Friday, October 13, 2006

Book Says Bush Aides Dismissed Christian Allies

WASHINGTON, Oct. 12 — A former deputy director of the White House office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives is charging that many members of the Bush administration privately dismiss its conservative Christian allies as “boorish” and “nuts.”

The former deputy director, David Kuo, an evangelical Christian conservative, makes the accusations in a newly published memoir, “Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction” (Free Press), about his frustration with what he described as the meager support and political exploitation of the program.

“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,’ ” Mr. Kuo writes.

In an interview, Mr. Kuo’s former boss, James Towey, now president of St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., said he had never encountered such cynicism or condescension in the White House, and he disputed many of the assertions in Mr. Kuo’s account.

Still, Mr. Kuo’s statements, first reported Wednesday evening on the cable channel MSNBC, come at an awkward time for Republicans in the midst of a midterm election campaign in which polls show little enthusiasm among the party’s conservative Christian base.

While many conservative Christians considered President Bush “a brother in Christ,” Mr. Kuo writes, “for most of the rest of the White House staff, evangelical leaders were people to be tolerated, not people who were truly welcomed.”

The political affairs office headed by Karl Rove was especially “eye-rolling,” Mr. Kuo’s book says. It says staff members in that office “knew ‘the nuts’ were politically invaluable, but that was the extent of their usefulness.”

Without naming names, the book says staff members complained that politically involved Christians were “annoying,” “tiresome” or “boorish.”
Eryn Witcher, a spokeswoman for the White House, said that the administration would not comment without reading the book but that the faith-based program was “near and dear to the president’s heart.”


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