Breaking The Faith

It was just one more thing the White House didn't need weeks before a midterm election: a tell-all book dissing the administration's dealings with social conservatives. Due out Oct. 16, "Tempting Faith," by former Bush aide David Kuo, caused a stir when MSNBC began broadcasting excerpts from an early copy last week. The book faults Bush for failing to deliver on his promises for the faith-based program and depicts a White House that publicly embraced conservative religious leaders with "hugs and smiles" but privately mocked them as "nuts," "ridiculous" and "out of control." Kuo, who served as deputy director of the White House office on faith-based initiatives for two and a half years, also writes that Bush political director Ken Mehlman issued "marching orders" to use the faith-based initiative to rally conservative voters in battleground states.

Though Bush aides have dismissed other critical books as biased or poorly sourced, Kuo had been a well-respected colleague. One senior Bush aide who was reluctant to speak publicly about a book he had not yet read said he was "totally flummoxed" by Kuo's account. In early 2005, Kuo had penned a sharp critique of the faith-based program on the Web site Beliefnet.com, but he never suggested a lack of White House respect for evangelicals. "This comes out of left field," the aide said. Spokesman Tony Snow denied that the program had been used for political purposes and said Bush was "proud of all the initiative has accomplished."

Christian leaders were willing to give Bush himself the benefit of the doubt, but they did not dispute the charge that others were manipulating their cause. Bush is "a born-again and believes in looking at things in a faith-based way--even if most of the staff around him does not," says American Values president Gary Bauer. The book exposes what many evangelicals have believed all along. "The establishment prefers economic conservatives or just 'conservatives' over social conservatives," says Family Research Council president Tony Perkins. But as long as the party tries to deliver on its agenda--abortion, gay marriage, judges--social conservatives can put up with a little disrespect, Perkins says. Will Kuo's book discourage turnout among the faithful? Perkins doesn't think so. Besides, he says, the Foley scandal has already taken care of that.

Breaking The Faith | News