The first questioner asks 3 questions, which I'm paraphrasing: 1. Did they talk about the Obamacare and the requirement of birth control coverage? 2. Did they talk about gay rights? and 3. Did they talk about Putin?
Obama utters about 500 nonresponsive words: He says that they spent most of the time talking about income inequality and world peace, that "the theme that stitched our conversation... was... empathy," and that he explained American immigration reform to the Pope who Obama thinks must be "very mindful of the plight of so many immigrants" because the Pope "came from Latin America."
Finally, Obama gets to question 1 and says he didn't talk about it "in detail" with the Pope, which means that they did talk about it, but he's not saying what was said. Probably something Catholic from the Pope, I'm guessing, since the Pope is Catholic and as such he's likely to be very mindful of the plight of so many unborn children. Obama quickly shifts to the conversation he had with the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Parolin, who seems to have wanted to be "sure that conscience and religious freedom was observed in the context of applying" the Affordable Care Act. Here, again, we learn what Obama explained to his interlocutor, not how he might have been schooled on Catholic doctrine. What he explained was that "most religious organizations are entirely exempt," and "Religiously affiliated hospitals or universities or NGOs simply have to attest that they have a religious objection," which is to say, he seems to have explained the U.S. government's position in the Hobby Lobby case, which is that exemptions should not go to for-profit corporations.
Obama fails to mention gay rights or Putin (questions 2 and 3) before proceeding to the next questioner, who takes the opportunity to follow up by asking: "Do you think some of the schisms that [the first questioner] referenced on social issues would stand in the way of you and Pope Francis collaborating or forming a strategic alliance to tackle income inequality?"
That seemed like a softball to me. There's an easy answer: No. But Obama is prickled: "[M]aybe it wasn’t clear from my answer to Jim -- that we actually didn’t talk a whole lot about social schisms in my conversations with His Holiness."
Maybe it wasn't clear! Like the reporter is dumb for not accepting Obama's unresponsive verbiage to mean that he and the Pope got along just fine. That word "schisms" seems to have hurt, and Obama doesn't deny that the Pope talked about "social schisms." They just didn't talk "a whole lot," which, of course, means that they did talk about it, possibly a lot. Just not a whole lot. Obama seems to catch his implicit concession and restates it:
In fact, that really was not a topic of conversation.So it was not a topic... not really... not really a topic.... That drips with lawyer sauce. They talked about it, but as a subtopic or perhaps as a theme — perhaps as much of a theme as empathy, which stitched their conversation. ("Stitched," like "empathy," is a dog-whistle to women, you realize, don't you?)
Obama then runs out the clock with 337 unresponsive words — I counted — including "envisions," "elevated," "profane," "higher powers,""potential convergence," "shining," :the teachings of Jesus Christ and other religions," and "care deeply."
Pablum. Papacy pablum.