Monday, October 16, 2006

Faith-Based Politics

One of the NUMEROUS developments of the early days of the W administration raising alarm bells was the announcement of the so-called "faith-based initiatives' or the promise to pour billions of dollars into evangelical "christian" organizations. Among the concerns (aside from the obvious assault on the separation of church & state) was the fact that the federal government has a long reputation of spending unaccountably; there would be virtually no meaningful and effective oversight with regard to how the funds were being used. Well, worry no more. As with most promises made by this bunch, this particular one turned out to be boldface pandering to the religious right for political support through two elections.

The wheels have been coming off that bus for a couple of years now as the leaders of this extreme wing are realizing that they were duped along with the rest of us. The only money being doled out generously is to defense contractors in Iraq and elsewhere (nearly $1 trillion over the last 5 years). This hoax was very plainly and thoroughly spelled out in a 60 Minutes interview with a former Bush and "faith-based initiative" supporter, David Kuo, who has a new book (of course) out on the subject. He alleges that only $100M or so of the predestined $8B has materialized so far.

Among the tidbits in the piece:
  • He himself dreamed up an idea "to hold events at taxpayer expense for Republicans in tight races as a way of energizing religious voters". The white house was "thrilled" by the idea.
  • The evangelical "christian" movement, instead of pursuing the promised course of "compassionate conservatism" helping the poor and needy instead relentlessly pushed agendas attacking homosexuality, abortion, stem cell research, and divorce. This on the government dime.
  • Administration staffers frequently ridiculed religious leaders.

One gentleman in the piece alludes to Kuo as "naive" for not recognizing the realities of the political environment, that no one comes away with 100%. But I'd call him naive for believing that the RadCons ever intended to spend one thin dime on the poor.

A side note: If you read the transcript of the interview take the time to scroll down about 3/4 of the way down the page into the reader comments. There is one (entered 3 or 4 times) that is the epitome of righty debate techniques. The writer says "It comes down to a matter of trust and credibility. Since 60 Minutes has been known to fabricate stories in an attempt to manipulate upcoming election results, their journalistic endeavors are seen as tainted and are dismissed as such". And there you have it. State something as an absolute fact (when it is not) then build your case on it. When you can't dipute the facts, simply kill the messenger, and thereby the message. 60 Minutes has been producing award winning journalism for 38 years, and has had only 3 or 4 credible challenges to the complete accuracy of a story in that time; there's no evidence that they're "known to fabricate stories". What the writer is no doubt referring to is the 2004 piece on 60 Minutes II regarding W's AWOL incident from years ago. First, it was on a program that had nothing to do with Don Hewitt's award winning 60 Minutes, other than sharing a name in an attempt to bring credibility to the knockoff show. Second, the underlying facts and assertions of the W AWOL piece were essentially upheld as true. It was one of the documents presented as evidence that was questionable. Lastly, Mr. Kuo was telling the story in his own words, and has a book out with which anyone can verify if CBS was accurately reporting his allegations. How could 60 Minutes be "fabricating" this?

WaPo followup

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