April 7, 2013

J. David Kuo (Family photo)

Many call themselves compassionate conservatives, but David Kuo, who died Friday night of brain cancer at age 44, was the genuine article.

When George W. Bush promised to unleash the “armies of compassion,” David was inspired, as many of us were, and he helped create the White House office of faith-based initiatives.

David soon realized Bush was eager to appease religious conservatives’ freedom on issues such as abortion and homosexuality, but the Bush administration didn’t care about “the poor people stuff,” as David put it. David became a friend and a source as I reported on the bait-and-switch of Bush’s compassionate conservatism.

In 2003, David had a seizure while driving and crashed his car in Rock Creek Park; doctors found a brain tumor. David left the White House disillusioned with Bush, but, in his years of writing since then, he never stopped preaching his belief that fellow conservatives should take greater interest in the least among us.

In my colleague Karen Tumulty’s touching obituary describing David’s path from a young aide to Ted Kennedy to a Christian conservative, she mentions the voluminous response to a “favor” David requested on Facebook two months ago as he headed into another surgery:

“Do something outrageous today,” he wrote. “Give way more than reasonable to a homeless person, take the family out for an ice cream dinner. . . . And serve only ice cream, call someone you hurt and ask forgiveness, call someone who hurt you and give forgiveness . . . And send me a pic.”

David can no longer see the photos, but we can still honor his request.

Dana Milbank writes about political theater in the nation’s capital. He joined the Post as a political reporter in 2000.