More Smart Diplomacy?

The Catholic News Agency reports that on her recent trip to Mexico, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. She left flowers on behalf of the American people.

The Basilica is the second most visited Catholic shrine in the world, and the Lady of Guadalupe is one of the principal symbols of the Mexican nation. The Basilica houses a cloak that belonged to a 16th-century Indian, on which an image of the Virgin Mary miraculously appeared. In the intervening years, no scientific explanation of the image has been forthcoming. Among Catholics (and many others), this is one of the most famous of all miracles. This is the image on the cloak:

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You can watch video of Clinton being shown the cloak here.

The Catholic News Agency says that after viewing the cloak, Clinton turned to the priest who was showing her the Basilica and asked, “Who painted it?”

This is one of those stories that seem like it can’t possibly be true. Could America’s Secretary of State really be ignorant of a central cultural symbol of a country next door? It is as though a foreign minister came to Washington, was shown Stuart’s portrait of George Washington, and asked, “Who was he?” It is hard to imagine how Clinton’s staff could have prepared her for her visit without making sure she knew the story. So for now, I’m reserving judgment. It will be interesting to see whether CNS’s story is confirmed and whether the State Department has any comment.

UPDATE: Today’s comic relief: inveterate goofball Andrew Sullivan described this post as “pouncing” on Clinton on the same day when he claimed that Dick Cheney loves to torture people for no reason, just like a hit man for a Mexican drug gang. Sometimes, Andrew, a little self-knowledge is a good thing. Your friends won’t always tell you when you’ve gone completely nuts.

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