“If we had faith in injustice, we would only believe in ourselves and act with injustice.” — Attorney Frank Galvin in the film “The Verdict.”
DETROIT — No president in modern times has had more faith in himself and wrought more injustice than George W. Bush. With his military madness and the violence in Iraq, reckless fiscal policies, tax structures that most benefit the rich and shift more of the obligations of government to the middle class and harm the poor, and positions on the environment that desecrate the earth and damage human health, this president acts as if injustice were a virtue.
But God is on Bush’s side, we’re told, and he’s here doing the Lord’s work on earth.
We know the certainty of this great truth because Bush tells us it’s so. His mission from God and faith in his own leadership make the president omnipotent, omniscient and infallible. Even popes don’t get all those traits.
Many, if not most, bishops in the Catholic Church are behind Bush because — well, hell — he’s against abortion and tells us repeatedly he stands “for a culture of life.” That’s just what most of the American hierarchy want to hear, and a few of the boys with red hats, wearing lots of gold, would just love to run John Kerry, a former altar boy, right out of the church and save the nation and the world from his heretical beliefs. Bush has faith. Kerry doesn’t. God sent us Bush. Kerry is Satan’s servant.
Those are the themes some Catholic bishops are trying to sell — along with their allies of convenience, the radical, fundamentalist Christian right — to keep “God’s man” in the Oval Office. Rev. Karl Rove, the president’s minister for manipulation of religious zealotry for partisan gain, has successfully orchestrated this truly unholy alliance, and is counting on this base to deliver the goods next Tuesday.
Ron Suskind’s chilling piece in the Oct. 17 “New York Times Magazine” on George W. Bush’s faith gave me the shudders and I am already long-convinced Bush is blind to the truth and reality, dangerously irrational and may be suffering from serious mental illness. I know I’m a layperson with no medical credential to make that judgment, but trust me, I had a dream and God told me Bush is crazy.
Suskind spoke with Bruce Bartlett, a Republican and former domestic policy adviser to Ronald Reagan and Treasury Department aide in Bush the Elder’s administration. Bartlett said George W. believes he’s on a messianic mission and God tells him what to do.
“This is why he dispenses with people who confront him with inconvenient facts,” Bartlett told Suskind, adding, “He truly believes he’s on a mission from God. Absolute faith like that overwhelms a need for analysis. The whole thing is to believe things for which there is no empirical evidence.”
Bush has supreme faith, based on “instincts” and what his “gut” tells him. Infallibility kicks into gear when he declares his view about any issue after he “prays over it.”
Suskind describes how the Bush White House quickly evolved into a pack of lapdogs and simpering sycophants, vying to please the boss and having contempt for those who dared veer from the company line. By the summer of 2001, the preferred qualities in George W.’s West Wing emerged, creating “a disdain for contemplation or deliberation, an embrace of decisiveness, a retreat from empiricism, a sometimes bullying impatience with doubters and even friendly questioners. Already Bush was saying, ‘Have faith in me and my decisions and you’ll be rewarded.’”
The experience of Jim Wallis, an evangelical pastor who organized the Sojourners, an advocacy group for social justice, is most telling. Shortly after the Supreme Court selected Bush to be president, Bush turned to Wallis for help in understanding the needs of the poor — a subject Bush admitted he knew nothing about. Wallis obliged and he was quickly on the White House A-list of religious leaders.
Things changed after Sept. 11. At a White House meeting following the 2002 State of the Union speech, in which the president declared an all-out war on terror, Wallis told him, “Mr. President, if we don’t devote our energy, our focus and our time on also overcoming global poverty and desperation, we will lose not only the war on poverty, but we’ll lose the war on terrorism.”
Bush told the minister that’s why America needs leaders in the clergy like Wallis.
“No, Mr. President,” Wallis said. “We need your leadership on this question. … Unless we drain the swamp of injustice in which the mosquitoes of terrorism breed, we’ll never defeat the threat of terrorism.”
Wallis told Suskind Bush looked at him “quizzically” and has not spoken to him since.
Bush’s certainty, absolutism, impatience and obsessions are traits, not of a man of great faith, but rather a person who uses faith as a crutch and a way to justify whatever he wants. Truth and reality have no place in his mind. Bush consistently chooses to ignore the facts and create his own realities, and a staggeringly large number of his followers join in this faith-based fantasy to justify political beliefs.
The White House claims that Saddam Hussein had terrible weapons and that he worked in cahoots with Osama bin Laden were completely bogus. We are now learning more about the lengths to which high-ranking Bushites went to fabricate a “reality” used to sell an unnecessary and unjust war.
Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, released a scathing report detailing how Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and his deputies Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith set up their own rump intelligence operation to tailor and shape information to prove the president’s faith-based, preordained conclusion that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and was an ally of al-Qaeda.
Levin’s findings show how the intelligence was skewed in Feith’s office, using fifth-hand reports and long- discredited information, and how he tried to pressure the Defense Intelligence Agency and CIA to review intelligence reports already rejected as false.
Even after Rumsfeld said earlier this month that he hasn’t seen “any strong, hard evidence” to link Saddam to al-Qaeda and the Sept. 11 attacks, the lies he helped create live on and more of the faithful are swallowing them.
A USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll shows 42 percent of those surveyed still believe Saddam was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, and 32 percent thought he had “personally” planned them. In a tribute to self-delusion, 62 percent of Republicans now believe Saddam was involved in the attacks, up from 56 percent in the same poll in June. Bush’s faithful wallow in his misleading rhetoric and fabricated rationale for war.
“The evidence is now clear that the Bush administration misled the American people into the war in Iraq,” wrote Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton in an op-ed column in the Detroit Free Press. Gumbleton is the longest-serving Catholic bishop in the United States and a man of great faith and reason. He sees that promoting a culture of life requires more than words.
“Is President Bush’s agenda really the Catholic agenda?” he asks, pointing to the military and civilian deaths in Iraq.
Gumbleton reminds us capital punishment is also a “culture of life” issue. Bush executed 152 people while governor of Texas and publicly mocked a woman who pleaded for mercy as she awaited execution.
Gumbleton sees the “culture of life” as embracing all, including the need to care for the least among us, human life in the womb.
“One proven way to reduce abortions is to reduce the number of people living in poverty,” the bishop writes, and reminds us that “under President George W. Bush, statistics show that the abortion rate has gone up,” as the number of Americans living in poverty has risen.
He urges us to see through the gap between rhetoric and reality and says, “We must call on President Bush to account for a deeply troubling record, and we must challenge Democrats to embrace the entire culture of life, not just a selective economic and social agenda. The sad reality of American political life is that no candidate or party embraces and advances a ‘culture of life’ in the fullest sense of the term.”
So how should Catholic voters choose between imperfect candidates? Gumbleton says we must consult our conscience and consider the entirety of church teaching, adding a caution: “What we will not do is vote for a candidate just because he uses words that we like to hear; remembering as Scripture tells us, that we must be ‘doers of the Word and not hearers only.’”
George W. Bush’s faith — devoid of fact — and his regular chats with God are profoundly disturbing. My Catholic faith teaches me to think and reflect and to do what Bishop Gumbleton suggests.
Bill Gallagher, a Peabody Award winner, is a former Niagara Falls city councilman who now covers Detroit for Fox2 News.