EDITORIAL: Meeting with pope won’t get Obama on ‘greatest leaders’ list

Francis’ popularity won’t rub off on the president

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Barack Obama is the celebrity president. Or was. When he assumed office, he got a Nobel Peace Prize and two Grammys for his trophy case, awarded for just being his wonderful self. He was a rock star without a guitar, or as they might say in Texas, “all hat and no cattle.”

So it was an awkward moment when President Obama didn’t get the customary ovation with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the conclusion of Tuesday’s joint news conference at the Nuclear Security Summit. In a crowd of hundreds, only one person began to clap, slowly as if attempting to persuade others to applaud. It was an embarrassing call-and-response with no response.

When Mr. Obama toured Europe during the 2008 presidential election campaign, he thrilled a crowd of 200,000 Berliners, who responded with thunderous applause. Six years later, as “leader” of the free world, he doesn’t even rate a mention in Fortune magazine’s roster of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.”

To try to change that, Mr. Obama met Thursday at the Vatican with Pope Francis, who earned the magazine’s No. 1 ranking. The spiritual leader of the world’s Roman Catholics “has electrified the church and attracted legions of non-Catholic admirers,” says Fortune, “by energetically setting a new direction” in the little more than a year since assuming the post.

Pope Francis rejected the trappings of his office to set an example of humility. A new poll finds that 1 in 4 Catholics say they have increased their charitable gifts to the poor, and 77 percent of these say they were inspired to do so by the pope. Fortune calls this the “Francis effect.”

As much as he may hope for some of the glitter of the papal trappings to rub off on him, it didn’t, and it won’t. Mr. Obama is addicted to pomp in every circumstance.

Days after he defeated John McCain in the 2008 election, he began exhibiting an official “Seal of the President Elect” at all of his speaking engagements — as if there was precedent for it, and in fear that someone somewhere might be unaware of his new position.

Mr. Obama took 900 courtiers with him on the journey to Europe, where he rides like a sultan in a 30-car motorcade. Americans have never much appreciated an imperial president or a White House as a palace, and it shows in the latest polls.

A new Associated Press-GfK survey finds that 59 percent of Americans disapprove of Mr. Obama as president, while just 41 percent approve of his job performance. A Fox News poll released Wednesday finds that 52 percent of respondents think the country is weaker and less powerful than it was when Mr. Obama took office.

“That’s three times the 17 percent who say the country is stronger and more powerful,” the pollsters observe.

Others have had far greater impact on the world than the Nobel laureate. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is ranked No. 2 on the Fortune list, which is made up mostly of leaders of business, finance, philanthropy, social activism and sports.

It no doubt galls Mr. Obama that Bill Clinton is ranked No. 5, the result of his post-presidency Clinton Global Initiative. Mr. Obama can commiserate with Hillary Clinton, his old nemesis, who was also conspicuously missing from the list. She has time to move up. Mr. Obama, not so much.

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