Cashing in on the Pope's funeral?

This week marks an unprecedented display of ceremony by President Bush and other U.S. politicians in Rome. Good faith, or good politics?

Published April 7, 2005 7:41PM (EDT)

Good faith, or good politics? Susan Milligan writes in today's Boston Globe: "President Bush, two former presidents, and dozens of prominent members of Congress are descending on Rome this week unified behind a single message: Pope John Paul II was a great man.

"Democrats and Republicans alike are eager to claim John Paul's legacy as their own, appealing to a divided Catholic constituency that can swing elections."

That includes Sen. John Kerry, even though he's currently hobbling around Rome on crutches, and although his occasional appeals to pious voters didn't seem to get him too far last fall.

Meanwhile, President Bush is making "an unprecedented effort to honor John Paul's memory," says Milligan, "becoming the first sitting president ever to attend a papal funeral, and hosting a reception for U.S. bishops while he is in Rome."

The torchbearer of so-called compassionate conservatism is also the first president to lower the American flag to half-staff to mark a pope's death.

By Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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