Bush's “compassionate” advisor singles out Jews

Professor says he didn't know the three writers "with holes in their souls" were Jewish.

Topics: George W. Bush, Republican Party

One of Texas Gov. George W. Bush’s closest advisors on religion and the man he’s credited with helping him craft his vision of “compassionate conservatism” wrote an opinion column last week in which he slammed three Jewish journalists as having “holes in their souls” and adherents to an educated atheism he referred to as “the religion of Zeus.”

The Bush advisor — University of Texas professor Marvin Olasky — is an evangelical Christian who converted from Judaism. A proselytizing modern-day missionary who edits the Christian magazine World.

When contacted about the column, which appeared in the Feb. 16 Austin American-Statesman, Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said, “He’s expressing his opinion, not the governor’s.” Futhermore, McClellan said, “We’re not going to get into playing the political game of guilt by association.”

But Olasky, reached Thursday evening, insisted there was no “guilt” with which Bush should fear associating. “This was a piece describing folks in the press, many of whom — as I wrote in the column — were raised in secular Christian homes. Any attempt to impute any anti-Semitism to me is complete and utter nonsense.”

“I didn’t even know one of the reporters was Jewish,” Olasky added, referring to the Weekly Standard’s David Brooks. “I knew [Weekly Standard editor and publisher William] Kristol was. And I thought that [New York Times op-ed columnist Frank] Rich was. But I did not know about David Brooks.”

“Oh, golly,” Olasky said, when told that the Forward, a weekly Jewish newspaper in New York, had written that his column might hurt Bush among Empire State voters.

When Olasky wrote of “the religion of Zeus,” practiced by too many American journalists, he was alluding to Tom Wolfe’s recent tome “A Man in Full,” which discusses, in Wolfe’s words, “the death of God — or at least a kind of atheism among educated people.”

But Olasky then compared this conceit with the writing of three high-profile journalists without a lot in common except that they have written positive statements of Sen. John McCain — and that all three are Jewish

Complaining of journalists who “turned” from approving of Bush after he began to speak “publicly of his Christian faith,” Olasky wrote: “A lot of liberal journalists have holes in their souls.”

He then continued, saying, “McCain has a similar appeal to neoconservative journalists such as William Kristol and David Brooks. Last week, they noted approvingly that, for McCain, ‘cultural renewal does not depend on a religious revival.’ They don’t like it when Bush says, ‘Faith, to me, is strength. It puts life in perspective. I recognize that I’m a humble sinner.’”

Brooks, Olasky wrote, “has faith only in Zeus-like strength.” Rich, meanwhile, is “also a case study in running away from the Bible. He likes McCain because the senator would not speak at a Christian Coalition conference but prided himself on the support of the gay Log Cabin Republicans.”

He quotes a column by Rich that called McCain “the first major GOP presidential candidate in years who is not running as a pious moral scold.” That led Olasky to conclude that “Rich’s paranoia about Christians is extreme.”

When asked about Olasky’s lumping together of him, Kristol and Brooks, Rich said: “I certainly don’t think it was unintentional.” He also said he will be addressing this issue — and the Bush campaign’s condemnation of former New Hampshire Sen. Warren Rudman, a McCain supporter and also a Jew — this Saturday in his Times column.

“It’s weird to me that a convert out of Judaism would fixate on three journalists who are Jewish,” Rich added. Odder still, he said, was that Olasky would “never mention that fact in his column and then deny to the Forward” — which first reported about the piece — “that he knew they were Jewish when the Jewishness of all three of them is a matter of public record.”

“It’s odd,” said Kristol, of the grouping. When asked if he thought it was a coincidence that Olasky targeted three journalists with “holes in their souls” who were all Jewish — especially with so many gentile reporters who could also be accused of liking McCain, like MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, or the Times’ Maureen Dowd — Kristol demurred.

Reached Friday, Brooks said, “When I’m sitting in Adas Israel synagogue, it’s not Zeus I’m thinking about.” That said, Brooks said he doesn’t “think there’s anything anti-Semitic in the piece.”

“I don’t know if this affected anything or not, but I wrote a really negative review of [Olasky's] last book in The New York Times Book Review,” Brooks said. “It was a real wacko book that is reflective of this column. It was about how all good presidents are good Christians and how all bad presidents are bad Christians.”

Olasky explains the selection of the three journalists as simple coincidence. The three men were “authors of two pieces I had in front of me when I wrote the op-ed,” he said. “If I have caused any distress to William Kristol, who I know, or Frank Rich and David Brooks, who I do not know, I am very sorry about that.

However, Olasky said, anyone who would charge that the column was anti-Semitic would be “really hitting below the belt.”

Bush first phoned up Olasky in 1993 after hearing that Olasky had been “born again” at the age of 26, and after reading some of his scholarship.

The two men met for an hour. Then in 1995, during a controversy surrounding the drug program Teen Challenge — which includes a program of religious conversion to Christianity — Bush sought Olasky’s advice, which entailed less government regulation for faith-based organizations. Amid vociferous criticism that he was trying to weaken the boundaries between church and state, Bush pushed laws that promoted more activities by the church, such as day-care and drug-treatment centers.

Olasky was the subject of a profile in the New York Times Magazine last fall, “Where W. Got His Compassion” — during the writing of which Olasky tried to convert the article’s author, New Republic senior editor David Grann.

In the article, Olasky said that the success of these programs should belie any discomfort anyone feels about the proselytizing that takes place within them. “Are you willing to put up with these religious practices that you feel very uncomfortable with but nevertheless you see the success of?” he asked. “Or would you rather end those practices and see more assaults, rapes, drug use and homicides?”

Said Olasky on Thursday night about his relationship with the governor, “he likes my writing and I like his leadership.”

Bush has experienced a bit of trouble as of late because of his proximity to people criticized for a lack of tolerance.

He has repeatedly evaded questions about his Louisiana campaign chairman, Gov. Mike Foster, who was fined $20,000 for hiding the fact he bought mailing lists from klansman David Duke. Bush also refused to say an unkind word about former Republican Pat Buchanan, much to the chagrin of supporters in the Republican Jewish Coalition, who consider some of Buchanan’s rhetoric teetering on anti-Semitism. And since kicking off the South Carolina primary campaign earlier this month at Bob Jones University, Bush has been slammed for refusing to say he did more than “disagree” with the anti-Catholic leanings of the school, where interracial dating is verboten.

“Don’t judge my heart,” Bush has snarled when asked about his reticence on these and other issues. “My little brother Jeb married a Mexican girl,” he said another time when pressed about his speech at Bob Jones.

Olasky, whom Bush once appointed to head up a gubernatorial task force on religion, has played a controversial role in his campaign at least once before. Times’ columnist William Safire wrote recently that an issue of Olasky’s World that came out before the South Carolina primary was “religio-political sleaze in action.” Safire wrote that World slammed McCain as “a conniving politician” who used “liberal, even Marxist, terminology,” and, in reference to wife Cindy McCain’s past drug addiction, wrote, “for all his dependence on his wife’s money, John McCain doesn’t appear to be a particularly attentive husband.”

Olasky said he has worked on 20 books and written more than 500 articles, none of which contain a whiff of bigotry. “I have been very, very vigorously trying to bring Christians and Jews together in a variety of social movements.” He added that in between the time that he was Jewish and the time he was “born again,” he went through a period when he was “very hostile to Judaism.” But he’s long past that, he said.

Jake Tapper is the senior White House correspondent for ABC News.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>