What does it mean to be the nation’s second Catholic president?
Playbook co-author Ryan Lizza talks with senior staff writer Ruby Cramer about how Joe Biden balances a very public role with the “private matter” of his faith at a time of deep division over abortion, and among the bishops in his own church.
Read Ruby’s piece in Politico Magazine here.
On the Texas law restricting abortions
“I think the interesting thing will be watching how [Biden] deals with this Texas bill and seeing how he follows through on what he's promised, which is a ‘all of government’ effort to combat it and to block it. And the idea that the nation's second Catholic president could oversee the death of abortion access, you know, or the the fall of Roe v. Wade … This is a remarkable moment. It’s really an interesting, complex and difficult position for him to be in.” — Ruby Cramer
On covering Biden’s church visits from the press pool
“It's a little awkward because when Joe Biden goes to mass, you're not actually going inside the church with him. What you actually do is sit on a bus on a road near the president's home, wait for the president to leave his home as you're getting security sweeps and all that stuff checked by the Secret Service.
“… And when he leaves to go to church, the press bus joins up with the motorcade, drives to the church with him, pulls up to a certain spot, a designated area. … Essentially, you watch him walk from the motorcade to the front doors of the church, you watch him go inside, then that's over. There's nothing else to see because you're not going in with him.
“… It just feels like a weirdly personal moment that you're observing through a literal fence. It has a fishbowl element that plays out so literally as to almost be ridiculous, and it's just a strange feature of this particular president that always stuck in my mind.
“I think with Biden, there's always been a presumption, this almost unspoken rule, that for him mass is so sacred and his church is so sacred that it is an incredibly private space. And I think the interesting tension … is that, yes, it's private, and that's always how Biden has treated it … and yes, communion is this sort of, for Catholics, a literal moment before God, and that's as personal as you can get. But it's also the president of the United States occupying this incredibly public role of being the nation's second Catholic president, second to John F. Kennedy.
“I mean, we've got a history in this country of that being a very fraught and important and full-of-meaning sort of role. And what does that mean to people? That's what's interesting about it, I think.” — Ruby Cramer
On the 2020 Biden campaign’s faith outreach program
“In my conversations with the people who built the faith engagement program, I would always ask them the same question, which was, ‘When you are going to work for Joe Biden — running a faith program for him — did you ever sit down and talk to him like, “Hey, buddy, how do you want to do this faith thing?”’ Because religion and politics is pretty complicated, last I checked.
“… So I always wanted to know, like, did these people ever sit down with Joe Biden and ask him what were the boundaries of what this should look like? I thought that was a good question. And basically, the impression that I got is no, no one ever did that. And I think what happened instead was they all just kind of took their cues from watching him, understanding that he was going to sort of set the tone for the way that they would make the case to people.” — Ruby Cramer
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