The former head of President Bush's faith-based office charged in a magazine article released yesterday that the administration's domestic policies are determined entirely by political considerations, with "everything" being run by the office of senior adviser Karl C. Rove.
John J. DiIulio Jr., a Democrat who resigned last year as the first director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, is one of only a few officials who have left Bush's senior staff since his inauguration, and the only one who has publicly attacked his colleagues.
"There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus," DiIulio is quoted as telling Esquire. "What you've got is everything -- and I mean everything -- being run by the political arm. It's the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis."
The article in Esquire's January issue is by Ron Suskind, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who caused consternation at the White House with an article in the magazine's July issue about Bush's close adviser Karen Hughes. White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. was quoted as saying Bush was "in a state of denial" about the damage her return to Texas would cause.
DiIulio told Esquire that "some staff members, senior and junior, are awed and cowed by Karl's real or perceived powers." Rove has kept a low profile despite his involvement in virtually all key decisions unrelated to national security. But he has been getting increasing attention since the string of Republican victories in the midterm elections. Two biographies of him are being written.
A senior administration official provided a low-key response to the Esquire article. "The people who know Karl, the people who know how this president does business, will be able to separate fact from fiction," the official said. "The president and Karl have an operating premise that people often overlook, which is that good government is good politics, not the other way around."
Bush's faith-based initiative is designed to help churches and other religious groups compete for federal social services contracts. It was one of Bush's six core campaign promises but has not passed the Senate. Some White House officials blame DiIulio, saying he was an ineffective advocate for the legislation. Sources close to DiIulio respond that Bush proposed a version that was too extreme in order to please House Republicans.
DiIulio, a University of Pennsylvania political scientist, had planned to stay in the administration for six months and resigned in August 2001, citing health concerns. In the 10-page article, he accuses Bush of "a virtual absence as yet of any policy accomplishments that might, to a fair-minded nonpartisan, count as the flesh on the bones of so-called compassionate conservatism.
"Besides the tax cut, which was cut and dried during the campaign, and the education bill, which was really a Ted Kennedy bill, the administration has not done much, either in absolute terms or in comparison to previous administrations at this stage, on domestic policy," DiIulio said.
Bush, in announcing his faith-based initiative the week after his inauguration, called DiIulio "one of the most influential social entrepreneurs in America" and said he "has a servant's heart on the issues that we will confront."