Weblog: ‘This Crowd Uses Gays as the Enemy’
Plus: Ga. abortion bill changed, Ron Sider’s State of the Union on poverty, Christian manuscripts found in pharaoh’s tomb, and other stories from online sources around the world.
Compiled by Ted Olsen | posted 02/22/2005 10:45 a.m.
On secret tapes, candidate Bush talks about James Dobson, the Christian Coalition, and how he keeps his ego in check
The White House’s immediate reaction to Doug Wead ‘s release of secretly taped conversations with George W. Bush is to label Wead a Judas. “These were casual conversations with someone whom the President considered, or believed to be, a friend,” is the repeated line from White House spokesman Ken Lisaius.
That’s the buzz on Wead from journalists, too
“There is no kind way of saying that this is anything but a betrayal,” says the Rocky Mountain News in an editorial.
The Dallas Morning News agrees. “Wead pretended to be the future President’s friendMr. Bush’s pet name for him was ‘Weadie’while surreptitiously taping the unguarded Mr. Bush hoping for what, exactly?” the paper asks in an editorial. “To cash in if Mr. Bush became President? It sure looks that way: Mr. Wead has a new book to promote. The tapes tell us little new about the character of the President, but they speak volumes about the character of Doug Wead. He’s a former Pentecostal minister, so surely he was taught that it profits a man nothing to sell his soul, even to gain the world. Alas for poor Weadie, who settled for the front-page of the [New York] Times!”
Even David D. Kirkpatrick’s New York Times article keeps returning to the idea that Weadhow to put it?doesn’t share Bush’s high values on loyalty. One such clue: “A White House adviser to the first President Bush, Mr. Wead said in an interview in The Washington Post in 1990 that Andrew H. Card Jr., then deputy chief of staff, told him to leave the administration ‘sooner rather than later’ after he sent conservatives a letter faulting the White House for inviting gay activists to an event.”
But while Wead gets accused of “hypocrisy” (The Dallas Morning News’s word), Bush comes off as honest and anything but a hypocrite. One wonders if the White House isn’t quietly cackling about Sunday’s front page news.
With little variation, the newspapers say that the tapes reveal little about the President except that he’s pretty much the same guy publicly that he is privately.
“If this is a window into his soul, it’s not such a bad view,” says Newsday columnist James P. Pinkerton .
A Los Angeles Times editorial finds plenty to complain about, noting that Bush has abandoned what he calls “my shtick, which is, ‘Look, we have all made mistakes.'”
‘That’s a true statement’
But if there is news here, it’s that the conspiracy theorists were dead wrong in supposing that a) Bush isn’t really an evangelical and doesn’t believe all that religious stuff, but just uses it for his own political ends, and/or that b) Bush is a tool of the Religious Right and is the puppet of “theocrats.”
In fact, the tapes reveal a strong personal spirituality on Bush’s part along with ambivalence toward religious political groups.
When Wead warned Bush, “Power corrupts,” Bush countered, “I have got a great wife. And I read the Bible daily. The Bible is pretty good about keeping your ego in check.”
Bush was willing to meet with evangelical leaders privately, but was wary of public rallies with them. Kirkpatrick reports, “When he thought his aides had agreed to such a meeting, Mr. Bush complained to Karl Rove, his political strategist, ‘What the hell is this about?'”
Once he did meet with the leaders, Bush kept to the basics: “As you said, there are some code words. There are some proper ways to say things, and some improper ways. I am going to say that I’ve accepted Christ into my life. And that’s a true statement.”
Apparently one Christian leader that had some doubtsor at least was perceived to have doubtsabout how much Bush believed those code words was Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, whom Bush went to visit in September 1998. Kirkpatrick reports:
“He said he would like to meet me, you know, he had heard some nice things, you know, well, ‘I don’t know if he is a true believer’ kind of attitude,” Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Bush said he intended to reassure Dr. Dobson of his opposition to abortion. Mr. Bush said he was concerned about rumors that Dr. Dobson had been telling others that the “Bushes weren’t going to be involved in abortion,” meaning that the Bush family preferred to avoid the issue rather than fight over it.
“I just don’t believe I said that. Why would I have said that?” Mr. Bush told Mr. Wead with annoyance.
By the end of the primary, Mr. Bush alluded to Dr. Dobson’s strong views on abortion again, apparently ruling out potential vice presidents including Gov. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania and Gen. Colin L. Powell, who favored abortion rights. Picking any of them could turn conservative Christians away from the ticket, Mr. Bush said.
“They are not going to like it anyway, boy,” Mr. Bush said. “Dobson made it clear.”
If Bush still perceives Dobson as an unsatisfiable perennial critic, it may explain why a Bush aide recently told Time , “We respect him greatly, but [Dobson’s] political influence is not everything people might think.” (So far, there’s no response from Focus .)
While Bush suggested that he was willing to fight on abortion, he seemed awfully reluctant on homosexuality:
“I think he wants me to attack homosexuals,” Mr. Bush said after meeting James Robison, a prominent evangelical minister in Texas.
But Mr. Bush said he did not intend to change his position. He said he told Mr. Robison: “Look, James, I got to tell you two things right off the bat. One, I’m not going to kick gays, because I’m a sinner. How can I differentiate sin?”
Later, he read aloud an aide’s report from a convention of the Christian Coalition, a conservative political group: “This crowd uses gays as the enemy. It’s hard to distinguish between fear of the homosexual political agenda and fear of homosexuality, however.”
“This is an issue I have been trying to downplay,” Mr. Bush said. “I think it is bad for Republicans to be kicking gays.”
Told that one conservative supporter was saying Mr. Bush had pledged not to hire gay people, Mr. Bush said sharply: “No, what I said was, I wouldn’t fire gays.”
As early as 1998, however, Mr. Bush had already identified one gay-rights issue where he found common ground with conservative Christians: same-sex marriage. “Gay marriage, I am against that. Special rights, I am against that,” Mr. Bush told Mr. Wead.
The New York Daily News doesn’t get it:
The disclosures could weaken support for Bush with his conservative base and crack his renowned aura of predictability and discipline.
“It ought to be damaging,” said Baruch College political scientist Doug Muzzio. “It’s hypocritical to say one thing now but to have said other things in the past.”
A senior Democratic operative added, “Put aside the admission of drug use, his comments about gays are certainly not going to energize his base.”
Really? Being against gay marriage and “special rights,” but insisting, “I’m not going to kick gays, because I’m a sinner” sounds straight down the middle of the evangelical world to Weblog. Criticizing the Christian Coalition for “using gays as the enemy”? Preach it, brother, and we’ll turn the pages. The only people who are going to be upset with these comments are those whom Bush might say, “They are not going to like it anyway, boy.”