Jewish World Review Jan. 14, 2003 / 11 Shevat, 5763

Terry Eastland

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Bush's faith has influenced his conduct in public office | David Frum, who returned to journalism after spending 2001 as a presidential speechwriter, has just published what he saw from inside the White House during that historic year. The book is titled "The Right Man". It is a study of the president's character, and as such - this i s the book's most interesting feature - it can't avoid the man's faith.

Indeed, Mr. Frum ends his account by relating what Mr. Bush told five religious leaders - three Christian, one Jewish and one Muslim - during an Oval Office visit last year. Having asked them to pray for him, he said:

"You know, I had a drinking problem. Right now I should be in a bar in Texas, not the Oval Office. There is only one reason that I am in the Oval Office and not in a bar. I found faith. I found God. I am here because of the power of prayer."

It is startling to be reminded (and by Mr. Bush himself) that a man not so long ago shuffling from bar to bar is now the president of a nation engaged in a global war on terrorism. Cultured despisers of religion may scoff at the notion that faith could have moved a man with "a drinking problem" into the Oval Office for such a time as this. But it is obvious that Mr. Bush believes that.

Mr. Frum, himself Jewish, takes seriously the proposition that Mr. Bush's faith has affected his conduct of office. He recounts how from their first meeting he found the president "unperturbed" by difficulties and confident about the future. Was it arrogance, the speechwriter wondered? Mr. Frum concluded it wasn't. He quotes the commencement address Mr. Bush gave at Yale in 2001:

Purchasing this book
-- linked in 1st paragraph --
helps fund JWR

"When I left here, I didn't have much in the way of a life plan. I knew some people who thought that they did. But it turned out that we were all in for ups and downs, most of them unexpected. Life takes its turns, makes its own demands, writes its own story. And along the way we start to realize we are not the author."

Comments Mr. Frum: "That was why Bush was so confident: not because he was arrogant but because he believed that the future was held in stronger hands than his own."

Mr. Frum also credits the president's faith for the restraint he exhibited right after the terrorist attacks: "He made it clear to his writers that he would pronounce no words of vengefulness or anger. When he spoke off the cuff, he again and again paraphrased the commandment of Romans 12:21: 'Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.' "

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush didn't shy from using "evil," calling terrorists "evil ones" and "evildoers." And then, in last year's State of the Union speech, Mr. Bush spoke famously of an "axis of evil" in describing Iraq, Iran and North Korea.

Mr. Frum, not incidentally, contributed to that speech with a draft in which he referred to the three nations as an "axis of hatred." Mr. Frum recalls how his boss, chief speechwriter Michael Gersen, decided to conform that phrase to "the theological language that Mr. Bush had made his own since Sept. 11."

Mr. Frum also reports on "the tone" inside the White House, one shaped by numerous aides (including Mr. Gersen) who share the president's evangelical Protestantism. This is a White House, we learn, of prayer and Bible study, of "moral fervor" grounded in faith. "I did my best to live up to the upright and hygienic local norms," writes Mr. Frum, who found "the predominant creed" around him "a kindly faith, practical and unmystical," though apparently not a proselytizing one.

He defends the administration against the charge that the Christian commitment of the president and so many of his aides has biased it against non-Christians. "Unjust and unintelligent," he writes, noting how Mr. Bush routinely welcomes those "of no faith at all." Shrewdly, Mr. Frum observes that evangelicalism as he saw it around him "had absorbed a surprising amount of the culture of the non-evangelical world around it: feminism, country-rock music, psychotherapy, even permissive child rearing."

Mr. Frum's book, the first by a former Bush White House aide, underscores the importance of understanding Mr. Bush in terms of his faith. Indeed, without his faith, it would appear, he would be a different man and certainly not - he has said so himself - president of the United States.

Appreciate this writer's work? Why not sign-up for JWR's daily update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Terry Eastland is is publisher of The Weekly Standard.Comment by clicking here.

01/07/03: Dems need ideas, not more microphones
12/17/02: Gray Lady should learn that times have changed
12/10/02: Will High Court be guilty of activism?
12/03/02: The missing facts in news accounts of Saudi Princess Haifa's putative 'charity'
11/26/02: Americans don't have to be worried about Big Brother
11/19/02: Texas' reputation for flamboyance may be revised
11/11/02: Bush now can repair confirmation system
11/05/02: Dems shouldn't believe too strongly in history
10/30/02: Snipers had lots of motives
10/23/02: No one should be shut out of marketplace of ideas
10/15/02: Open hearings that could imperil the nation
10/08/02: Debating the clear and present danger
10/01/02: A great awakening in China?
09/25/02: Abortion, again? The settled but still unsettling law of Roe v. Wade
09/18/02: A relevant presidency--and irrelevant U.N?
09/10/02: Ashcroft's obtuse judicial statement
09/04/02: The Education Gadfly stings again
08/28/02: So then let the president declare war
08/21/02: Will Bush finally 'fix' affirmative action once and for all?
08/06/02: President must take up cause of Egyptian democracy warrior
07/31/02: With each war, civil liberties are curtailed less

© 2002, Terry Eastland