Ex-Bush Aide: White House Officials Called Evangelicals 'Ridiculous'

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For the White House, the charges coming their way this morning in the new book "Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction" must seem anything but heaven-sent.

The accusations are coming from an unlikely source: David Kuo, former deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, which channels federal dollars to religious charities.

Kuo says the office was misused to rally evangelical Christians, the Republican base voters, to get GOP politicians elected. Not only that, Kuo claims Bush officials mocked evangelical leaders behind their backs, alleging that in the office of political guru Karl Rove they were called "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.

"You name the important Christian leader, and I have heard them mocked by serious people in serious places," Kuo told "60 Minutes" Sunday night.

That mockery, he added, included the Rev. Pat Robertson being called "insane," the Rev. Jerry Falwell being called "ridiculous" and comments that Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family "had to be controlled."

James Towey, Kuo's former boss in the faith-based initiative office, suggested Kuo is bearing false witness.

What the book seems to be "describing is kind of a personal animus against evangelicals and a kind of personal insulting behavior," Towey said. "President Bush would never have tolerated that, and I never saw it in four and a half years."

Kuo says that he never heard President Bush himself say anything negative about Christians, but he believes many Christians have put too much faith in political leaders.

"I think the Christians have viewed this president, with a lot of help from the White House, as a pastor-in-chief, as opposed to a commander-in-chief," Kuo said today on "Good Morning America."

"And Christians need to understand that there's a difference between George W. Bush who is a great man, a good, compassionate man, and President Bush, a politician."

Kuo says it should come as no surprise that any administration plays politics.

"But my point is even in this White House, you are loved for your votes, not anything else. That's what you need to know," Kuo said. "I say it within this broader argument, Christians have put way too much emphasis on politics."

Jesus as Precinct Captain

Towey allowed that "perhaps junior staffers and interns" may have made such a comment.

"Maybe David heard something, I don't know," he said. "You might hear a comment from a staff person, when they saw a religious leader, say something about Islam -- or something after Katrina where you would kind of have your eyebrows raised saying, 'Why would they say such a thing?' "

But at high levels, he insisted, with "decision-makers in the White House and the president, there was respect for the evangelical leadership and for the other faith leaders with whom the president met. … People like Chuck Colson and Rick Warren and Dr. Dobson, they're friends of the White House. We may not always agree with them, but, uh, there was a real mutual respect."

Kuo also claims the White House used the taxpayer-funded Office of Faith-Based Initiatives to hold events designed to rally the evangelical conservative GOP members in 20 targeted races in 2002.

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