The Burning Bush
Bush has been kissing Christian ass ever since he took the oath of office. There are 19 million voters whom Karl Rove considers "religious conservatives," but only 14 million of them voted in 2000, and the president's campaign strategists want to get them hopped up enough to vote in huge numbers in the unlikely event of a close election next year.
It's payback time, and just to make certain that the fundamentalists are plenty happy, Bush last week not only came down against gay marriage, but in a manic gesture of goodwill promised to "codify" marriage "one way or another" as something between only a man and a woman.
Bush began the road to card-carrying fundamentalism when he took a long walk in 1985 with Billy Graham around Walker's Point at his family's Kennebunkport compound. By the time he ruled Texas, Shrub was talking about Christ all the time. Going off the deep end, he said, "I could not be governor if I did not believe in a divine plan that supersedes all human plans."
Well, a divine plan is probably better than no plan at all, and over the past three years the president has done his level best to get one going. Look at what he's done:
As his very first act at the inauguration, Bush officially designated the day as the National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving. Then he made the Bible-thumpin' evangelical John Ashcroft attorney general.
Without a pause, Bush turned his attention to Africa, where the heathen had gone and given themselves, as one of his disciples put it, "the gay plague." Something had to be done about this, so Bush stopped U.S. money going to the UN to tell Africans about condoms: His administration denied $34 million in funding for the United Nations Population Fund, known as UNFPA. "This decision is an embarrassment and a travesty," said Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, whose committee approved $50 million in funding for the agency in the Senate version of the foreign-aid bill. "It flies in the face of the facts, of the law, and of the intent of Congress." But the State Department said the Chinese government was encouraging abortions and that wouldn't do.
Then Bush quickly sent a message of support to anti-abortion protesters in front of the Supreme Court: "We share a great goal: to work toward a day when every child is welcomed in life and protected in law. . . . But the goal leads us onward: to build a culture of life, affirming that every person, at every stage and season of life, is created equal in God's image."
Roe v. Wade is still law, but Congress, with Bush's backing, has done everything possible to get rid of it: Bush backed a ban on what abortion foes call partial birth abortion and tried to end stem cell research. Congress is well on its way to giving fetuses constitutional rights, maybe even the ability to sue for damages under terrorism laws. Like a mullah, Bush pushes abstinence, proposing to spend $135 million to promote it, and administration mouthpieces preach that it's important for young people to delay the "debut" of their sexual life. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson explained the no-fuck policy like this: "When adolescents become sexually active, it can have negative effects on their physical and emotional health."
Bush is noted for his plans to have faith-based charities administer what's left of the New Deal's social-welfare programsa return to Dickensian days even though a study claims that having churches do it would cost more than letting the federal government do it. At least one church program in Texas offers welfare recipients employment help in return for their reading scripture and fitting the word of God into their job search.
The Heritage Foundation, the conservatives' main don't-think tank in D.C., has produced studies purportedly demonstrating that going to church makes a person a better citizen. And Bush's domestic policy often follows this line. The White House, for example, wants to fight the "drug war" with church-based youth groups. "Recent research suggests religious involvement may reduce adolescent smoking, heavy drinking, and marijuana use," reported the religious right's favorite D.C. paper, The Washington Times.
School vouchers, of course, play a key role in tearing down the church-state wall, if they're used to back privately run church schools over public schools. The goal of the religious right has always been to change the institutions of government, like the U.S. Department of Education, hated for being too secular.
The federal courts, however, face the boldest attack. Democrats have been trying to block confirmation of conservative judges, but Pat Robertson recently launched a 21-day "prayer offensive" called "Operation Supreme Court Freedom."
"One justice is 83 years old, another has cancer, and another has a heart condition," wrote Robertson in a letter to his TV viewers. "Would it not be possible for God to put it in the minds of these three judges that the time has come to retire? With their retirement and the appointment of conservative judges, a massive change in federal jurisprudence can take place."
Thanks to Bush, a guy who has a direct line to God. Apparently, so does his aide Tim Goeglein. He recently told the Christian-right magazine World: "I think President Bush is God's man at this hour, and I say this with a great sense of humility."
Additional reporting: Phoebe St John
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.