Coinciding with new polls showing that his job approval rating has dipped to its lowest since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President Bush is getting mixed reviews from some Christian political watchdog groups.
In the last week, surveys by "Newsweek," NBC-"Wall Street Journal" and Ipsos-Reid revealed that Bush's job approval rating had dropped into the mid-60s after almost a year between 70 percent and 90 percent, the Associated Press (AP) reported. Some observers say the president is also drawing further scrutiny from conservatives for his decisions on faith-related issues.
On the positive side, pro-family groups lauded Bush's decision this week to cut off funding to the United Nations family planning programs, which reportedly tolerates coercive abortions and forced sterilizations in China.
The Bush administration Monday withheld $34 million that it had earmarked to the U.N. Population Fund, and instead the funds will be spent on child survival and health programs of the U.S. Agency for International Development, the AP reported. "This is a victory for the pro-life cause," American Values president Gary L. Bauer said in an e-mail to supporters.
"Denying taxpayer funding for pro-abortion programs overseas is precisely the kind of action we should expect from a pro-life administration. The president resisted intense pressure from pro-abortion lawmakers and the abortion industry in making this decision. And in doing so, President Bush took a clear step toward ensuring that not one dime of your hard-earned money is spent overseas promoting the destruction of innocent life."
However, Bush rankled conservatives last Friday when he named openly gay physician Joseph O'Neill as the new chief of the Office of National AIDS Policy, the AP reported. O'Neill replaced Scott Evertz, an openly gay director whose activism irked some Christian leaders.
In an e-mail to supporters, Family Research Council president Ken Connor called the move "troubling." "It remains to be seen whether the new appointee will pursue policies more closely aligned with the president's," Connor said. More troubling was word that Patricia Ware, executive director of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, likely will be replaced, he added."Unlike Evertz, Ware is a strong advocate of the president's positions that marriage and abstinence are the best defenses against AIDS transmission. This is representative of the tension that exists among White House staff about how to approach the gay agenda. If as some administration staff have said, that 'personnel is policy,' what do these changes say about the president's policies?"
Meanwhile, "The New York Times" reported today that some Christian leaders who pressed Bush to appoint John Ashcroft as attorney general now say they have become deeply troubled by his actions as the leading public figure in the law enforcement drive against terrorism.
Connor said that while he still applauded Ashcroft's stands on abortion and child pornography, he was dismayed by the changes instituted at the Justice Department. "We need to ask ourselves the question, How would our groups fare under these new rules?" he said.