… you find yourself agreeing with Karl Rove
“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 wrote, according to MSNBC television, which obtained an early copy of the book. In particular, he quotes Karl Rove, the president’s long-serving political adviser and mentor, as describing evangelical Christians as “nuts”.
The more serious allegation, though, is not that politicians were disingenuous and insincere in courting people’s support — as if! — but that the Bush administration’s policy of encouraging ‘community’, particularly ‘faith-based’, social projects rather than initiatives directly sponsored by government, as part of its ‘compassionate conservatism’, was abused to channel funds to get out the Christian conservative vote in particular contests;
Kuo alleges that then-White House political affairs director Ken Mehlman knowingly participated in a scheme to use the office, and taxpayer funds, to mount ostensibly “non-partisan” events that were, in reality, designed with the intent of mobilizing religious voters in 20 targeted races.
Nineteen out of the 20 targeted races were won by Republicans, Kuo reports. The outreach was so extensive and so powerful in motivating not just conservative evangelicals, but also traditionally Democratic minorities, that Kuo attributes Bush’s 2004 Ohio victory “at least partially … to the conferences we had launched two years before. [….]
… when Bush asks Kuo how much money was being spent on “compassion” social programs, Kuo claims he discovered the amount was $20 million a year less than during the Clinton Administration.
The money that was appropriated and disbursed, however, often served a political agenda, Kuo claims, with organizations friendly to the administration often winning grants.
Which, to my mind, provides a useful backdrop to Sunny’s excellent discussion, in Pickled Politics and Comment is Free, of ‘some of the motivations that drive our so-called “community leaders”’. It may also provide something of a warning about the implications of Gordon Brown’s enthusiasm — in a speech completely overshadowed by Jack Straw’s views on veils — for ‘Cultural action against terrorist extremism’ as outlined in pages 12 and following of his Chatham House speech.
I intend to write about this at some length later, but Mr Brown recalls how
from 1945 the united front against Soviet communism involved not only deterrence through large arsenals of weapons, but a cultural effort on an extraordinary scale.
Newspapers, journals, culture, the arts and literature sought to expose the difference between moderation and extremism.
Foundations, trusts, civil society and civic organizations – links and exchanges between schools, universities, museums, institutes, journals, books, churches, trades unions, sports clubs, societies – all formed a front line in this cultural effort.
This I find somewhat alarming because, as I recall, many of these foundations, trusts and so forth were, in fact, founded and funded by intelligence services (notably the CIA), thus co-opting — and thus discrediting, in the eyes of many — perfectly respectable and genuine voluntary organisations and enterprises to a particular government’s political agenda.
Needless to say, to return to Mr Kuo and the American Evangelicals,
With the exception of one reporter from the Washington Post, Kuo says the media were oblivious to the political nature and impact of his office’s events, in part because so much of the debate centered on issues of separation of church and state
Issues like the separation of church and state — or the wearing of veils — are, of course, far easier to write about than boring old money and politics, which is doubtless one reason why journalists like writing about them.
Like Karl Rove, though, but for rather different reasons, I think we should keep our eye always on the money and the votes; that’s where the power is, after all.
Technorati tags: Community, Politics, UK, USA, Karl Rove, Faith-based groups