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Last Updated: Friday, 4 June, 2004, 20:24 GMT 21:24 UK
Is Bush seeking the Pope vote?

By Clive Myrie
BBC Washington correspondent

The BBC's Washington correspondent Clive Myrie is accompanying President Bush on his three-day European tour. He gives BBC News Online some of his reflections on the trip.

George W Bush met with the Pope on Friday at the Vatican.

George W Bush presents the Pope with the American Medal of Freedom
Meeting of minds, or election ploy?
It is the third time since becoming president he has been granted an audience by the leader of world Catholicism.

So, in effect, they've chatted with each other face to face once a year.

It's turning into a regular thing, with the president rearranging his schedule on this European trip to meet with Pope John Paul II.

Ah, I said to myself, it all makes sense. Mr Bush is a proud, born-again Christian, who, if Bob Woodward's book Plan of Attack is anything to go by, is a man who believes it is God's will that America spreads democracy across the globe.

Then the cynic in me took over. Hang on a second Clive, this is an election year...
He is a pious man, whose views on abortion, homosexuality and the importance of family in society are fully in tune with the views of his Holiness.

There is a meeting of minds, I thought. It makes sense for the president to seek out the Pope, a man of immense moral authority, whenever he possibly can.

But then the cynic in me took over.

Hang on a second Clive, this is an election year, and the Catholic vote is something the Bush administration covets.

A number of key swing states across America have sizeable Catholic populations.

Mr Bush is in a fight for the White House with a Catholic, John Kerry, and what a great way to pull the rug from under the feet of the senator from Massachusetts than by presenting America's highest civilian honour to the Pope just five months before election day.

That's exactly what President Bush did, bestowing on Pope John Paul the presidential Medal of Freedom.

I suppose being a journalist I'm paid to be cynical, but it's at times like these I'd rather let naivety take over.

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04 Jun 04 |  Europe


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