Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Kuo’s New Book

Here’s an article about the new book by David Kuo, the former #2 official in the office for faith-based initiatives in the White House. The book is called Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction and it alleges that White House political operatives mocked evangelicals behind their back while publicly courting them through the program that gives money to faith-based groups involved in social services. Anyone who is shocked by that is simply naive about how politics works.

You would be hard pressed to find a more cynical group than political operatives. Forget what they talk about in public and on the cable news shows, these folks are all about manipulation. Everyone is a sucker to be bribed, scared or otherwise coerced into casting the right vote. Everyone is a mark, and getting and retaining power is all that matters. There are no true believers among political operatives of either party, and no principled people either. There will always be a conflict between the true believers and the professional political strategists because the former care about an issue, while the latter only care about how an issue can help them win.

By all accounts, Kuo is a true believer. He genuinely believes that the faith-based initiative program is important and helps the country, and he was rather shocked to find out that folks like Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman only care about what he cares about to the extent that it’s an issue they can exploit for political gain. The religious right has long suspected this is the case and have made lots of occasional noise about how unappreciated they are and how Bush isn’t really on their side, but anyone with any experience in politics has long known it to be true.

The interesting thing will be watching how the White House responds to this. They can’t paint Kuo as a liberal out to score political points for the Democrats. They can’t attack him without possibly alienating those who agree with him. And they know that this book could very well cause more of their base stay home on election day rather than show up to vote. They’re in a tight spot here politically.

Meanwhile, I like the reaction from Lawrence O’Donnell on Joe Scarborough’s show, quoted by Pam Spaulding:

I think the good news here is that people working in the White House think that Pat Robertson is nuts. They should. Pat Robertson is nuts.

It would be much worse if they paid lip service to these people publicly and privately actually believed what people like Pat Robertson believe. I mean, these are people–these are millions of people in these movements who believe that every Jew is going to burn in hell forever because they have not accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior.

…Look, listen, Joe, you know that each side believes that they have interest groups coming at them who are nuts. There are Democrats who are fairly liberal who believe that there are environmental extremists who lobby them, and they pay lip service to them and they nod during the meetings, and when those people leave, they’re talked about as nuts. Same thing with these people in the White House. The good news is the White House thinks they’re nuts. That’s good news.

I’ll go along with that.

Comments

  1. #1 Ginger Yellow
    October 16, 2006

    They didn’t have any problem dismissing Dilulio when he made exactly the same criticisms, and he was in charge of the faith based initiatives.

  2. #2 Miguelito
    October 16, 2006

    There’s more in the book:

    http://msnbc.msn.com/id/15228489/

    Notable quotes:

    “More seriously, Kuo alleges that then-White House political affairs director Ken Mehlman knowingly participated in a scheme to use the office, and taxpayer funds, to mount ostensibly ‘nonpartisan’ events that were, in reality, designed with the intent of mobilizing religious voters in 20 targeted races.”

    and

    “More pointedly, Kuo quotes an unnamed member of the review panel charged with rating grant applications.

    “‘But,’ she said with a giggle, ‘When I saw one of those non-Christian groups in the set I was reviewing, I just stopped looking at them and gave them a zero … a lot of us did.'”

  3. #3 coturnix
    October 16, 2006

    That was Radical Russ on Pam’s blog, not Pam. I quoted that a couple of days ago.

  4. #4 Uber
    October 16, 2006

    I mean, these are people–these are millions of people in these movements who believe that every Jew is going to burn in hell forever because they have not accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior.

    Why stop with the Jew? Why not include every single person who thinks something different. Be they atheist, deist, etc. It’s all nutty.

  5. #5 Karl
    October 16, 2006

    But, on the other hand (I was sent this in an email. I think that it came from talk2action)

    Does the Christian right never get anything in return for its political support ?
    Beyond the issue of foreign aid covered by the Globe, tell that to gay couples in Ohio who worry about medical visitation rights, or to poor women in Texas who just lost access to cheap pap smear tests and other reproductive rights services because money that went to Planned Parenthood clinics is being shifted to “Crisis Pregnancy” centers that do not provide those services.
    Tell it to women in South Dakota who do not have the fortune to be “teenage religious virgins who get sodomized and raped and get pregnant” but just get raped and become pregnant and then can’t get abortions in the state… Tell it to people in the developing world who suddenly find a little extra “baggage” – in the form of religious proselytizing – attached to US that prevents their starvation : want food – get God ?
    Try telling that to the Christian organizations that can legally practice religious discrimination in their hiring practices and which have received billions of dollars in “Faith Based” funding since George W. Bush came into office. Or, tell it to teens in Texas suffering from STD’s in the STD boom that has followed the legal imposition “Abstinence Only” education in the state…..
    I could go on. But, is it really necessary ? Oh yes – I should mention the billions of extra dollars the Bush Administration says it disbursed through the Faith Based program. Sustained analyses such as the Boston Globe’s show that the Bush Administration, at least in the realm of foreign aid, has made a concerted effort to reroute real federal dollars from secular aid groups and towards Christian charity organizations. What’s a few hundred million or a few billion dollars per year ? Well, to start with that sort of moeny can buy an awful lot of cufflinks, pens, and pads of paper.

  6. #6 RickD
    October 16, 2006

    The good news is that Bush, Rove and Co. know that these guys are nuts. The bad news is that they are still willing to undermine the First Amendment to throw the Religious Right a bone every now and then.

    Also, even if the GOP apparatus thinks these people are nuts, it’s not completely clear that Bush himself feels the same way. Part of why Bush is so popular with the born-again crowd is because he’s legitimately born-again himself. And though Bush doesn’t himself have total control over what his administration, he is in a position of influence.

  7. #7 Matthew
    October 16, 2006

    He did an interview on one of the news magazine shows, can’t recall which, and he said that he had heard all of the prominent christian leaders be talked about as crazy by these strategists. I tried to think of a prominent christian leader who wasn’t crazy and couldn’t come up with one.

    He did come across as rather naive. He kept saying that promises were made that weren’t kept. I’m trying to think of what that could possibly be. I mean, he can’t honestly think that if he got Bush elected they were going to pass that federal marriage amendment, outlaw abortion, or anything that extreme. Posturing and status quo is what you paid for, don’t expect much more.

  8. #8 Any
    October 16, 2006

    Keith Olberman will be covering this topic on his show tonight and some say Kuo is lying. I do find it very hard to believe that Bush’s admin., who are well known to hold bible study and prayer before the work day begins, are that negative towards the Evangelicals. And lets not forget that Kuo is an Evangelical and can not be taken seriously. They are well known to cry wolf for no reason other than to get attention.

  9. #9 Matthew
    October 16, 2006

    I get that impression from him too. Not necessarily that he’s lying, just the evangelical martyr complex where anyone who falls short of their demands is out to destroy religion and everything that is good.

  10. #10 Ross
    October 16, 2006

    What about this as a hypothesis:- Everything I read over here about US politics suggests that the Republicans are going to have a bad set of elections in November.

    Assuming this is accurate then the Religious Right might release this ‘shock, horror, they don’t actually love us at all’ book, claim that the losses (However big) are due to not getting any religious vote out and then use the threat as a means to shift republican policy even further in their favour – especially as they have to choose a new candidate this time.

    They’re simply sacrificing this election in order to push a ‘real’ religious zealot as the next presidential candidate. I’ve no idea who might be put forward but I’d bet there’s a least one in the wings who can claim that he wouldn’t be a fair-weather christian but would really change the US “for the better”*

    I acknowledge a limited awareness of the real situation on the ground over there but this is what I’d be thinking if a main party pressure group came up with something like this so close to a anticipated losing election in the UK.

    Ross

    * for the record I think that all US presidents honestly believe they were changing America ‘for the better’ (although history may have judged some of them to have failed)

  11. #11 Ed Brayton
    October 16, 2006

    I think you guys are reading far too much into this book. Everything he says about Rove and Mehlman and other political operatives is absolutely consistent with everything I know about people in those positions. Do you really think Rove believes in what the religious right believes? He had a gay father and was very close to him. What he does is pander and manipulate, even to the point of pushing anti-gay policies for political gain despite his relationship with his father. That’s what political operatives do, and ethics or consistency simply don’t enter in to the equation. I have no doubt that Rove really does think of them as nuts, easy to manipulate nuts who can be thrown a bit of red meat once in a while and whipped up into a lather over this or that hyper emotional issue. That he is also correct is another matter.

  12. #12 Prup aka Jim Benton
    October 16, 2006

    I agree, Ed. I saw Kuo on SIXTY MINUTES and my reaction was this was an extremely nice guy, and almost patently honest. (He’s got an inoperable brain tumor, so he has — from his viewpoint — every reason to ‘get straight with his God. And he even said that Rove would start spreading the rumor that this guy’s tumor is messing up his mind.) Some people use religion as an excuse to be evil, others use it as an excuse to be good. Kuo strikes me as one of the latter. I may think his religion, like any, is delusional, but he seems to really care about the poor. If he blames Jesus for this caring, so what.

    However, one real ticking bomb hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves. If ‘faith-based’ funding is possibly constitutional, it has to be carried out in a non-discriminatory fashion, yet Kuo reports (according to KO) that people would customarily reject requests from non-Christian groups.

  13. #13 Keanus
    October 16, 2006

    I’ve long doubted Bush’s public religiosity. His background, upbringing and public behavior (when he thinks the public isn’t looking) completely contradict that image that he uses to drum up political support. I suspect that he’s basically a con man, like the worst low lifes of the selling profession, who wants everyone to love him and buy his product. I’ve also long seen Rove as Brayton’s “political operative” who will do anything short of a flagrant felony (and even that if the circumstances warrant it and he thinks he won’t get caught). The same holds true for the minions under Rove’s direction. If any were to manifest the slightest ethical qualms about an operation, Rove would quickly dismiss them. Like most politicians they’re all about power and not policy. Policy is merely an end to power (and that means money too).

  14. #14 Bob C
    October 16, 2006

    Re Keanus:

    Brayton for president!

  15. #15 Pieter B
    October 17, 2006

    The interesting thing will be watching how the White House responds to this. They can’t paint Kuo as a liberal out to score political points for the Democrats. They can’t attack him without possibly alienating those who agree with him.

    The White House is so far keeping mum aside from denials of the book’s assertions by Tony McSnowjob, but Kuo was being trashed as a liberal, a traitor, a disgruntled former employee and “just another former insider out to sell a book” most of last week by those who do the administration’s dirty work on the ‘Net.

    David Kuo: An Addition to the Axis of Evil
    SCOTTSDALE, Az., Oct. 16 /Christian Newswire/ — Jason T. Christy, Publisher of The Church Report magazine, says David Kuo’s new book is “nothing more than the ramblings of a disgruntled former employee looking to sell a few books.” Christy went on to say that Kuo is “simply a wolf in sheep’s clothing having done campaign work for Democrats and written for liberal web sites.”

  16. #16 Ginger Yellow
    October 17, 2006

    You’d think that the hacks would wonder why the faith based initiative has so many disgruntled former employees (senior Bush appointed officials) in the first place. But if they did that they wouldn’t be hacks.

  17. #17 Andrew McClure
    October 17, 2006

    Ginger Yellow, it’s not just the faith based initiative. Somehow it seems like darn near the entire Bush Administration seems to have just been packed with disgruntled liberals looking to write books. I wonder how on earth something like that happens.

  18. #18 Michael Suttkus, II
    October 17, 2006

    Somehow it seems like darn near the entire Bush Administration seems to have just been packed with disgruntled liberals looking to write books. I wonder how on earth something like that happens.

    LOL!

    Man, I hate it when that happens.

    Well, I can tell you, I’m glad for Kuo’s book. I’m just thrilled that my party turned out to be utter hypocrites. After all, the alternative was that they didn’t realize Pat Robertson was nuts, Jerry Falwell a raving loon, and James Dobson a bully (reference to Dick Armey’s comments).

    My big hope now is that the lunatic fringe will pull out of the party, found their own party, back Buchannon for President, and let the old-school Republicans get back to control of the party.

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