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the faith of George W. Bush

The third excerpt of Jacob Weisberg’s book The Bush Tragedy (2007) at Slate yields the choicest quotes. Most of them come from former Bush adviser Doug Wead:

“When he got the one on Texas, his eyes just bugged out,” Wead remembered. “This is just great! I can become governor of Texas just with the evangelical vote.” [link]

This is from 1987 or 1988, when George W. Bush was still the family failure. This quote from Bush is so perfect and prescient it’s almost too good to be historical.

“Evangelicals believe that [Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis] is so effective that they will automatically assume that if the Vice President has read it, he will agree with it,” Wead wrote.

And earlier:

Wead argued for “an effective, discreet evangelical strategy” to counter Jack Kemp, who had been courting the evangelicals for a decade, and Pat Robertson, whom he accurately predicted would run in the 1988 primaries. Wead compiled a long dossier on the evangelical “targets” he saw as most important for Bush. (“If Falwell is privately reassured from time to time of the Vice President’s personal friendship, he will be less likely to demand the limelight,” he wrote.)

These quotes by themselves portray Wead as a savvy political operative, and may be just a bit self-serving; it’s important to remember that by the time Wead spoke to Weisberg on the record his relationship with the Bushes had ended, and not especially well.

I don’t want to be too hard on Wead, but in these quotes it sounds like he’s selling out Evangelicalism for votes, and he’s genuinely hurt and surprised when Bush turns out to be more politician than Christian. He seems to have had a “David Kuo moment,” when he discovered that politics is about power and not values. Unfortunately Weisberg is interviewing just the post-moment Wead, so we can’t know with any certainty what the pre-moment Wead thought he was doing.

Still, Wead has some interesting things to say about Bush and his faith, and we’ll take those up in a later post. It’s just important to remember that as ever, Wead is a single witness, and a disgruntled former employee at that. I’d want to be very careful about concluding that Bush is some sort of pseudo-Christian on the basis of Wead’s characterization alone.

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