Has Pope Francis effected something of a conversion within GOP wonkster-in-chief Paul Ryan? McKay Coppins’s story talks about how during the 2012 campaign, Ryan insisted on going to the inner city (against Team Romney’s wishes) and meeting with anti-poverty activists. One of them, a tattooed minister, prayed over him:
Secret Service agents tensed up as the group surrounded him and the man placed his hands on Ryan’s shoulders — inches away from his neck, a nervous aide noted later. The candidate made the sign of the cross, and the minister called on the power of God to give Ryan strength, and help him fulfill his divine mission. Several people present, including Ryan, became emotional.
Ryan left the meeting, gave his speech, lost the election, and returned home to Wisconsin. But several weeks later, he couldn’t stop thinking about that prayer. Speaking with a close aide, he said it was the most powerful experience he’d had during the campaign — and that he felt strongly he needed to act on it.
“This is my next ‘Roadmap,’” Ryan told the aide, referring to the name of the audacious conservative budget that had made him a star in Washington. “I want to figure out a way for conservatives to come up with solutions to poverty. I have to do this.”
The piece goes on to argue that the Ayn Rand-loving Catholic has learned some things from his Pope, not only about the substance of doctrine, but about the substance of style:
While Ryan has seized on the pope’s doctrinal teachings as he shapes his anti-poverty agenda, many Republicans who know him say he appears to have been just as influenced by Francis’s fairly radical examples of public compassion.
“I think he’s probably inspired by a lot of what [Francis] does,” said Peter Wehner, a former George W. Bush adviser who has known Ryan for years. “Politicians in general can learn a lot from Pope Francis in terms of how much tone and countenance matter in public perception. He has a huge appeal from the symbols he sends — from washing the feet of Muslim women, to kissing the heads of people with deformities.”
“The clothes he wears, the shoes he wears, where he lives,” Wehner continued. “This stuff is not unimportant in life, it’s not unimportant in faith, and it’s not unimportant in politics.”