Conservatives Rally Against Bush Aide-Turned-Critic

By Alan Cooperman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 14, 2006

Conservative religious leaders described themselves as shocked yesterday by a new book's charge that Bush administration staffers privately dismissed evangelical Christian political activists as "nuts" and "goofy."

But their dismay was aimed at the book's author, former White House official David Kuo, rather than at President Bush or his senior advisers.

James Dobson, Charles W. Colson and other stalwarts of the conservative Christian movement defended the Bush administration and questioned the timing of the book's publication, a month before the midterm elections. Some suggested that Kuo had betrayed the White House.

"I feel sorry for him, because once you do something like this, you get your 15 minutes in the spotlight, but then after that nobody will touch you," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a Christian advocacy group in Washington. "These kiss-and-tell books do more damage to the author than to the people they attack."

Kuo, who was deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in Bush's first term, alleges in the book, "Tempting Faith," that the Bush administration used its funding of religious charities to court evangelical voters in Machiavellian fashion.

The book is being published at a pivotal moment not just for Republicans who are battling to maintain control of the House and Senate but also for conservative Christian voters, whose support for the GOP has dipped in recent polls.

At 7 p.m. Sunday, evangelical leaders including Perkins and Dobson plan to broadcast a 90-minute television special from a Boston church to hundreds of other churches across the country in an attempt to keep religious conservatives from sitting out the election.

Called "Liberty Sunday," it will "highlight specific cases and stories where people's religious liberties have been threatened because of homosexual activism and gay marriage in Massachusetts," said Family Research Council spokeswoman Bethanie Swendsen.

At the same hour, CBS's "60 Minutes" will broadcast the first interview with Kuo about his book, which is scheduled to go on sale Monday. CBS and the book's publisher, Simon & Schuster, tried to keep a lid on the book's contents until the "60 Minutes" exclusive. But MSNBC host Keith Olbermann obtained a copy and began broadcasting excerpts Wednesday.

Conservative Christian leaders as well as present and former White House officials responded yesterday to the MSNBC report, noting that they had not yet seen the book itself.

White House press secretary Tony Snow told reporters that the book's "assumption or insinuation seems to be that the administration takes lightly faith-based groups." That is "false," he said.

Asked whether the president's "faith-based initiative" was used for political purposes, Snow said flatly: "No." Snow also read from a letter Kuo wrote to Bush when he left the administration in December 2003, saying he was "proud of all the initiative has accomplished."

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