Jesus, That's Some Stupid Shit!
In The New Republic, tireless God-botherer Amy Sullivan tries to save the souls of us pagan babies on the left. Her article is titled, "It's Hard To Believe, But Bush Does Disdain Evangelicals."
In a world where Amy Sullivan's opinion is thought to have value, there's nothing that's hard to believe. And Sullivan's article isn't actually about how Bush disdains evangelicals, it's about how liberals are godless intolerant paranoids who suck.
Sullivan takes as her text the Gospel According to David Kuo. First, Sullivan tries to school the Biblical illterates she imagines read the godless TNR:
[Conservatives] charged the traitor, former Deputy Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives David Kuo, with timing the book to do maximum damage in the midterm elections, and they compared him to Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus. "What David Kuo is saying about the President and his efforts," said David Contreras, Texas director of the Council on Faith in Action, "is nothing more than a cynical attempt to sell books and line his pockets with 30 pieces of silver [a reference to the payment Judas received for turning Jesus over to the Pharisees.]"Yes, but who is this "Jesus" of which you speak? Slow down, I can't keep up.
The reaction [to the book] from the left has been, to put it mildly, slightly less vigorous. It is in stark contrast to the way in which liberal commentators and bloggers embraced other revelations, such as former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill's memoir or the latest Bob Woodward book. This time, the responses have ranged from total silence to yawns to fears that the book could backfire on the Democratic Party. In general, most liberals have chosen to distance themselves from Kuo and his case.
Or perhaps the contrast could be explained by the fact that O'Neill's book had important revelations, such as confirmation that Bush planned to invade Iraq nearly 10 months before September 11, 2001, whereas Kuo is just whining about the lack of Administration pork for his special interest group. (As for liberal bloggers' reaction to Booby's latest book, the take I saw most was that Woodward was the last dolt in D.C. to realize -- or grudgingly admit -- the War President's incompetence.)
Why don't liberals care about Kuo as much as Sullivan thinks they should?
This could just be smart politics. After all, Republicans are in such a free-fall at the moment that it might be best for liberals to stay out of the way and let conservatives fling recriminations at each other, as has largely been the case with the Mark Foley scandal. But something else is at play, too. Despite the evidence Kuo presents in Tempting Faith, liberals simply don't believe him. They've spent so much time fear-mongering about American theocracy that a book illustrating the opposite simply makes no sense to them. In fact, the real revelation of Kuo's book is not that the Bushies don't care about evangelicals; it's that liberals are too wedded to their views to capitalize on it.
But there's no inconsistency in holding simultaneously the beliefs that the Bush Administration wants to impose Christian-right beliefs upon the citizenry (through judicial appointments, use of taxes for religious purposes, and the like) and that those in the Administration believe themselves exempt from the laws of God necessary to keep the filthy heathens docile.
Sullivan then goes on to a
cherry-pick sample liberal reaction to the book. Or something. First, she goes off on a tangent and bashes Lawrence O'Donnell for characterizing as "insane" the fundie philosophy that all Jews are going to hell. It really rankles her that O'Donnell would piss on one of her most cherished beliefs.
Then, returning to the subject, she writes:
In the blogosphere, the liberal reaction was a bit more temperate than O'Donnell's theological attack, but no more strategically smart. Kuo's book should have prompted the left to think about how to exploit tensions in the GOP or even to reach out to disaffected evangelicals. Instead, the major liberal blogs--after a brief "what's this?" look last week when the "nuts" revelations surfaced--have ignored the story. Street Prophets, a Daily Kos-affiliated site has paid attention, but only to criticize Kuo as naive about politics and wasting his time on old news. Even a website for religious Democrats sniffed that Kuo's allegations were "not particularly newsworthy." Meanwhile, one prominent liberal blogger sent an e-mail warning others that Kuo's book was "total horseshit" and not good news for liberals.
D'oh! We liberals and Dems missed the perfect opportunity to expand our base by supporting the criminalization of sodomy and abortion and the eternal damnation of Marty Peretz.
The problem is that Kuo's book creates cognitive dissonance for liberals. Conspiracy theories about theocracy have haunted liberals for the last few years, and, if you believe that religious conservatives lead Bush around by the nose, evidence to the contrary is impossible to absorb. Everyone on the left "knows" that the faith-based initiative is a slush-fund, a jackpot for religious conservatives. If it turns out instead to be a political sham that produced only 1 percent of the new funds it promised for faith-based organizations, liberals need rethink their theocracy-phobia.
Come on, Sullivan. You're not even trying now. The issue isn't whether the Administration gave the fundies every dollar they wanted, it's that they gave them anything at all. Their motive for doing so -- pure or corrupt -- doesn't matter. Either way, that is theocracy. And the left can't make a counteroffer, or enter into a bidding war for the fundies' favor, without abandoning the core principles which makes it the left.