Breaking faith

Published February 15, 2005 1:52PM (EST)

Nearly four years ago, the former head of George Bush's faith-based initiative delivered a scathing criticism of the politics-above-everything approach of the Bush White House. The administration's response was so furious that John J. Dilulio, Jr., ultimately issued a "Stepford Wives" sort of apology in which he repeated, word for word, Ari Fleischer's characterization of his charges as "baseless and groundless."

What will become of David Kuo?

Kuo, who was until December 2003 deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, has just written an essay for in which he says Bush's commitment to faith-based initiatives -- especially those aimed at helping the poor -- was essentially a sham.

Kuo says the Bush promises about being a "compassionate conservative" are today "unfulfilled in spirit and in fact." Kuo spreads around the blame. He says Republicans in Congress were ambivalent about the faith-based programs because they were indifferent about helping the poor, while Democrats took a "knee-jerk" position that opposed any linkage between government and religion.

But Kuo pins most of his blame on the White House. Congressional inertia or opposition could have been overcome, he says, with even a "minimal West Wing effort." It never came. "No administration since LBJ's has had a more successful legislative track record than this one," Kuo writes. "From tax cuts to Medicare, the White House gets what the White House really wants. It never really wanted the 'poor people stuff.'"

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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