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Pope Francis Creates Strange Bedfellows Among Presidential Candidates

Thousands of people begin to line the parade route that Pope Francis will follow along the National Mall September 23, 2015 in Washington, DC (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)(WASHINGTON) — Congressional leaders have warned their flock about slowing down Pope Francis when he addresses them in Washington this week — no fist bumps or selfies, please — but that hasn’t prevented campaigners of all stripes from attempting to use the historic visit for their own political gain.

Presidential contenders on both sides of the aisle have for days been criticizing and lauding the pope on his views on climate change, foreign affairs and economic justice, among others. Francis’ views have created strange bedfellows: His image as a progressive pontiff — he speaks out often against capitalism and in support of immigrants — mixes incongruously, at least in U.S. terms, with his staunch conservatism on social issues like abortion and contraception.

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio, the senator from Florida who is a Catholic, disagrees with the pope on pushing the U.S. and Cuba together. But on ABC News’ This Week Sunday, he drew a distinction between doctrinal and theological matters, on which he said he agreed with Francis “100 percent,” and the Pope’s political opinions, which he said “we are free to disagree with.”

Several Republican candidates have taken issue with an encyclical the pope released in June calling global warming largely manmade, a view that bucks a popular belief in the party that minimizes humans’ role in climate change. Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., said then Francis should leave “science to the scientists.”

Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said Tuesday he hoped the pope isn’t “overly critical of our country or the systems that made us the richest country in the world and also the most humanitarian.”

Pope Francis does not fit onto the left-right spectrum of U.S. politics, analysts said. Instead, they said, he tries to rise above the fray with a message that brings the Roman Catholic Church’s teachings to those it has not traditionally reached.

“The Pope is not coming to play booster to one side or another in political debates,” Stephen White, a fellow in the Catholic Studies Program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a Washington think tank, told ABC News. “He’s coming as a pastor … meeting his large American flock.”

But in a presidential race with a large field of candidates striving to differentiate themselves from one another, some vied to make their mark ahead of the pope’s six-day, three-city visit to the United States, which began Tuesday.

After a report last week that the Vatican was concerned about transgender activists, a gay bishop and an activist nun invited to a White House ceremony with the pope Wednesday, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Republican presidential candidate, accused President Obama of creating a potentially “embarrassing” situation and trying to lecture the pope.

In defending the pope, Huckabee has found himself on the same side as Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent and Democratic presidential candidate typically opposed to the …read more […]

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Fiorina Suggests She Makes Donald Trump Nervous

FREDERIC J BROWN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Is Carly Fiorina’s rise in the polls making Donald Trump nervous?

The former Hewlett-Packard CEO and Republican presidential candidate suggested that it might have something to do with why the current GOP front-runner has been attacking her on Twitter in recent days.

“It might seem that Donald Trump is getting a little nervous, maybe I’m getting under his skin a little bit,” Fiorina said when asked about Trump’s personal attacks against her during a media availability in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Tuesday.

Fiorina has pulled into second place behind Trump in the latest CNN/ORC poll released following the second Republican debate, soaring to 15 percent from just three percent earlier this month, while Trump slipped eight percentage points from 32 percent before the debate to 24 percent after.

On Monday, Trump took aim at Fiorina on Twitter, describing her business record as “horrible” and “terrible” and saying that she is “the last thing our country needs.”

Fiorina’s campaign has sought to capitalize on the Twitter wars with Trump, with Deputy Campaign Manager Sarah Isgur Flores emailing reporters on Tuesday with thoughts on the topic.

“We get the point, Mr. Trump. You’re worried. You should be. You’ll be seeing a lot more of that face,” Isgur Flores said in the email.

But the criticisms of Fiorina’s record at Hewlett Packard have not been contained to just Trump. The media has also raised questions about her record at the company, where she oversaw 30,000 layoffs prior to her eventual firing, and regularly asks Fiorina about her record and whether it is a distraction to her candidacy.

For her part, Fiorina says she welcomes the questions on her record – and also that of Trump’s.

“I am happy to run on the facts of my record and Mr. Trump is going to have to run on the facts of his record,” Fiorina told reporters Tuesday. “As I said during the debate all of us will be revealed over time and under pressure. And I think that’s fair for voters to see.”

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Where President Obama & Pope Francis See Eye to Eye (And Where They Don’t)

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Obama has found an ally in Pope Francis on some of the most important political issues of his presidency, but there are also areas where the leaders of the United States and the Catholic Church will likely never see eye to eye.

The White House says the president and the pope’s meeting in the Oval Office Wednesday won’t focus on politics, but instead will be about their shared values.

“I would not expect a robust discussion of a political agenda, but rather, I think it’s an opportunity for the two men to talk about the values that they have in common, and there are many,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.

“I’m confident that there are areas where they may not see things the same way,” Earnest added. ”The president, even if he doesn’t agree with him in every respect…certainly does hold the pope and his views in high regard.”

Here’s a look at a few issues where the president and Pope Francis align and other areas where they are at odds in their beliefs.

CLIMATE CHANGE

In June, Pope Francis released an encyclical which urged the world to take action on climate change, which he said is mostly man-made.

“Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods,” he wrote. “It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”

The president praised the pope’s encyclical, saying he “deeply” admired “the Pope’s decision to make the case – clearly, powerfully, and with the full moral authority of his position – for action on global climate change.”

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

That same month, President Obama hailed the Supreme Court’s ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, calling it a “victory for America.”

While this was a significant change in the U.S., Pope Francis and the Catholic Church still disapprove of marriage between same-sex couples. But Pope Francis has also struck a more accepting tone on homosexuality than his predecessors.

“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” the pope said in 2013.

CUBA

Pope Francis and President Obama are on the same page when it comes to Cuba. In fact, Pope Francis was the most important player in the White House’s efforts to normalize relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

In 2014, the pope wrote secret letters urging President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro to restore ties between their two countries and advocated for the release of Alan Gross, the U.S. citizen held in Cuba for five years until his release in 2014.

“I want to thank His Holiness Pope Francis, whose moral example shows us the importance of pursuing the world as it should be, rather than simply settling for the world as it is,” President Obama said last year as he announced the U.S. and Cuba would normalize relations.

ABORTION

President Obama and Pope Francis will likely never see eye to eye when it comes to abortion. The president has adamantly advocated for a woman’s right to …read more […]

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Hillary Clinton Meets the Ex-Janitor Who Donated $1,000 to Campaign

Earl Gibson III/Getty Images(LITTLE ROCK, Ark.) — Pinching pennies paid off for the former janitor who scrimped and saved to donate $1,000 to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Marquis Boston was invited as a special guest at Clinton’s fundraiser Monday night in Little Rock, Arkansas where he got a chance to meet and take a photo with the Democratic presidential candidate.

Clinton posted the photo of her meeting with Boston on her Instagram account Tuesday, where she thanked him for his support.

As ABC News first reported, Boston, a 34-year-old, Little Rock native, budgeted and saved up, cutting back on things like groceries and haircuts over the past year so he could make the $1,000 donation to Clinton’s campaign.

“I just had to kind of think of a way to make it happen, and so I just said, ‘Well I need to just start budgeting,’” the former janitor, who now works a day job as a collections agent and a night job as a switchboard operator, said in an interview with ABC News in July.

After reading his story, Clinton invited Boston to her fundraiser on Monday.

(He was so excited about it that he drove by the house where the fundraiser was being held the day before the event just to make sure he knew how to get there.)

Following the fundraiser, Boston told ABC News about the moment he met Clinton, who, he said, recognized him immediately.

“I went to shake her hand and started to say ‘Secretary Clinton’ and she just yelled out ‘Marquis!’ he said.

Clinton then thanked Boston for his donation and told him how his story made her “smile.”

“I told her that when things get hard on the campaign trail, she should always think about that story to remind her that there are people out there supporting her and cheering for her,” Boston said.

Boston brought with him an old TIME magazine that Clinton was on the cover of, which she signed for him.

He left the fundraiser — which was held at the home of Kaki Hockersmith, the woman who redecorated the Oval Office for the Clintons while they were in the White House — before her remarks because he had to get to work.

But even with his night shift at the Little Rock Marriott ahead of him, Boston was over the moon.

“Oh my god,” he told ABC News that night about the meeting. “It was amazing.”

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Why Pope Francis Will Have No Time For Fist-Bumps on Capitol Hill

Buda Mendes/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Pope Francis is set to spend little more than an hour on Capitol Hill Thursday -– and congressional leaders want to make the most of that limited time.

That means no congressional fist-bumps.

Leadership and the organizers behind the pope’s visit are employing a number of strategies to keep His Holiness on schedule, and have the well-orchestrated event that has been months in the making go off without a hitch.

They’ve asked members to refrain “from handshakes and conversation along and down the center aisle” of the House floor during the announced arrivals of the pope, the Supreme Court and other officials, according to a letter sent to offices last week.

Pope Francis will meet with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who has long sought a papal address to Congress, and spend a few minutes with other House and Senate leaders.

“I’m really happy to have the pope come and visit us,” he said last week. “It’s going to be one of the biggest events in the history of the Capitol, and members on both sides of the aisle and both sides of the Capitol are looking forward to it.”

Any delays from members could derail the pope’s tight schedule –- he’ll next head to St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and Catholic Charities, before leaving Washington, DC for New York City later in the day.

A holdup could also rush his planned appearance on the West Front of the Capitol, where more than 40,000 people will be waiting to hear him speak briefly from the Speaker’s Balcony before departing Capitol Hill.

To that end, members won’t be allowed to leave the chamber until the pope leaves the Capitol.
Leadership has also selected members to sit along the center aisle of the House chamber to “create a physical zone of restraint” between members and the pope, according to Roll Call.

A Democratic leadership aide tells ABC News that certain Members have been selected to fill the aisle seats – which are usually open to the rank-and-file for large addresses and State of the Union speeches.

Rep. Eliot Engel, D-New York, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs committee known for his prowess at wrangling aisle seats to State of the Union addresses, says members should focus on the historic nature of the pope’s visit — not their proximity to His Holiness.

“I intend to go and sit in whatever seat is available,” said Engel. “It’s important to listen to him and hear what he has to say.”

Engel has already greeted a pope: As a newly-elected member visiting Italy in 1989, he attended mass at the Vatican. He still remembers shaking hands will Pope John Paul II – and the pope saying “God Bless America.”

“You remember it, it’s not someone you meet every day,” he said of meeting the pope. “Certain people stand out in history, and I suspect this will be the same thing.”

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Hillary Clinton Says She Opposes Keystone XL Pipeline

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Hillary Clinton has come out against the Keystone XL pipeline — taking a stance on the controversial issue for the first time.

“I think that it is imperative that we look at the Keystone pipeline as what I believe it is – a distraction from the important work we have to do to combat climate change,” Clinton said in Des Moines today. “Therefore I oppose it.”

This is a developing story…

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Democratic Senator Urges White House to do More on Syria

Ozge Elif Kizil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Obama’s own party is directing more criticism at him over his handling of the crisis in Syria and neighboring countries.

Democratic Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania penned a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging the administration to step up efforts to oust Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, increase humanitarian assistance in neighboring countries and boost the protection of Syrian citizens still inside the country.

Casey joins a growing chorus of Democratic lawmakers who say the administration is not treating the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East with the urgency the situation requires.

“I believe the United States should make the protection of Syrian civilians from war crimes and crimes against humanity a higher priority,” Casey wrote.

Casey, a former chairman of the Senate’s subcommittee on the Middle East, expressed concern that Russia is entrenching itself in Syria, saying that country is increasing its support to the Assad regime under the guise of fighting ISIS.

So far, the administration has said it is also worried about Russia’s escalation there, but its message to Russia has been ambivalent.

“There’s an opportunity for the Russians, if they would like, to constructively contribute to the anti-ISIL coalition… we’d welcome their participation in that regard. But thus far, it’s unclear exactly what Russia’s intentions are,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a briefing Monday.

Casey also said the U.S. should encourage neighboring countries that have taken in millions of refugees, like Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, to allow legally registered refugees to take jobs that would not adversely affect local economies.

A recent report by the International Labor Organization noted that Syrian refugees in those countries struggle to make the same wages and earn the same benefits as citizens there.

Casey also said the United States, in its position as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, should do more to hold Syria accountable for its violation of measures that forbade the use of weapons like barrel bombs in populated areas.

The humanitarian crisis in Syria and Iraq has become a rallying cry for many Democrats, who say the White House could be doing more to help.

Six senators recently called for the administration to increase assistance to displaced Iraqis, and many have also said the U.S. should accept more of the region’s refugees within its own borders.

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Bernie Sanders Rallies Striking Federal Workers in Nod to Pope

Scott Eisen/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders received a warm welcome from federal contractors striking on Capitol Hill today, telling them at a rally before Pope Francis’ arrival in the United States that they have the right to earn $15 an hour and to form a union.

“As we welcome Pope Francis to the United States, I hope that every member of Congress and the president will heed his call for social and economic justice,” Sanders said before calling on President Obama to sign an executive order giving federal contract workers $15 an hour.

Sanders spoke highly of the pope after his speech.

“I think he is one of the great moral forces on this earth today and when he speaks out about the injustice of income and wealth inequality … I think it will have a significant impact,” Sanders told ABC News.

Hundreds of federal contract workers from the U.S. Senate, the Pentagon and the Department of Education are on strike Tuesday to protest for higher wages and the right to form a union, with the pope scheduled to arrival in Washington Tuesday afternoon. Security concerns prevented organizers from staging any protests Thursday, when Pope Francis will address Congress on Capitol Hill.

“That’s why we are doing it today, because the pope is coming,” union organizer Jaime Molina said. “We want to call him and let him know that the workers need his support and ask him to pray for the poor.”
Several contract workers spoke — in English and Spanish — about the experience of serving senators while struggling to make ends meet.

“We wear one uniform inside and we leave wearing a different uniform, said Sontia Bailey, who works in Senate food services. “Working in the Capitol is not peaches and cream.”

Bailey said she works 70 hours a week with two jobs, and said a recent miscarriage was attributed to her workload.

The day of activity follows a letter 40 Senate workers wrote to the pope earlier this month, requesting an audience with His Holiness.

While they did not get a response from the Vatican, the workers hope the pope will touch on income inequality in his speech.

“I think he’s spiritually aware of us,” said Charles Gladden, the formerly homeless Senate worker profiled in The Washington Post.

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White House: Vatican’s Angst over Guest List Won’t Sour Pope’s Visit

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — President Obama’s senior advisor Valerie Jarrett says that negative publicity surrounding the Vatican’s unease with some of the guests expected at a White House welcoming ceremony has not soured the excitement of Pope Francis’ first visit to the United States.

“Oh my goodness, no,” Jarrett told ABC News when asked whether the reports of the Vatican’s restlessness has taken away from the pope’s historic trip. “There’s so much excitement. I think the crowd reflects the diversity of our country. Everyone who is coming is excited about the opportunity to be in his presence, and so I think that this visit means a great deal to America.”

The Vatican last week expressed discomfort over some of the guests who are expected in attendance — reportedly concerned by the optics that could be created if the pope is photographed with transgender activists, the first openly gay U.S. Episcopal bishop or a nun who will be on the South Lawn for the ceremony Wednesday morning.

She stressed that the president and pope’s mutual interest in climate change, income inequality, justice and improving relations with Cuba will be “front and center” during their time together this week.

“There are many issues that the president shares in common with the pope and he looks forward to welcoming [him] here for his very first visit to the United States today, and having an impressive 15,000 group reception for him tomorrow,” she said. “It’s one of the things that the president reflected on after his last visit is how easy their conversations were and they have great chemistry.”

The high-profile event bumps up on the calendar against the Chinese president’s state visit on Friday, and comes days before the president travels to New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

Jarrett admits that the administration has “a lot going on” but says “everybody’s working cooperatively together” — especially the president’s fourth social secretary in six and a half years, Deesha Dyer.

“She’s a rock star! Let me tell you she’s been planning all of these events for a very long time, both the Pope visit, the state visit with China, as well as the UN — all of those fall under her portfolio,” Jarrett said. “She probably has not slept in weeks. She’ll probably be spending the night here tonight and she’s just been performing terrifically.”

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Ben Carson Defends Muslim Remarks: ‘Our Real Problem Is Our Politically Correct Culture’

Sean Rayford/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — In Ben Carson’s first news conference since his controversial comments about Muslims, Carson again stood by his remarks saying the real problem is our “politically correct culture.”

“Sharia law is completely antithetical to Americanism,” Carson told reporters minutes before his upcoming rally. “We need to fix America, and we need to get people to actually start listening and being capable of understanding our Constitution.”

Carson said he has heard from a lot of Muslim-Americans, some of whom he claims he has worked with, trained and operated on who agree with his stance.

“They say we know you and what you’re saying,” Carson said at the presser.

After coming under fire from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who has demanded that Carson drop out of the race, Carson said that he is open to a discussion with the group.

“A lot of the problem is that people get in their respective corners. It’s not helpful to have gladiator fights,” said Carson.

Carson also took time to address Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s announcement that he is suspending his presidential campaign.

“For some reason it just was not catching on,” Carson said. “And maybe it’s just not the right time, but I have nothing but admiration for him.”

ABC’s Tom Llamas asked Carson at the presser, “Was Walker trying to send you a message by asking for candidates to drop out?”

Carson responded, “No, he wasn’t trying to send me a message to drop out. When he said the current front runner it was clear what he was saying.”

Carson concluded his remarks by reiterating his stance on who should be allowed to hold the nation’s highest office.

“Anyone who is running for president should embrace the Constitution and should place it above their personal beliefs,” he remarked. “Anyone who can’t do that should not be running for the presidency.”

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