Heaven Sent?

The President's supporters have repeatedly implied that God was partly responsible for Bush's election

Adapted from an article first appearing in Slate



"The president's faith has been misunderstood," White House aide Jim Towey recently told the Associated Press. "I don't see him as any different from his predecessors, both Democrats and Republicans."



Towey is partly right. Democrats tend to overreact to Bush's public use of religious rhetoric, which has usually been responsible, inspiring, and poetic. Typical was the moment during his convention speech in which he marveled at those who had prayed for him despite their own losses.



But while Bush's official comments about faith have been mostly within the mainstream tradition of presidential rhetoric, his supporters lately have gone in a less-familiar direction: conveying the idea that God is

responsible

for Bush being in the White House.



"He is one of those men God and fate somehow lead to the fore in times of challenge," said George Pataki in the high-profile introduction of Bush at the Republican National Convention, an introduction almost certainly scrubbed if not written by the White House.

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"I thank God that on September 11th we had a president who didn't wring his hands and wonder what America had done wrong to deserve this attack," he added. "I thank God we had a president who understood that America was attacked, not for what we had done wrong, but for what we did right."

If he'd said "thank God" just once we might have concluded this was simply colloquial usage-a dramatic way of saying, "It's a darn good thing." That the man introducing Bush thanked God three times makes it suspicious, even more so given these lines from Rudy Giuliani's speech two nights earlier: "Spontaneously, I grabbed the arm of then Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and said to Bernie, 'Thank God George Bush is our president.' And," to reinforce the point, Giuliani added, "And I say it again tonight: Thank God George Bush is our president."

Perhaps Pataki and Giuliani snuck in all those "thank Gods" without the Bush campaign noticing. Not likely. William Smith, a Republican political consultant who used to work with Karl Rove, says, "Having been there and worked with Karl, there's not a phrase or comma by anyone-down to the cleanup crew-that he didn't write or approve."

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Steven Waldman
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