Why a Spiritual Advisor to President Bush Supports Obama

The Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell explains his bond with Bush, his donations to Obama, and his defense of Jeremiah Wright.

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But you supported Bush in 2000 and 2004?

At that juncture [2004] the war was not as--what shall we say--[as] tragic then as it is now. So, there was really no reason for me not to support him four years into office. Even pertaining to the war… the president is the only person who has access to all the information that he had access to. To say we should not have gone into the war may not be quite accurate, but I can say with accuracy [that] the war has been poorly managed… Hindsight is always 20-20…  And whenever you make those types of errors, it’s real easy to say, “Well, we should not have done it in the first place.”
But, unfortunately, there are a lot of things which took place eight years prior to President Bush taking office which, if they had been addressed, could have prevented 9/11, could have prevented some other subsequent tragedies which impact America, either domestically or internationally. I’m not assigning any blame. I’m simply saying that we now live in a brand new world. And the success or failure of this current administration would not be fully appreciated or assessed for years, if not decades to come.
Have you grown more frustrated by President Bush’s actions as president in his second term? Has that affected your relationship?
It has not. Our relationship is pure. That’s the first thing. Second is, while his approval ratings are at an all-time low, Congress's approval ratings are at an all-time low as well. So clearly there needs to be a fresh wind, a breath blowing over Washington…. As I look back on some of the decisions that the president has made, I’ve not agreed with all of those. [But] my disagreement with some of those decisions has not impacted my appreciation for him as a person and my relationship with him as an individual.
How do you keep those two separate?
I’ve never shared this, and I don’t think I’m breaching any confidence. I just happened to have been in DC literally three or four days before the war began. And the president was sharing with me what a terrible situation Iraq was in and what a bad person Saddam Hussein was, and what a threat he posed. And his vision was to go in, take care of the evil power that was there, so to speak, and then to build bridges and schools and hospitals and libraries for the children, youth, and adults of Iraq. That vision came straight from his mouth to my ears.

Obviously, something went awry, and went very awry, so I would say to you that his intent and his motivation were principled, but, obviously, the execution of that vision was ineffective.... It is absolutely tragic to see the body bags come back and to see the impact that the war is having just on children and youth here in this country, whose parents are away at war. I mean, it’s a very sad moment in America’s history, I would dare say.

But, there’s also a price to be paid for security and for safety, and for the future of this country…. I don’t always agree with every decision, but I’m not going to throw him under the bus, as the folks say.
Do you think your relationship with Bush makes the Obama campaign more reluctant to use you in a high profile way?

I think my turn at bat is coming up.... Let’s just face it. Once you introduce a Republican governor at a Republican convention, somebody’s going to view you a little bit differently.

It's been rumored that you’ll be officiating at Jenna Bush’s wedding this weekend.

If I say I'm not, then you're going to ask me if I know who is, and I can't answer that. And if I say I am, then I really can't say that either. Let's just say I know who will be.
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Dan Gilgoff
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