Friday, October 13, 2006

Book reveals White House contempt for religious right

By Mark Tran / Midterms 2006/ USA 05:20pm

With the Republicans on Capitol Hill on the defensive over the scandal involving former congressman Mark Foley, they could have done without a new book called Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction.

Set to go on sale on Monday, the book by a former White House official says George Bush's top political advisors privately ridiculed evangelical supporters as "nuts" and "goofy" while buttering them up in public. Even though the book appears in the shops, MSNBC has ensured that it will make waves.

David Kuo, who was a deputy director of the White House office of faith-based and community initiatives in Mr Bush's first term, writes:

"Sadly, the political affairs folks complained most often and most loudly about how boorish many politically involved Christians were.... National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as 'ridiculous' and 'out of control.' ''

The LA Times reports that Republican strategists have been rattled by Mr Kuo's book, appearing just weeks before the midterm elections.

Mr Kuo has written about his disappointment with the White House's faith-based initiatives to help the poor before - part of the president's "compassionate conservatism" approach. In a column for Beliefnet, a website for Christians, last year, he bemoaned the lack of progress in channelling money to faith-based groups to help drug addicts and teenage mothers.

He blamed "snoring indifference" among Republicans and "knee-jerk" opposition among Democrats. But Mr Kuo's barbs appear to have grown sharper since then, particularly where the White House - if not Mr Bush himself - is concerned. Mr Kuo contends that the White House office of faith-based initiatives, promoted as a non-political effort, was used to mobilise religious voters who would most likely favour Republican candidates.

It is difficult to tell whether the book will have any real impact on the Republican party's base - the religious right. Religious conservatives have been none too pleased by the Foley scandal and now they are being told that they were treated like fools. Bloggers have seized on a purported quote from Karl Rove, Mr Bush's political strategist, in the book.

When asked by a White House official how the faith-based initiative could be rolled out without an office or any staff, Mr Rove said: "I don't know. Just get me a fucking faith-based thing. Got it?"

One pollster, Rasmussen Reports, has reported no erosion of support for the Republicans from evangelical Christians from the Foley scandal. Could this be the straw that breaks the camel's back?


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