|Former Aide Blasts Bush's Faith-Based Plan|
Former Aide Blasts Bush's Faith-Based Plan
Tue Feb 15,11:31 AM ET White House - AP
By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration is defending the president's faith-based agenda against criticism from a former White House staffer who alleges the president gained politically from his vow to let religious-affiliated organizations use federal money to help the needy, but lacks a commitment to the initiative.
David Kuo, former deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, says that as soon as the president announced his faith-based agenda, "hackneyed church-state scare rhetoric made the rounds," yet congressional Republicans matched Democratic hostility with "snoring indifference."
White House press secretary Scott McClellan on Tuesday took issue with Kuo's depiction of the program.
"The president has made the faith-based initiative one of his highest priorities," he said. "It was at the top of his list when he came into office and it remains on the top of the list as we move into the second term."
Kuo, in an article posted on the religious web site, beliefnet.com, argues that Capitol Hill gridlock could have been eased with minimal West Wing effort, but that over time, it became clear that the White House didn't need to expend Bush's political capital for "pro-poor" legislation.
"Who was going to hold them accountable? Drug addicts, alcoholics, poor moms, struggling urban social service organizations, and pastors aren't quite the NRA," Kuo said of the powerful National Rifle Association lobby.
"The initiative powerfully appealed to both conservative Christians and urban faith leaders — regardless of how much money was being appropriated," he writes. "Democratic opposition was understood as an attack on his personal faith. ... The Faith-Based Office was the cross around the White Houses' neck showing the president's own faith orientation. That was sufficient."