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Tempting Faith: Christian Conservatives Duped by BushCo.

Crooks & Liars | October 12th, 2006
By John Amato

KO-TemptingFaith.jpg Last night I reported on Olbermann's breaking story about Kuo's new book " Tempting Faith ," which paints an ugly picture of the lies and deceit offered to the Christian Right by Rove and Bush to secure their votes. This is an explosive story with ramifications that should affect the millions of Evangelicals that have been hoodwinked by the White House. We'll see what their reaction will be (if any) in the upcoming days. It's politics pure and simple for Rove and he will do anything– anything to ensure a Republican victory—no matter who he hurts in the process. Tonight on "Countdown" it continued.

"Tempting Faith" also suggests that the Bush White House would use anything for politics.

Video -WMP Video -QT

Olbermann: Among them, that–behind their backs–the nation's top evangelical Christians were regarded with routine mockery and contempt by White House staffers — called 'nuts' and 'ridiculous'.

rough transcript below the fold….

Eight words, attributed to Karl Rove, by author and former Special Assistant to the President David Kuo, that could by themselves very well decide those mid-terms.

Our fifth story on the Countdown: part two of our look inside Mr. Kuo's extraordinary new book, "Tempting Faith" — written from his earlier vantage point as the number two man in Bush's Office Of Faith-Based Initiatives…

And though it's a very large tip — the Rove quote is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

As we reported last night, Kuo is making several explosive claims.

Among them, that–behind their backs–the nation's top evangelical Christians were regarded with routine mockery and contempt by White House staffers — called 'nuts' and 'ridiculous'.

We also told you that Kuo writes that the Faith-Based Office was so starved for support from the Oval Office that it was forced to transform itself into a political arm of Republican campaign efforts.

David Kuo is himself a self-described conservative Christian. His personal, and his religious assessment of Mr. Bush, is nowhere near the most newsworthy of Kuo's revelations in our report tonight.

But it might be a valuable key to understanding this president.

To this day, Kuo says he believes Mr. Bush loves Jesus; that he is a good man. However, Kuo says many Christians assume from his belief in Jesus Christ that he won't do what other politicians do: break their word, hide their mistakes, or spin the truth. And that those assumptions are wrong.

In Kuo's eyes, today's national Christian leaders were being used. They didn't have the same shrewdness Billy Graham had in the '70s, to question whether Nixon was using him for his appeal to religious voters.

In fact, Christians who voted for Mr. Bush based on his religion, may have ended up hurting the very people Jesus sought to help: the poor.

    [video] Bush — "I urge the Senate to pass the faith-based initiative for the good of America.

But when Senator Chuck Grassley tried to rewrite Mr. Bush's 1.7 trillion dollar tax cut to include six billion in tax credits for groups helping the poor — tax credits that Mr. Bush himself had publicly proposed — Kuo says Bush's assistant told Grassley to drop the charity tax credits. The White House had no interest.

The cuts Mr. Bush did want made things worse for charities.

Kuo claims that the estate tax cuts discouraged charitable giving, costing charities an estimated 5 billion dollars.

The ultimate impact of Mr. Bush's tax cuts, he says, was to brutalize the very charities Mr. Bush once identified as his top priorities.  After only a year, charitable donations were down dramatically, and some charities had shut down.

Kuo says the White House was more concerned with the appearance of doing something.

He says the Faith-Based office wasn't even set up during the 2001 transition until Mr. Bush took office and Karl Rove gave a transition volunteer less than one week to roll out the entire Faith-Based Initiative.

The volunteer asked how he should do that, without staff, without an office, or without even a plan.

According to Kuo, "Rove looked at him, took a deep breath, and said, "I don't know. Just get me a f–ing faith-based thing. Got it?"

After that, it was easier to push faith-based legislation, rather than faith-based funding, because legislation was a cheaper way to show the president was supposedly doing something.

Bush assistant Margaret Spellings, now the Education Secretary, asked Kuo for legislation and said she didn't care what kind, any kind of faith bill would do, he writes.

When the office got a substantive bill – a bill backed by every senator from Santorum to Clinton, the only hold-up was a green light from Josh Bolten or Andy Card.

They didn't get the green light.

What kind of bill did get such a support?

Kuo says the White House liked the issue of religious hiring… not because it was a real issue affecting real charities, but because it was divisive and that made good politics.

"Tempting Faith" also suggests that the Bush White House would use anything for politics.

Anything.

[video of Jerry Falwell after 9/11]

After those comments, Kuo asked whether Karl Rove still wanted to let Falwell attend the National Service. 

Even while Ground Zero was still burning, politics still mattered.

Rove let Falwell attend, as long as he stayed off-camera.  While others wept, Kuo says, Falwell laughed about something with another conservative leader. Spotting Barbara Bush, Falwell remarked on how "frumpy" she looked.

Even choosing the new faith-based director, Jim Towey, was an issue of politics.

Rove put out the word that for Towey to get the job, he had to get as many cardinals as he could to vouch for him.

He did and he got the job. 

Kuo freely admits he, too, is no stranger to the politics of conservative compassion.  He writes he spent much of the '90s lobbying for it.

But at the time, he says the top Republican donors had no interest in fighting poverty. They had other enemies in mind, and told Kuo they would provide lavish funding if the target was not poverty but instead, the Clintons.

And Kuo would know about this. By the early '90s, he was already a conservative insider, part of Jack Kemp's think tank, "Empower America."

To help bring about the 1994 Republican revolution, Kuo writes that he and his team taught more than 600 candidates how to run for office: By blaming President Clinton for the nation's sad state of affairs at the time.  Kuo writes they tried to ignore the fact that Clinton had only just started in office after 12 years of teh administrations of Reagan and Bush.

Together with fellow Christian Mike Gerson-now Bush's top speechwriter-Kuo writes he wrote political speeches to appeal to religious audiences, even when the speakers did not want to give those speeches.

Jack Kemp removed religious "values" language from a speech he was to give to the Southern Baptist Convention. So, instead, Gerson and Kuo snuck in a few phrases that evangelicals would recognize, but lay people would not.  Kuo calls it a “code” that would continue to be used in speeches over the years by politicians including John Ashcroft, Ralph Reed, Bob Dole… and George W. Bush.


Olbermann Exclusive: Dissecting new Book: Tempting Faith

Crooks & Liars | October 11th, 2006
By John Amato

According to Kuo, Karl Rove's office referred to evangelical leaders as 'the nuts.'

Tonight on Countdown–David Kuo, who was the number two guy at the Office of Faith Based initiatives in the White House writes a scathing account of how the administration used Christians to grab and maintain power. This story validates Tucker Carlson's admission that: "The deep truth is that the elites in the Republican Party have pure contempt for the evangelicals who put their party in power."

Video - WMV  Video - QT

Transcript Below the Fold

When President Bush touched on Iraq at his news conference this morning, he may have been revealing more than he knew.

[video] BUSH:  The stakes couldn't be any higher, as I said earlier, in the world in which we live. There are extreme elements that use religion to achieve objectives.

He was talking about religious extremists in Iraq. But an hour later, Mr. Bush posed with officials from the Southern Baptist Convention.

It is described as the largest, most influential evangelical denomination in a new book by the former number-two man in Bush's Office of Faith-Based Initiatives.

The book, "Tempting Faith,"  not out until Monday, but in our third story tonight, a Countdown exclusive we've obtained a copy and it is devastating work.

Author David Kuo's conservative Christian credentials are impeccable; his resume sprinkled with names like Bennett and Ashcroft.  Now, as the Foley cover-up has many evangelical Christians wondering whether the G.O.P. is really in sync with their values, "Tempting Faith" provides the answer: No way.

Kuo, citing one example after another of a White House that repeatedly uses evangelical Christians for their votes — while consistently giving them nothing in return;

A White House which routinely speaks of the nation's most famous evangelical leaders behind their backs, with contempt and derision.

Furthermore, Faith-Based Initiatives were not only stiffed on one public promise after another by Mr. Bush — the office itself was eventually forced to answer a higher calling: Electing Republican politicians.

Kuo's bottom line: the Bush White House is playing millions of American Christians for suckers.

According to Kuo, Karl Rove's office referred to evangelical leaders as 'the nuts.'

Kuo says, 'National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as 'ridiculous,' 'out of control,' and just plain 'goofy.' "

So how does the Bush White House keep 'the nuts' turning out at the polls?

One way, regular conference calls with groups led by Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Ted Haggard, and radio hosts like Michael Reagan.

Kuo says, "Participants were asked to talk to their people about whatever issue was pending.  Advice was solicited [but] that advice rarely went much further than the conference call. [T]he true purpose of these calls was to keep prominent social conservatives and their groups or audiences happy."

They do get some things from the Bush White House, like the National Day of Prayer, “another one of the eye-rolling Christian events,” Kuo says.

And “passes to be in the crowd greeting the president when he arrived on Air Force One or tickets for a speech he was giving in their hometown. Little trinkets like cufflinks or pens or pads of paper were passed out like business cards. Christian leaders could give them to their congregations or donors or friends to show just how influential they were. Making politically active Christians personally happy meant having to worry far less about the Christian political agenda.” 

When cufflinks weren't enough, the White House played the Jesus card, reminding Christian leaders that, quote, “they knew the president's faith” and begging for patience.

And the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives?

According to Kuo, “White House staff didn't want to have anything to do with the Faith-Based Initiative because they didn't understand it any more than did congressional Republicans . They didn't lie awake at night trying to kill it. They simply didn 't care."

Kuo relates one faith-based promise after another — billions of dollars in funding and tax credits — that goes unfulfilled year after promise after year.

He recounts one specific funding exchange with Mr. Bush:

Bush: "Eight billion in new dollars?"

Kuo: "No sir. Eight billion in existing dollars for which groups will find it technically easier to apply. But faith-based groups have been getting that money for years."

Bush:  "Eight billion. That's what we'll tell them. Eight billion in new funds for faith-based groups."

Why bother lying?

Kuo says, "The faith-based initiative had the potential to successfully evangelize more voters than any other."

According to Kuo, the Office spent much of its time on two missions:

One—Trying–and failing–to prove Mr. Bush's claim of regulatory bias against religious charities hiring who they wanted. Quote:  "Finding these examples became a huge priority. …[but] religious groups had encountered very few instances of actual problems with their hiring practices." "It really wasn't that bad at all."

Another mission: lobbying the President to make good on his own promises.

How?

Kuo says they tried to prove their political value by turning the once-bipartisan faith-based initiatives into a political operation.

It wasn't just discrimination against non-Christian charities. (One official who rated grant applications told Kuo, " 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. ")

The Office was also, literally, a taxpayer-funded part of the Republican campaign machinery.

In 2002, Kuo says the office decided to "hold roundtable events for threatened incumbents with faith and community leaders … using the aura of our White House power to get a diverse group of faith and community leaders to a 'nonpartisan' event discussing how best to help poor people in their area."

White House Political Affairs director Ken Mehlman "loved the idea and gave us our marching orders. There were twenty targets." Including Saxby Chambliss in Georgia and John Shimkus in Illinois.

Mehlman devised a cover-up for the operation. He told Kuo, "It can't come from the campaigns. That would make it look too political. It needs to come from the congressional offices. We'll take care of that by having our guys call the office to request the visit."

Kuo explains, "this approach inoculated us against accusations that we were using religion and religious leaders to promote specific candidates."

Those roundtables were a hit.  Republicans won 19 of those 20 races. 76 percent of religious conservatives voted for Chambliss over decorated war hero Max Cleland.

And Bush's 2004 victory in Ohio? That "was at least partially tied to the conferences [they] had launched [there] two years before."

By that time, Kuo had left the White House, concluding that "it was mocking the millions of faithful Christians who had put their trust and hope in the President and his administration. Bush knew his so-called compassion agenda was languishing and had no problem with that."

If you would question Mr. Kuo's credibility, you should know his former boss also quit the White House complaining in his one public interview that politics drove absolutely everything in the Bush administration. There is more, much more revealed in Tempting Faith… how Jack Kemp was tricked into sounding like a religious conservative without even knowing it; Jerry Falwell's astonishing behavior at the 9/11 Day of Remembrance and considerably more as our Countdown exclusive of Tempting Faith continues here tomorrow night.

 

 

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