Politics & Policy

Questions From Readers

Some questions from readers about THE RIGHT MAN – and some answers. Names and other identifiers have been stripped from the questions; I’ll be answering more on Friday – and on Monday too, if they keep coming in. Send yours to AskFrum@nationalreview.com.

Q: When the President said “wonder working power” (which is a line from a beloved hymn “There is Power in the Blood” I was stunned. Most “Christian” politicians sanitize their faith into some pansy-milktoast “don’t want to offend” pap. Enough nods to God to keep the Christian right in line, but largely a prop than a creed.

Bush strikes me as a man who believes fundamentally in Jesus Christ as Savior. Not in the socially acceptable Episcopalian/Anglican Jesus (sorry Derb) but in the Jesus of Paul and John.

Is this true?? Can it Be??

A: Bush has a fine line to walk. He is president of all the people of a diverse country – and as he said in his superb nomination acceptance speech in Philadelphia in August 2000, he is tolerant because of his faith, not despite it. On the other hand, he also makes clear that his faith has a name and a history: it is Christianity. I was very struck by his specifically Christian language at the Christmas-tree lighting this year, but if you listen to him, you will hear it at every holiday of the Christian calendar.

Yet Bush’s Christianity is a very practical Christianity. Do you remember during the campaign that he named Jesus as the most important philosopher to him, “because he changed my life”? Bush often speaks as if the real test of religious faith is its power for good in the here & now.

Q: Does President Bush actually believe or have any faith that the Palestinians will throw out Arafat and move towards representative government. or is he merely using this tact to keep the weenies (we all know who this refers to) off his back?

A: I think he does believe in this possibility. You don’t have to spend a whole lot of time with Palestinians to hear how disgusted they are with Arafat’s leadership. True, a great many of them are disgusted because that leadership is not violent enough for them – but a great many others do use the language of democracy and human rights in a way that is very promising. I can’t say how optimistic or pessimistic Bush is in his inmost heart. But most of his assessments do lean toward optimism.

Actually, I’m not sure who you mean by the “weenies” – but I doubt that very many members of this broad group care one whit how the Palestinians are governed. The pro-Palestinian lobby has always been driven far more by hatred for Israel than by concern for the Palestinians. President Bush’s great statement in June 2002 in favor of Palestinian democracy was driven, it seems to me, first and foremost by his sense that the immeidate creation of a non-democratic Palestinian state (which many Europeans were demanding at the time) would be an invitation to a vast new round of terrorism and political instability in the Middle East.

Q: I find it interesting that you portray Bush’s rejection of Arafat as a

defiance mainly against Europe rather than also against the Saudis. How much influence do the Saudis really have on Bush’s Middle Eastern policies?

A: It is toward the Saudis that Bush’s foreign-policy traditionalism can be most plainly seen. He is breaking with three decades of a foreign policy that believed in asking few questions about how our Arab oil-suppliers – breaking, but he has not yet broken. In many NR readers minds, Saudi Arabia is the next candidate for change after Iraq – or maybe after Iraq and Iran. George W. Bush is much more cautious. He sees the Saudis for what they are – but also sees the many ways in which they have been useful to the United States, despite their two-faced, and he naturally shrinks from changes in Saudi Arabia that would be too rapid and too unpredictable.


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