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O Come, All Ye Faithful

By Dana Milbank and Dan Balz
Sunday, January 16, 2005; Page A04

Those Dems are getting religion.

On Wednesday, the very liberal Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) went to the National Press Club and proclaimed the need for Democrats to talk more about values and said it was useful that a Democratic candidate "talked about God."

The previous week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) cited a pair of biblical passages on the House floor, saying the Scriptures "tell us that to minister to the needs of God's creation is an act of worship."

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This is no accident. After exit polls showed that "values voters" contributed to President Bush's reelection victory, Democrats have been looking for ways to keep the faith. So when Senate Democrats met at the Kennedy Center on Jan. 5 as Congress convened, they invited as their main speaker the Rev. Jim Wallis, a liberal minister who has been urging Democrats to speak more openly about religion. "They gave more time to this than any other issue," Wallis said in an interview.

Wallis's main pitch is that Democrats needlessly have ceded to Republicans the religion-faith issue, allowing voters to believe Democratic candidates are indifferent or hostile to organized religion. In fact, he says, the Bible -- and Jesus's teachings in particular -- are filled with messages that align more closely to Democratic policies than GOP policies: Help the poor, share the wealth, work for peace.

"Democrats should welcome a moral values conversation," Wallis said. "As an evangelical Christian, I find 3,000 verses in the Bible about the poor," far outnumbering mentions of same-sex unions or low taxes. Wallis, author of the book "God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It," said federal budgets "are moral documents," and Democrats should portray them as such.

Republicans are not impressed. Religious conservative Gary Bauer, a 2000 GOP presidential candidate, wrote an e-mail to supporters mocking Kennedy and Pelosi. "They just don't get it!" he wrote. "The American people are tired of the radical left's assault upon all things religious. . . . For a party so dominated by Michael Moore's Hollywood, liberal academia and the ACLU, it's going to take a lot more than politicians quoting Scripture to win votes."

But Pelosi will not yield to the floor to the likes of Bauer when it comes to talk of God. "Pelosi often speaks of her faith and values, and long has," said spokeswoman Jennifer Crider. "She's a devout Catholic who attends church every Sunday."

Shrum Heads to the Big Apple

After three decades at the center of Democratic Party politics, veteran strategist Bob Shrum is switching careers and cities, giving up his political consulting role for teaching and moving from Washington to New York.

Shrum's new posting will be at New York University, where he will both teach and write about politics. "I want to reflect, and I want to write, and I want to think about the future and what the party ought to stand for and where it ought to go and where the country ought to go," he said.

One of the most sought-after consultants in his party, Shrum leaves behind a record that includes a string of victories in statewide races around the country, but not a single win in the eight presidential campaigns in which he played a role. A powerful personality, skilled writer and aggressive advocate, Shrum was often a divisive figure inside the campaigns for which he worked and within his party.

He served as one of Sen. John F. Kerry's (D-Mass.) top advisers in the 2004 election, as he did in Al Gore's 2000 campaign, and he has had long ties to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.). He said he probably would have given up his consulting career for teaching even if Kerry had been successful last November, but with books in his future, it's certain the Democrats have not gotten the last of his advice.

Don't Miss This Nader Offer

Look out, Oprah: The Ralph Nader book club has some new offerings.

As previously noted in this space, the hapless presidential candidate has been trying to retire his campaign debt by offering copies of his decades-old book and of a cookbook written by his parents. Now Nader, in an e-mail to supporters, is hawking two other volumes: Greg Bates's "Ralph's Revolt" and a reissue of 70-year-old antiwar book by Gen. Smedley Butler, "War Is a Racket." In cable infomercial style, Nader writes to his supporters: "That's two books -- Ralph's Revolt and War is a Racket -- for a contribution of $100 to our campaign."

But some may want to help Nader ease his crushing debt load without promoting Butler -- an isolationist who, until his death in 1940, vigorously opposed preparations for war, saying the United States should not be concerned with Adolf Hitler. For another $100 contribution, Nader will send you a "memorabilia gift package" of a Nader window sign, DVD, playing cards, buttons, bumper stickers and a signed "Spoiler" T-shirt -- while supplies last.

Quotable

"Why don't we just ask Osama bin -- Osama Obama -- Obama what -- since he won by such a big amount."

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), below, on Wednesday when asked about lessons from the victory of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

Staff writer Charles Babington contributed to this report.


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