Obama, Schroeder, Bush and God

The would-be presidential candidate and the former German chancellor express concerns about the way religion seems to drive the president.

Published October 23, 2006 3:03PM (EDT)

Tim Russert took Barack Obama to task over the weekend for saying, in his new book, that George W. Bush has shown a "messianic certainty" about his policies.

"Those are strong words," Russert said. "When you say 'messianic certainty' ... you're suggesting that it's almost as if he believes God wills it." Obama said he doesn't presume to know what's in the president's heart, but that he has seen Bush approach problems in "ideological, absolutist terms," and that his "certainty has precluded him from looking at issues based on facts as opposed to based on ideology."

The would-be presidential candidate isn't alone.

In his own new book, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder says he was disturbed by Bush's God talk in the run-up the Iraq war. "What worried me, despite a relaxed atmosphere to our talks, and to a certain degree what made me skeptical, was how much it came through that this president saw himself as 'God-fearing' and saw that as the highest authority," Schroeder says.

In an interview with Der Spiegel, Schroeder says he feared that religious faith rather than reality was driving Bush's decision to invade Iraq. "If a person adopts a policy based on what he gleans from his prayers, in other words, a personal talk with God, it can lead to difficulties in democracy," he says.

Schroeder says it's time to take note of the fact that Christian fundamentalists have at least a little in common with their Islamic counterparts. "Quite rightly, we criticize that in most Islamic states the role of religion in society and the secular character of the legal system are not clearly separated," he writes in his autobiography. "But we haven't taken note as readily of the U.S. Christian fundamentalists and their interpretation of the Bible that show similar tendencies."

By Tim Grieve

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

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Barack Obama George W. Bush Iraq War War Room