The following opinion piece from The Guardian suggests that President Bush’s apocalyptic views have not been left behind in shaping his views of world events.
Even some Republicans are now horrified by the influence Bush has given to the evangelical right
by Sidney Blumenthal
Published on Thursday, March 23, 2006 by the Guardian/UK
In his latest PR offensive President Bush came to Cleveland, Ohio, on Monday to answer the paramount question on Iraq that he said was on people’s minds: “They wonder what I see that they don’t.” After mentioning “terror” 54 times and “victory” five, dismissing “civil war” twice and asserting that he is “optimistic”, he called on a citizen in the audience, who homed in on the invisible meaning of recent events in the light of two books, American Theocracy, by Kevin Phillips, and the book of Revelation. Phillips, the questioner explained, “makes the point that members of your administration have reached out to prophetic Christians who see the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism as signs of the apocalypse. Do you believe this? And if not, why not?”
Bush’s immediate response, as transcribed by CNN, was: “Hmmm.” Then he said: “The answer is I haven’t really thought of it that way. Here’s how I think of it. First, I’ve heard of that, by the way.” The official White House website transcript drops the strategic comma, and so changes the meaning to: “First I’ve heard of that, by the way.”
But it is certainly not the first time Bush has heard of the apocalyptic preoccupation of much of the religious right, having served as evangelical liaison on his father’s 1988 presidential campaign. The Rev Jerry Falwell told Newsweek how he brought Tim LaHaye, then an influential rightwing leader, to meet him; LaHaye’s Left Behind novels, dramatising the rapture, Armageddon and the second coming, have sold tens of millions.
But it is almost certain that Cleveland was the first time Bush had heard of Phillips’s book. He was the visionary strategist for Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign; his 1969 book, The Emerging Republican Majority, spelled out the shift of power from the north-east to the south and south-west, which he was early to call “the sunbelt”; he grasped that southern Democrats would react to the civil-rights revolution by becoming southern Republicans; he also understood the resentments of urban ethnic Catholics towards black people on issues such as crime, school integration and jobs. But he never imagined that evangelical religion would transform the coalition he helped to fashion into something that horrifies him.
In American Theocracy, Phillips describes Bush as the founder of “the first American religious party”; September 11 gave him the pretext for “seizing the fundamentalist moment”; he has manipulated a “critical religious geography” to hype issues such as gay marriage. “New forces were being interwoven. These included the institutional rise of the religious right, the intensifying biblical focus on the Middle East, and the deepening of insistence on church-government collaboration within the GOP electorate.” It portended a potential “American Disenlightenment,” apparent in Bush’s hostility to science.
Even Bush’s failures have become pretexts for advancing his transformation of government. Exploiting his own disastrous emergency management after Hurricane Katrina, Bush is funneling funds to churches as though they can compensate for governmental breakdown. Last year David Kuo, the White House deputy director for faith-based initiatives, resigned with a statement that “Republicans were indifferent to the poor”.
Within hours of its publication, American Theocracy rocketed to No 1 on Amazon. At US cinemas, V for Vendetta – in which an imaginary Britain, ruled by a totalitarian, faith-based regime that rounds up gays, is a metaphor for Bush’s America – is the surprise hit. Bush has succeeded in getting American audiences to cheer for terrorism.
Sidney Blumenthal, a former senior adviser to President Clinton, is the author of The Clinton Wars.