen of England). In fact, no president has ever done so at Andrews Air Force Base, the typical landing spot for modern leaders.
A crowd of up to 12,000 is due at the White House on Wednesday morning (Today: April 16, 2008) for the pope's official, pomp-filled arrival ceremony. It will feature the U.S. and Holy See anthems, a 21-gun salute, and the U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps. Both men will make remarks before their Oval Office meeting and a send-off for his popemobile down Pennsylvania Avenue.
The White House crowd will be the largest of Bush's presidency. It even beats the audience last spring for Queen Elizabeth II, which numbered about 7,000. The evening festivities will mark the first time the Bushes have put on a high-profile meal in honor of someone who isn't even a guest. Wednesday is the pontiff's 81st birthday, and the menu celebrates his German heritage with Bavarian-style food.
I just find this whole thing very "interesting" (to say the least). Does anyone believe that if this wasn't an election year the Pope would ever receive such a grand welcome?? I mean, Bush is abdolutely "pulling out all the stops", as they say. That is why I can't help but ask, "What's this all about, Georgie??" Bush isn't even Catholic!!
So, I was just curious about whether or not anybody here at Gather had formulated their own opinions about all this. What do you think it all means?? Is Bush going through all this trouble just to grab a big chunk of the "Catholic vote" for the GOP?? What's he trying to prove?? Do you think it will work, if that's really what he's trying to do?? Is the Pope "in on the whole thing" too, or is he just going along for the ride??