Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul took to Twitter Thursday morning to take a swipe at President Obama and the National Security Agency (NSA), as the U.S. leader met with Pope Francis in Vatican City for the first time.
The Republican legislator's tweet comes two days after the president proposed reforms to American intelligence gathering, more specifically NSA telephone data collection. Under the proposed guidelines, the NSA would not store the metadata associated with citizens' phone calls. Instead, phone companies would be required to keep the information for 18 months, a period considerably shorter than the current five-year hold. But the real task of changing the legislation from Obama's proposal falls on congressional leaders.
Paul earlier this week said he takes some of the credit for Obama's decision to end the NSA's collection program.
"Well, you know, I don’t want to take all the credit for ending this, but I think our lawsuit had something to do with bringing the president to the table," he said during an interview Tuesday. The senator sued the NSA last month over its collection of phone records from American telecommunications companies. The extent of the program, first revealed last June, collects the date, time, duration, and telephone numbers of calls.
Obama met with Pope Francis at the Vatican early Thursday morning on the heels of his travels throughout Europe this week. They met for the first time after years of strained relations between his administration and the Catholic Church. The two leaders discussed their shared commitment to fighting poverty and growing inequality, according to a White House statement. Obama previously met with former Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 following the G8 summit in Italy.
Francis succeeded Benedict last March as the first Jesuit pontiff. He has promised to change the ways the Vatican conducts business and demonstrated an unprecedented willingness to soften the Catholic Church's take on social issues. The pope broke with his predecessors in September when he said the church "cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptives." And earlier this month he suggested openness to civil unions for people in "diverse situations of cohabitation."
Additionally, in his forward-thinking ways, the pope recently declared the religious institution must "accompany – not condemn" divorced people. His views helped him earn the title of best leader in the world by Fortune Magazine this week, thus ranking higher than world politicians, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former U.S. President Bill Clinton. TIME Magazine named him "Person of the Year" in 2013.
He also revealed he once worked as a nightclub bouncer to pay the bills.
But some Catholic Republicans claim the pope only appears progressive because of the biased, "liberal" media, according to Politico. Among the GOP leaders are former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Iowa Rep. Steve King, who said they ignore news reports and instead listen directly to the pope, according to the report. They also don't trust optimistic coverage about Obama.
The president's current popularity, however, does not come close to reaching the pope's favorability. Recent polls suggest a recent decline in approval among Americans toward the president and his current handling of issues, ranging from health care to the Ukraine crisis.