In the book, Kuo, who quit the White House in 2003, accuses Karl Rove’s political staff of cynically hijacking the faith-based initiatives idea for electoral gain. It assails Bush for failing to live up to his promises of boosting the role of religious organizations in delivering social services.
White House strategists “knew ‘the nuts’ were politically invaluable, but that was the extent of their usefulness,” Kuo writes, according to the cable channel MSNBC, which obtained an advance copy.
“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.’ ”
It is unclear whether Kuo identifies any specific official as having used the dismissive language.
The book says that before the 2002 elections, then-White House political director Ken Mehlman issued “marching orders” to use the faith-based initiative in 20 House and Senate races, according to MSNBC. To avoid appearing overtly political, Mehlman said his staff would arrange for congressional offices to request visits from the faith-based program officials.
Throughout the 2002 and 2004 campaigns, faith-based officials would meet with lawmakers in some places in an effort to generate publicity for them, while also hosting conferences in battleground states attracting hundreds of pastors and community activists eager to learn how to apply for federal grants.
The response in the blogosphere and in political circles has been almost nonexistent, and I attribute this to one simple fact- Kuo’s assertions are so obviously true that they can not be denied. No cheap character assassination campaigns have been launched because they will fail miserably- Kuo has the goods on this White House and the so-called religious leaders, and they don’t have the balls to attack him. To do so would be even more disastrous than to sit by and do nothing (and, as commenters point out, not attacking Kuo and hoping this issue just goes away may be the smart tactical manuever). Sure, there have been tepid refutations from the White House, but compare the reactions to this book as opposed to the reactions to Paul O’Neil’s ‘defection.’
In a compelling post yesterday, Digby brings up a few relevant points:
Rove and these other strategists knew the religious right were “new voters” which is the political promised land. Everybody dreams of dragging some of the unaffiliated, apathetic uninvolved into the political arena. Getting an entire block of voters who will vote according to what they are told by an authoritarian organization is a miracle. Hallalujah.
With the business marketing savvy of the big money boys of the GOP they were quite successful in the last decade or so at convincing the media and many of the public that the Republican party actually is more moral and more sincerely religious than the Democrats. However, the events of the last year have begun to unravel that carefully constructed image.***
This sounds as though the GOP thinks that conservative Christian leaders are dupes, but I doubt that is literally true. I think they understand each other quite well and have plenty of respect for their different roles in the power structure. It’s obvious to me that both the Republicans and the leaders of the Religious Right are contemptuous of rank and file conservative Christians, not each other.***
The glue that holds it together is the business of evangelism. Those followers who give their money to these churches and organizations that sell Republicanism as a religious brand might as well spend their money at WalMart. They’re buying the same thing. It’s tribal identity but it isn’t religious and it isn’t moral.
It’s time everybody recognized that so we can deal with it honestly. These so-called religious leaders (and it’s not just the national leadership, it’s the whole hierarchy) are not dupes. Sure Rove and the rest call them nuts. But the leadership and the party know they are essentail to each others’ continued status, even if they spar over who’s their daddy. The truth is that they are all elites who have the same goals — power.