Presidential hypocrisy: How Bush lied to evangelicals to get their votes
David Kuo, a former member of Bush’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, appeared on 60 Minutes yesterday. In the interview with Lesley Stahl, Kuo said that White House staffers called evangelicals “nuts” and “goofy,” that “important Christian leader[s]” were “mocked by serious people in serious places,” that people in the White House called Pat Robertson “insane” and Jerry Falwell “ridiculous,” and that it was determined that James Dobson “had to be controlled”.
All this on top of Kuo’s completely credible assertion that President Bush was never serious about implementing his so-called “compassionate” agenda, that it was all political, that many up top bought into the politics: “This message that has been sent out to Christians for a long time now: that Jesus came primarily for a political agenda, and recently primarily a right-wing political agenda — as if this culture war is a war for God. And itâ€™s not a war for God, itâ€™s a war for politics. And thatâ€™s a huge difference.”
The White House is fighting back — in predictable fashion. It calls his new book, Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction, “ridiculous”. The ad hominem attacks have begun. That’s how Bush’s White House works. If you can’t win on the substance — and they can’t — go personal. Swiftboat them. Destroy them. Kuo is just the latest dissenter, the latest insider source, the latest target.
The hypocrisy is evident. Bush used (and clearly still uses) the religious right for political gain. He often says what it wants to hear, and he may somewhere in his heart be there himself, but his real goal has long been to benefit his corner of the oligarchy as much as possible — through tax cuts for the wealthy, industrial and environmental deregulation, the partial privatization of social security, pharma-friendly health care, and the like. His neoconservatism in foreign policy is new, post-9/11. And his so-called “compassionate conservatism” has been about turning out the vote, that is, about getting himself elected.
And yet, though I find the hypocrisy distasteful, I cannot criticize Bush for not doing enough for evangelicals. Kuo is a critic on the right, after all. For him, Bush just wasn’t politically evangelical enough. For me, a social liberal who opposes evangelism in the White House, just as I tend to oppose religion in politics generally, Bush’s White House was right not to push any sort of “compassionate” agenda. Note the distinction, though: It was right not to push the agenda, but it was not right to go about it the way it did. For this, I hope evangelicals see Bush for what he is and stay away from the polls in November. All Bush ever wanted was their votes, after all, votes that would buy access but no power.
Indeed, I am tempted for the first time in a long time to say something positive about Bush’s White House. In my view, it speaks well of it, to review, that White House staffers called evangelicals “nuts” and “goofy,” that “important Christian leader[s]” were “mocked by serious people in serious places,” that people in the White House called Pat Robertson “insane” and Jerry Falwell “ridiculous,” and that it was determined that James Dobson “had to be controlled”.
There has been so much nonsense from this White House, if I may be so euphemistic, but these ad hominem attacks, ones that Kuo himself has no doubt already been on the receiving end of, suggest that in some hypocritical and dysfunctional way there was some sense there on this matter at least.
(h/t: Crooks and Liars, which has the video.)