MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann got his hands on a forthcoming book written by David Kuo, the former second-in-command in the White House’s Office of Faith Based Initiatives.
According to a piece written by Jonathan Larsen, a producer on Olbermann’s “Countdown” show, Kuo reports that the blatant partisanship and hypocrisy of the Bush administration in administering the program was staggering
He says some of the nation’s most prominent evangelical leaders were known in the office of presidential political strategist Karl Rove as “the nuts.”
“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,’” Kuo writes.
More seriously, 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 “nonpartisan” events that were, in reality, designed with the intent of mobilizing religious voters in 20 targeted races.
According to Kuo, “Ken loved the idea and gave us our marching orders.”
Among those marching orders, Kuo says, was Mehlman’s mandate to conceal the true nature of the events.
Kuo quotes Mehlman as saying, “… (I)t can’t come from the campaigns. That would make it look too political. It needs to come from the congressional offices. We’ll take care of that by having our guys call the office [of faith-based initiatives] to request the visit.”
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.”
According to the transcript, Olbermann reported more insights from the book on his program Wednesday night
Kuo says, ‘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.’ “
So how does the Bush White House keep ‘the nuts’ turning out at the polls?
One way, regular conference calls with groups led by Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Ted Haggard, and radio hosts like Michael Reagan.
Kuo says, “Participants were asked to talk to their people about whatever issue was pending. Advice was solicited [but] that advice rarely went much further than the conference call. [T]he true purpose of these calls was to keep prominent social conservatives and their groups or audiences happy.”
They do get some things from the Bush White House, like the National Day of Prayer, “another one of the eye-rolling Christian events,” Kuo says.
And “passes to be in the crowd greeting the president when he arrived on Air Force One or tickets for a speech he was giving in their hometown. Little trinkets like cufflinks or pens or pads of paper were passed out like business cards. Christian leaders could give them to their congregations or donors or friends to show just how influential they were. Making politically active Christians personally happy meant having to worry far less about the Christian political agenda.”
When cufflinks weren’t enough, the White House played the Jesus card, reminding Christian leaders that, quote, “they knew the president’s faith” and begging for patience.
Kou also reportedly says the officials running the program routinely discriminated against non-Christian charities and that President Bush, the White House, and the Republican Party didn’t really care about the program at all, seeing it mainly as a political tool with which to placate/bribe the Right and use to woo minority groups who traditionally supported the Democratic Party.