Moderator: Michael Cromartie, Ethics and Public Policy Center
Speakers: Rev. Doug Tanner, The Faith and Politics Institute
Karen Tumulty, TIME Magazine
Terry Eastland, The Weekly Standard
David Aikman, A Man of Faith: The Spiritual Journey of George W. Bush
Amy Sullivan, The Washington Monthly
Does faith matter? When does personal faith affect public service?
With a publicly Christian President and the first Roman Catholic presidential nominee since Kennedy, the faith of the presidential candidates are a hot topic. While the iron is hot, The Faith and Politics Institute along with Gegrapha are hosting a panel discussion to talk about the media’s coverage of the candidate’s faith. The purpose of the discussion is to bring journalists, politicians, and fellows at the various think tanks together to exchange thoughts and ideas on this important issue. Is the media being too hard on Kerry and Bush? How would you grade the media coverage so far? How could it improve?
Michael Cromartie (MC): Thank you Diane. Welcome ladies and gentlemen. The topic that we are going to discuss today, as you well know, is a topic being discussed everyday and every week in our major newspapers and news magazines…..Vanity Fair, Gentlemen’s Quarterly, Time Magazine, Newsweek, New York Times, the Washington Post…..Almost every time that we pick up these papers, someone is either talking about President Bush’s Christian faith or about Senator Kerry’s Catholic faith and what role that it might play in politics. So the subject we are addressing is certainly on point and on topic.
The 5 panelists that we have are all people that have either written about this topic or covered the subject for their publications. I have asked the panelist…..They have been told that they have 5 to 10 minutes to speak because we do want to open it up for questions and answers. Having said 5 or 10 minutes, I would now like to enforce the rule of 5 minutes and your moderator is a stern taskmaster and he will, in fact, interrupt you if you go too long. But basically we want our panelist to make some summary comments and then we will have a dialogue between them and then a dialogue between you, which we look forward to very much.
Are first commentator is Reverend Douglas Tanner, and he is the President and Co-Founder of the Faith in Politics Institute, which is an interfaced non-partisan, not-for-profit organization here in Washington, DC. And Mr. Tanner has worked in Washington with the U.S. Senate and he has been with the Faith in Politics Institute since its inception in 1991.
Reverend Tanner, thank you for joining us.
Rev. Tanner: Good morning. I think that most of us who have been paying attention to politics for 2, 3, 4 or more decades, at one time, we have been very surprised except for when John Kennedy’s Catholicism was an issue in 1960 to see religion playing such an important role in public life at the point of politics and elections that we see this year. But it is very clear that the voter’s do want their President and others to be a person of faith.
I think that in 2000 that played a supporting role and faith is buying for a more prominent role in this year’s elections. And the enduring questions have to do, in my judgment, and with the content of the faith that is being presented by candidates.
One issue that people are quite comfortable with is a President who has some sense of faith, who is pious to some degree, who can call on a higher power for guidance in troubled times. But the questions beyond that have to do with what is the vision? What are the values? What is the spirit that emanates from that fate and with what integrity are those things held together? Do they serve the goals of human dignity and human community? Or do they do disservice to either? What are the policy implications of any particular measure or form of personal piety that a candidate embraces?
And as the press covers this, I hope that you will tell real human stories that illustrate that and that you will tell them accurately. Stories of strength or courage, largeness of spirit that heals wounds and addresses injustices or stories that reflect an absence of those things.
I came of age in the south during the Civil Rights Movement and I remember people in politics……People at the intersection of religion, faith and public life who did one of those things and other who did the other and I hope that will be an appropriate focus for all of you who cover it.
I recently accompanied a Congressional Delegation to South Africa and we met with, among others, Former President Declerk. And he told us of how his faith had led him in the politics and of many ways of which it had formed his politics. He also reminded us of the dangers of religion and politics and how it can easily be a source of hubris, a source of coming down on the wrong side of fundamental issues of justice and fairness in community and in healing.
So I hope that our conversation will be not simply about whether someone is authentically religious because there are many versions of that, but what vision, what values, what spirit does that religious embrace represent.
MC: Thank you Reverent Tanner.
Karen Tumulty is Time Magazine’s Nations Political Correspondent, based in Washington, DC, where she covers national political developments for the magazine. She has formally been the magazine’s White House correspondent, and during the 2000 election campaign, she covered the Al Gore campaign. She appears frequently on CNN and CNBC and PBS and we are delighted that Karen could be with us here today. Karen?
Karen Tumulty: Thank you very much. It is true. I’m a political reporter, and you know, in the last few election cycles I think I would have been asking myself what am I doing on a panel about faith. But the fact is that is has become a very important theme in this year’s election.
I did a cover story late last year on President Bush’s, sort of the love him/hate him President, you know, the most polarizing President in recent history by his own polling numbers and we did a massive poll of our own and we really found that the issue of his faith came up on both sides of this equation and that it was very much a reason for people who love President Bush and who love him. I mean, they see it as, you know, the driving force behind all of the things that they love about him and particularly that they believe that he is a person who has beliefs and sticks to them. But we also found it being brought up in our survey constantly among people who don’t like the President because they think that he is essentially trying to impose his own beliefs on the country.
So with that as a backdrop, I did become quite interested in the subject of John Kerry’s faith and recently did, what I believe is the only extensive interview that anyone has done with him about his religious faith, at least in this election cycle. And he is up against an interesting problem here.
Senator Kerry was raised as a Catholic, has practiced his faith his entire life. When he was growing up in boarding school, he was one of the few Catholic boys in the school and would have to be driven by a car to mass every Sunday. You know, it was something that distinguished him from the other students in a largely Episcopal boarding school. And he told me during the interview that when he into battle in Viet Nam that it was with a Rosary around his neck and that he had something of a crisis of faith after he came back trying to reconcile the things that he had been through, the things that he had seen with the idea that there is a just God in this world. But he did in fact, work his way back to the Catholic faith.
But unlike John Kennedy, who was the most recent person of the Catholic faith to win a major party nomination, John Kerry does not have to deal with open outright anti-Catholic bigotry the way that John Kennedy did. But he is going to have to deal with the fact that he is on the opposite side of his own church on a lot of important issues; not just abortion, but stem cell research, school vouchers…..Just any number of issues where he has cast votes on the opposite side of his church. And at a time when the church itself is talking about essentially no longer allowing Catholic politicians to have it both ways and to say that these are my personal beliefs, but I separate that from my public life.
So it is going to be a tricky issue for both Senator Kerry and for the church and it is something that is being talked about very much, at high-levels in the Vatican these days, because if in fact he is elected, he will be dealing with the Pope essentially on a Head of State to Head of State level. So I think that it is an issue that you are going to continue to hear talked about.
There are some Bishops in this country who have said that in their Diesis that they do not want Senator Kerry to even receive communion, although I asked him specifically about that and he said that I will continue to practice my faith.
So like I said, I do think that this is increasingly an underlying issue on both sides of the ballot this election.
MC: Thank you. Thank you Karen.
Our next panelist is David Aikman. David Aikman is a veteran of foreign policy correspondent for Time Magazine, where for over 20 years he covered foreign policy in China and Asia.
Most importantly, right now, David has written a brand new book that literally came out last week called A Man of Faith – The Spiritual Journey of George Bush. A Man of Faith – The Spiritual Journey of George Bush, it is hot of the press and you too can have a copy and give David a card or look it up on Amazon.com.
So obviously this is an issue that David has been thinking about a lot lately and David, thank you for joining us.
David Aikman: Thank you Michael.
President Bush is obviously not the first President of modern times to be an outspoken evangelical Christian. That honor goes to President Jimmy Carter, who in his 1976 Campaign astounded the Washington Press Corp by saying that he was born again and most of who didn’t have a clue as to what it meant.
President Bush does not say that he is born again. In fact, that particular terminology is essentially out of fashion around the White House. He calls himself a follower of Christ. But to all who recognize the characteristics of people who are of evangelical, he is very much part of the traditional American evangelical mode. But, at the same time, in some ways he is the most ecumenical President in the White House to be a person of strong faith.
He was brought up in the Episcopal Church, which is part of the Anglican tradition, or at least it used to be. He was or went to Sunday School in the Presbyterian Church, to which his parent migrated for a while, while living in Midland, Texas. And when he got married, he joined the Methodist Church.
But it is more then just a Christian ecumenicism. George W. Bush has been known to pray in the Oval Office with office of the Sheik faith. He has certainly reached out in fairly demonstrative ways to the Islamic community. In fact, potentially undermining support for his policies or support for his view of Islam by some Americans of evangelicals who think that he perhaps is not discerning or critical enough of Islam.
Just as a parenthesis to that, when he was in London, he was asked by a British journalist, at his most recent trip to Great Britain, whether he thought that the God of Islam was the same as the God of Christianity and he replied “yes”, which was revealing because I think that it showed that wisely he does not regard his position as Commander In Chief of the United States Armed Forces to be equivalent to “Theologian In Chief”.
He has also moderated his language. He does not use traditional evangelical terminology. For example, when he is talking about God, he does not use the term “The Lord”. He uses the term the “Almighty”, which is much more powerful to people of Jewish faith and of course, to people of a much more generic version of Christianity.
Although he is often described as being overtly religious, he in fact, is very careful not to use specific language, which is emblematic of evangelical thought in public statements. He will use queue-size scriptural terms now and then, and every now and then and also he will use a phrase or so from a well known hymn, but he will not use it and label it as Christian symbolism even if it is such or is interpreted as such.
He is aware that he has to walk a very find line between on the one hand, for political reasons, obviously, galvanizing the support of evangelicals for the Republican Party in the forth-coming election. And on the other hand, not alienating large numbers of Americans who might be offended by a President espousal publicly of any particular religious point of view.
So he is a beneficiary of a great American tradition of faith in the White House. Everybody from George Washington onwards was essentially American exceptionalist believing that Providence had selected America for great purposes in the world. And one or two minor quirks on that road……Rutherford Hayes, at the command of his wife Calvinist and his wife was even more devote and she banned card playing, cigars, and alcohol in the White House gaining the title of Lemonade Lucy.
I don’t think that Laura Bush is Lemonade Laura. But he has to walk a very fine line and I think that it is interesting that he regards his overt faith as both a potential advantage and a potential minefield as he seeks re-election.
MC: Thank you David.
Our next speaker is Amy Sullivan. Amy Sullivan is a frequent contributor to the Washington Monthly. In fact, recently Amy had a cover story in the Washington Monthly on religion and the Democratic Party.
She is also a PHD candidate at Princeton University in Associology of Religion and we are glad that you could join us today. Thank you.
Amy Sullivan: Thank you.
I want to spend just a few minutes talking about the questions about how candidates personal faith is covered in the medium and particularly to talk about what I see as a double standard in terms of how Democrats and how Republicans are treated and questioned when it comes to the topic of their personal faith. And then move on into some of the contemporary issues that we are seeing right now and how that plays out.
I think that in general, we have conventional wisdom that the Democratic Party is the party of the people who are not religious and the Republican Party is the party of the people who are. And that tends to play itself when we look at candidates as well.
With Democrats, often journalists approach them with the assumption that they can’t possibly really be religious and so the coverage of their faith becomes coverage of another political new story. It is a “gottcha” story. It is trying to prove that a candidate is not really religious rather then actually getting into what it means to be a religious politician and how that impacts and how you behave as a public official, which I believe are questions……They are much more relevant for voters; things that the voters need to know. I don’t particularly care how often John Kerry reads the Bible of whether he knows which Pope is Pious or whatever, which is not wrong. But, you know, it ends up with situations, like during the primary, Howard Dean sat down for an interview with Howard Fineman and in the course of the interview, he managed to misidentify a few books of the Bible. But he also was asked a question by Fineman that would have sounded a little more appropriate if it was asked by a Baptist minister before a baptism.
Fineman asked Dean, “Do you see Jesus Christ as the Son of God and believe in him as the route to salvation in eternal life”, which is an odd question in the middle of a political interview and I’m not sure a question that is really relevant to Howard Dean’s qualifications to be a Presidential Candidate or not.
The way that Republican candidates tend to be approached, when it comes to their faith, is with less skepticism and giving them much more ground to assert their own religiosity. And we have seen this not just with Republican Candidates, but I think that Joe Leiberman was treated the same way and that often, black politicians are treated the same way.
If you assert your religiosity vehemently enough, you are assumed to be religious and you are therefore given the label of a religious man or a religious woman without really any questions being asked. And I’m not necessarily sure that that is a good thing either. I think that both of these tactics of approaching religion as a political item and a candidates biography are not necessary best for politics or best for religion either because on the one hand it treats religion sort of as a political tool and on the other, it is just something that is left up to a politician to assert themselves.
With the question of Kerry’s Catholicism, I think that we are seeing something that is an internal church story, with unquestionably political ramifications becoming a political story in a way that is perhaps not always accurately portrayed.
There was an NPR story over the weekend talking about what Catholics think about John Kerry’s Catholicism and whether he is a real Catholic. And yet the Catholics who were interviewed were Catholics who were attending Mass on a Wednesday morning, which I would argue are not representative of your average Catholic voter and going to be actually much more conservative and Orthodox.
What is often not mentioned is that John Kerry is not the first Catholic politician to have this happen, and in fact, it is not that he is out of the main stream. He may certainly disagree with some of the teachings of his church, but it is true that they are Catholic politicians who decent from teachings about the war and about the death penalty and that they are often not publicly recommended, but that in fact, they are on the opposite sides of many issues from the Vatican and that Gray Davis has been reprimanded by his Bishop. Tom Daschal has been reprimanded by his Bishop.
There is an AP story this morning about New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevy being reprimanded by his Bishop, who said that he would not serve him communion any more.
In fact, our Director of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, has been reprimanded by his Bishop and at one point in Pennsylvania, was told that he was not allowed to enter Catholic churches.
Mentioning other examples like this would put John Kerry’s Catholicism question in context and give voters a little better understanding of whether this is one man who is a hieratic and a dissenter from his church or whether in fact that this is an ongoing debate with the Catholic church and he is one of many politicians who find themselves on opposite sides of some quite political Bishops.
The other factor that plays into this is that John Kerry has not actually made his religiosity an issue for this campaign and it has become an issue and certainly, he will need to respond to it and he will need to find a better way to respond to it then he has been. But we do have a candidate in this race who has made his personal faith an issue and yet, who has been fairly free from most of the questions that have followed Senator Kerry.
For example, I don’t think that I have seen anybody ask this question, and I certainly have not read any articles on it of why President Bush does not attend a United Methodist Church in DC. In fact, he rarely attends church in DC and when he does, he goes across Lafayette Park to St. John’s Episcopal Church.
When John Kerry attends churches that are not Catholic, the story is written that he does it because he can’t be seen in Catholic Church because he wouldn’t be allowed to have communion, when in fact, if you are going to be in Missouri and you are going to be in St. Louis, you should probably attend a black Baptist church. It makes good political sense. He could have also, very well, attended a Lutheran church or a Methodist church. The fact that he hadn’t attended a Catholic church didn’t necessarily mean that he was afraid of going into one and yet we don’t ask when George Bush attends an Episcopal church if he is afraid of going into a Methodist church. If it is because, in fact, he descends from some of the teachings of the Methodist church that he has been rebutted by his Bishop.
These are not questions that come up in coverage of his faith. It is more of a step back and a characterization of Mr. Bush as a religious man, who asserts his religiosity and who therefore is somewhat beyond question in terms of the authenticity of his faith.
One last point, related to what Karen had mentioned in terms of the importance of looking at questions about John Kerry’s Catholicism because if elected as President, he will in deed be relating to the Vatican as World Leader.
President Bush, it should be noted, very much descended from the teaching that was coming out of the Vatican before the War with Iraq and in fact, turned away one of the Vatican’s representatives who came to talk to him at the White House. So it is worth noting that certainly we have had Presidents in the past who have not necessarily had good working relationships with the Vatican and that may continue if John Kerry is elected, but it is not a break from the past.
MC: Thank you. Thank you Amy.
Our final panelist is Terry Eastland. Terry Eastland is the publisher of the Weekly Standard, a weekly political magazine here in Washington, DC. He is also a weekly columnist for the Dallas Morning News and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal.
Terry is the author of several books on legal issues in the Presidency. But most recently on a cove-story in the Weekly Standard, Terry had a very long piece on President Bush and his faith. So we are delighted that Terry is able to be with us today.
Terry Eastland: I would like to say on that Mike, a very long piece. I mean a thorough piece.
I would like to make several comments or at least pick whatever is left off of this bone.
Let me just say what with regards to George W. Bush, the striking thing to me about his conduct of all of this or one of the several striking things with regard to this subject today is that I happen to think that he is maybe the most religiously pluralistic President that we have ever had. That is to say in the sort of sacred canopy of American religion that started out basically and understood as Protestantism and then expanded to include other groups.
The usual rhetorical align by a President would be one that would that would welcome people that go to church and people that go to Synagogue. I found that in 1999 in the campaign, when he had just started that he would add, even at that time and this is far before 911, that he would add Mosques into that formulation. In other words, an extension of this canopy to include yet more people. He even had a formulation in the campaign to welcome the people of faith or no faith at all, which more or less covers the entire 9 yards.
I don’t know and I haven’t consulted the Presidential historians on this precise point, but my sense is that this an extension beyond, which we have seen with previous Presidents and it is an interesting development with someone that might be supposed by some to be so particularistic, if you will, in his faith, is not willing, perhaps to extend it so far. That is one point.
And the second point, perhaps related to this, it is striking to me with regard to what was to be the signature issue of this Presidency, at least in domestic policy, the faith-based institutions or the faith-based effort initially, that if you look carefully about what the President has said in this respect, he has a belief in faith itself regardless…..And this goes back to your comment talking about the talking about the content. He thinks that any faith or any faith-based group that otherwise qualifies for is one that can make a difference in the lives of people. So it is not content specific, which is again, quite striking to me and perhaps again, something that people might not believe to be the case.
He has even said that…..He says that there is a universal called to “Love Thy Neighbor” and it is found in every single faith and it is even found outside of faith. So he has, again, extended this about as far as you can in that particular policy context.
I think that a third point, and I’m not sure that that second point has been well understood in press coverage, nor, by the way, by some of the constituents, I would say, in the President’s coalition among those who are even evangelical.
I think that thirdly, there is in this President really a robust faith in any culture to be able to create democratic institutions, whether that culture is formed, if you will, from Protestant stock, as in the United States, of Catholic stock somewhere else, or right now, from Islamic stock. He has, again, this faith in these cultures regardless of what they maybe and how they have come about.
Now that may be, and George Will has written on this, but that is a controversy proposition, but yet, it is not one that I think sometimes gets as much coverage as otherwise it might.
I think that in regard to George W. Bush, as well, there is a difficulty…..David mentioned that he does not use the word “born again”. He also, in the 2000 campaign declined to embrace the Appalachian, even evangelical, although he said that he wouldn’t reject it.
For me, the word evangelical, you know, it covers so many things right now, it is very hard to be very precise as to what it’s meaning really is. If you look, usually how it is understood, if you go to the Wheaton Website, for example, and get their definition, they will encompass Pentecostals as well. I mean, you will have all kinds of people. You will have detraform, you will have charismatic Catholics, you will have so many different types of people as to beg the question as to what this word might mean at some point.
I think what is interesting about George W. Bush is that he almost embodies recent American History with respect to the large trend lines in American religion. I mean, he did grow up, as David pointed out, in these mainline Protestant churches and he then had this life-changing experience, by his own account that he has narrated in his own book, and it is usually associated with modern evangelicalism, and I think that is a fair statement. I mean, after all, if you talk to Billy Graham, who else would be a higher figure in America in evangelicals in the last 50 years.
But what is striking to me, this is the sort of biography that you see of many people of the past 50-years with mainline churches maybe switching over and maybe coming to a greater sense of faith or maybe even a conversion through an evangelical program or other.
Bush, himself, still goes or nominally as a member, I suppose. He doesn’t attend very often, as Amy pointed out……A United Methodist Church. But again, I think that this is sort of a biography that is very commonly found.
With regard to John Kerry, I think there, the story, right now, the media is really more a religion story. It is a story about the Catholic Church in America and how it relates to the United States. And this is where there is a difference between Methodism and I might submit and Catholicism. I mean Methodism doesn’t have the kind of hierarchy where it is telling people what to do. In fact, it is quite a lazy affair, one might even say indifferent to what people say or at least they know that if they speak that American Methodist might not listen and so there is perhaps not as much tension there as you do have historically with an institution like the Catholic church, which is clearly hierarchical and seeks to bind the adherence in certain ways.
So I think that it is going to be interesting to watch how the Catholic church treats this situation……It is correct to say that it is not simply John Kerry. It has been found before with other Catholic politicians and in deed, with some that are active right now, is to the divergence from certain teachings, particular here, the life issues.
I think that it would be interesting to see, and this is not a press point, but it is more a John Kerry political point, it would be interesting to see if he would do as Como did 1984. Como gave a very interesting, whether one agrees with it or not, articulation of why it is that he conducted himself as a Catholic politician and not withstanding the teachings of the church on abortion. I believe that was the speech that he gave at Notre Dame.
It would be interesting to see John Kerry actually grapple with this subject and maybe explain why it is that he believes what he does. Why it is that, you know, perhaps he will not adhere to church teachings with regard to abortion rights or any other subject for that matter. Or maybe he agrees with church teachings. I mean, it would be an interesting dynamic to see him actually grapple in a public way, you know, maybe in a speech at Notre Dame or wherever, I’m sure that there is plenty of foray that he could have. But I think that would actually do something for him, if I can speak as a Democratic Strategist and I know that would be an odd term to use on me.
But what might be interesting, if you were to do that, it would lend some particularity, if you will, to his faith. And this is…..I mean, the polls show that rightly, and I think that Doug just pointed out, that American’s generally do want a person of faith as President. But I think that if it is faith in general, it sort of looses it’s traction out there and there needs to be some particularity and I think that if John Kerry were to grapple with these things that he would have quite a bit of particularity, at least I would assume.
MC: Thank you Terry. If you have come in late, ladies and gentlemen, our subject is Kerry/Bush and the Faith Factor and today, you have actually witnessed a miracle in Washington, the miracle being the fact that all of the panelists stayed within their allotted time limit, which is just something unusual in Washington. So I thank each of you for being so concise.
Before we open it up for your questions, I thought maybe some of the panelists might want to have a comment on what their colleagues might have said and if you do, let me know.
Does anybody want to comment about anybody else? No. It was all real clear, wasn’t it?
Okay. Then let me open up the floor to your questions and I do want you to limit it to a question and not a speech.
Yes. Jay Ambrose.
Q: This is to Reverend Tanner and he talked about the difference in values (inaudible) and it seems to me that the real position in politics is not so much the values expressed. It seems to be the conservative (inaudible) but one may think (inaudible) or a technical question. (inaudible)
Rev. Tanner: I think that is true. I think that there is really a much broader consensus in the country about poverty, for example, needing to be seriously addressed then there is about how to do it and that the imperative to do that is a religious imperative.
And I think that the seriousness with which one holds to that task, though, is a proper religious question or a proper question related to how seriously one is bringing his or her religion into the political arena and therefore, however one sees to do it needs to be clearly articulated as they faith based response to any given problem.
I think there is also a very appropriate question to ask about, not simply vision and values, but what spirit and what spirit is evident in animating of the way one addresses that. And the final piece of that, I think, is what is the integrity of the whole. I think many of us would have not argues that Bill Clinton was a pretty religious fellow in a number of ways, but there was a question of integrity at a critical point that damaged his creditability on that score.
MC: Do you have a follow up to that? I can tell you do.
MC: Go ahead.
Q: It seems to me, you talked about the seriousness of spiritual (inaudible). What if you are a devoted and free-market person who really thinks the answer is poverty in extreme markets ____________ governmental programs that can often be shown as (inaudible), would you say that that person is not showing a religious _________?
Rev Tanner: No. I would not say that. I would say that he needs to articulate what it is that is animating that and what is reliable about it is in the approach.
Terry Eastland: May I comment on that?
MC: Yes, Terry.
Terry Eastland: I think that it is a good question because when I looked at this presidency closely in terms of the rhetoric of the President, what struck me was the recurrence of the language from the second grade commandment to love thy neighbor as thyself and variations of that compassion. I mean, if you study the speeches, it is run through all of the speeches and I take it for what it is. I think is something that he takes seriously, this President. However, that principle, as the ethicist know comes at a very high-level of generality again. So if we were to give you and me and everyone in this room that principle and say here is “X” problem, please apply it, we might get a lot of different formulations.
I think that faith can be a motivation and I would take your point Doug, that the seriousness with which one is attached to that and pursues that is important. But I think that at the end of the day, the justification of the policies is going to be what matters and it will turn upon contingent fact, it will turn upon results.
Now the President, and it is interesting to me, that in the discussion of compassionate conservatist, you know, he says that the bottom line is results. And I think, by the way, that there is an opening to the Democratic Party to simply say, look, I don’t think that the results are good enough and I agree that we should love our neighbor. I mean, who is going to disagree with that proposition? Is anyone? I have not seen it and in fact, that, you know, has been a proposition that I think that everyone across the board agrees with. But again, it is the application. I think that justification is a different matter in terms of this works or it doesn’t. I mean, that is what politics is about. It is about prudential judgments.
MC: Julia Duin.
Amy Sullivan: Well I definitely agree with you and with what Terry said earlier that this has become a much more important issue then perhaps if we were to be discussing Methodist church just because of the history of the hierarchy.
What I’m not sure of is that American voters should care about what is going on with John Kerry and with his Bishops. The fact that there is a task force is interesting in terms of the debate within the Catholic Church. Again, I would ask whether voters need to know about that when they are making their decisions about their Presidential candidate.
I think what was not well-covered at all was the fact that John Kerry met with the head of this task force, Cardinal McCarrick, and that in fact it was a very pleasant meeting and that what the two of them talked about was that there is not unanimity within the Catholic leadership in terms of how to sanction Catholics who descent from church teaching. That in fact, what Cardinal McCarrick said was that he personally does not think that the Eucharist should be used as a sanction and that he does not expect that the task force will endorse that at all. I think that is quite significant, and yet it was covered hardly at all.
I see this as an internal Catholic Church story that will come into play because we are in a political campaign season, but what I think has come into play more to feed a story line of John Kerry is someone who is perhaps inauthentic, is one who, perhaps tries to have it both ways on all issues and that it is feeding a political story line more then it is giving voters important information about what they need to know about a candidate before they make their decisions.
MC: Julia has a follow up and then Karen has a comment.
Julia Duin: Oh.
MC: Julia follow up and then Karen.
Julia Duin: (Inaudible)
Amy Sullivan: I have a good friend that is the director of religious outreach and so I have been briefed and updated on the meeting.
Karen Tumulty: If I could just say, on the question of whether this is a legitimate concern for voters, the Catholic vote is in and of itself a significant swing part of the electorate and particularly in these sick, depending how you are counting 16, 18 battle ground states, Catholic voters are absolutely crucial parts of the electorate, whether it is Hispanics in New Mexico and Arizona, or, you know, other ethnic Catholics in places like Missouri. So I would argue that it is something that is of great interest and importance to these voters because it comes at a time when their church is in crisis and it is going to matter a lot to them how their church handles this issue.
Amy Sullivan: May I have one more point?
MC: Okay Amy and then Adel and then it is Joan.
Amy Sullivan: It is indeed important to a lot of Catholics and Catholics as we know comprise a large block of the electorate. I think that what I would like to see are more stories like Allen Cooperman’s piece in the Post last week that acknowledged that in fact that there is a huge divide among the Catholic laity on these questions and in fact, it is not a matter of John Kerry versus the laity and the leadership. And in fact, this may be Bishops overplaying their hand, they may find, if he does, what I actually think that you asked, what I think that Kerry should do, I’m not sure that his campaign would take kindly to this at all. But I think that it would be interesting for him to call their bluff and to go into a church and have someone deny him communion. I think that would be incredibly powerful in terms of how Catholic voters respond.
I think that there are an awful lot of people, who if they are going to be judged, whether they are good Catholics or not by whether they abide by every single church teaching, look at him and think that I’m not always a good Catholic all of the time either, if that is what it means.
I think that it is up to Kerry and other Catholic politicians, and a few of them on the Hill are starting to do this to redefine what it means to be a good Catholic and to reclaim it for themselves and to say look, on 9 out of 10 issues, we are with the Catholic church. On abortion, we disagree. On stem cell we disagree. But on a lot of these other issues, we are with the church and a lot of Republican Catholics are not and it is up to Catholics to sort of determine what is going to be most important and what parts of their teaching that they are going to prioritize.
MC: Adele Banks.
Q: This is to Mike.
MC: A short comment and then….
Terry Eastland: Just one. Amy’s suggestion puts me in my Martin Luther. I mean, it is almost, in a sense, if you have to have sort of a reformation here or sort of a challenge to the Catholic church, which I think is testimony to the nature of American politics and the polity and basically Protestant, if you will, descending character of the country. Maybe that would be a striking moment. But I think that it also helps explain why George Bush is not in suit from the Methodist in the suit, because I mean, who there is going to stand up and start barking orders that anyone is going to be taken seriously.
Anyway, it is an interesting idea.
S: Is that addressed to anybody?
MC: David, please. David Aikman.
David Aikman: I think that if Senator Kerry, as part of his political career had been seen slinking off to prayer meetings or attending seminars on the history of Catholic doctrine or indicating in some way that there was a level of personal piety that went beyond the membership factor of being a Catholic. I think that then people would start addressing the same attention to Senator Kerry in matter of faith as they have to President Bush.
The issue about Bush that is so different is that he came to faith, or as he calls it, a renewal of faith, as an adult and it transformed his life as everybody who knows him, even his political opponents say, in a remarkable manner.
If Kerry had had a problem with alcohol, as Bush apparently did, if there had been some crisis in his life that led him to a much deeper form of the Catholic faith, then I think that you would have had the attention to Kerry that Bush has received in faith matters.
MC: Others? You don’t have to. Joe LeConte and this gentleman and then this lady right here.
Karen Tumulty: Well, actually, and one reason why I think that this speech is never going to happen is John Kerry does not want to have the conversation. I mean the only reason that I got this interview with him at all was the fact that we had gotten some……I mean, I was turned down week after week after week on this interview. And then we got some reporting from the Vatican about the degree to which they were having this conversation there and I called up the campaign on a Thursday night and I said okay, I’m writing. This is what they are saying at the Vatican and would the Senator like to be a part of this story. And suddenly, after many weeks of being turned down, I was told, you know, to get myself to Michigan and we would talk the next morning.
So, I mean, he did stick largely……Even like on specific questions that I would ask him, for instance, his annulment, you know, which suggests that this is a man who is something of a stickler to church teaching because, you know, a lot of Catholics don’t bother to go through it because it is a terrible arguish process. He would not go far as to even confirm that he had gotten the annulment. You know, he would not answer when I asked him about the question of the Pope’s insolubility, he wouldn’t answer. So, you know, he is not going to go much further unless there is some other situation that forces it beyond my beliefs of my personal business and my public career is the public’s business and I ain’t going to connect the dots.
MC: Amy and then this gentleman.
Amy Sullivan: Just a short follow up on that. Again, John Kerry has not done a very good job about answering questions about his Catholicism. His instinct has been to cling to the separation of church and state line, which John Kennedy used in a very, very different time. And I think that some of that comes from just not wanting to get anywhere near the religion question. His campaign, when is comes up, they freak out and they try to change the topic as soon as possible and asserting the separation between church and state is one way to do it. But unfortunately, I think that Democrats have used it so often that now that is code that when a lot of religious people hear separation of church and state they think not of this very important principle. What they hear is yeah, I’m not really comfortable with that so I’m going to just say separation of church and state and we will try to change the topic as soon as possible.
I think that he does have, and he will in the future, be articulating some connections between his Catholic faith and between his policies. I think it is essential for a politician who wants to talk about their religion to have to make those connections and I would argue that both Bush and Kerry should be doing a better job of that. That if you are a politician and you are going to bring your faith into the campaign, you have an obligation to explain to voters why they should care and why that is going to tell them something about how you would govern.
I think that questions about what he thinks about people and fallibility are interesting from a religious standpoint. Again, I’m not sure that is something that Catholic voters may care about it and I’m not sure that they should. I’m not sure that is something that voters really need to know.
MC: I have made a mistake in not asking each of you to identify yourself. We are at the National Press Club, so before you ask a question, please tell me who you are.
MC: Sure. Who wants to take that one?
Karen Tumulty: I must say……Only having attended your seminar on the concept of Just War as a religious concept, you take it.
MC: Well, I think that the question was probably addressed to Terry, but I did want to say that there is a long and rich history in the Christian church called the Just War Tradition, dating back to Augustin forward where many great minds have not totally agreed the way that you have interpreted that, but Terry, I’m only the moderator so you answer that.
Terry Eastland: I was going to simply say that you question assumes that there is one and only one approach to the question, which is Christian, pantheism and why don’t our politicians, including Bush, embrace that. Kerry, who also voted the resolution.
I think that the answer to that is that there are certainly, even with evangelical thought, there is a pacifist’s tradition, but there is also an embrace of the Just War tradition.
In the Catholic tradition, there of course, that tradition is quite evident as well. And so whether one agrees or not with Bush’s decision with regard to Iraq, one can frame it in the Just War terms. You might not like that, but that I think was fairly well covered.
Now maybe others on the panel would disagree with me, but I thought that the press aired some of the different views regarding a Christian approach to these questions.
MC: A couple of comments from our other panelist.
David Aikman: The statement that Jesus Christ was a pacifist might be challenged by all kinds of Christians, Catholic and Protestant and in deed Orthodox.
David Aikman: No I don’t because I think that there are statements that indicated that he did not attack the role of Roman soldiers in the New Testament and thus he clearly didn’t challenge the existing structure. He didn’t even challenge slavery, which of course justified the Christian arguments in favor of retaining slavery for a long period in the 19th century.
But I think that the larger issue has been well-framed by Michael and by Terry Eastland, which is that it is okay for Christians of equally zealous piety to take differing views of issues that most of would say fall into the realm of politics.
I agree that the pacifist tradition within Christianity is an honorable position. But it is not the only position nor the dominant one for that matter. And that to use…..I don’t think that it is right, really, in arguing…..It wouldn’t be right for the Republicans and it certainly wouldn’t be right for the Democrats either in arguing for a political position on the basis of one’s interpretation of the Bible because, that of course, rules out the possibility of agreement with you on the part of those people who don’t share your particular interpretation.
MC: Doug Tanner.
Rev. Tanner: …..to project evil onto enemies and good onto ourselves and that needs more attention.
MC: I see the hands and I’m just trying to be fair as to when I saw them first and I there will be another panel, by the way, in a few weeks on more theory in pantheism, that will be a very important discussion and than you for asking it.
S: Who is that addressed to?
Q: Actually anybody on the panel.
S: That is a risk when you do that. Go ahead Terry.
Terry Eastland: I’m sorry, Michael. I will just briefly comment on the first part of your question, which is in regard to these rhetorical ________ and I guess that was framed in regards to what I said about the pluralistic languages used and so on and so forth.
I think that abroad and overseas that those words that those words may not even be heard. I don’t know if it is a question that they are following deaf ears and they may not even get transmitted. I think that another word, the word crusade could be used once, for example and got amplified and maybe he got understood, in terms of a very long issue historically between Chrisodom, if you will in Islam and that these are the crusaders coming back and so he has been negatively seen in some quarters because of that.
I think also that maybe pictures sometimes can defeat words, such as, you know, when you have the recent evidence that these pictures are correct and these accounts are right of these prisoners who were tortured. So these will communicate in ways that, you know, in giving a speech where he welcomes anyone of any faith and no faith at all and that just doesn’t convey when you have things like that competing.
Amy Sullivan: Again, just how the International Press of the international community is viewing Bush’s religion, I have spent a lot of time defending the President, actually, and I know that comes as a surprise to some of my conservative friends against liberals who are upset with any mention of religion that he makes and particularly with statements that he has made that he prayed about whether or not he should run for the presidency. That he prayed about whether we should go to war in Iraq. And I have been defending him on the grounds that this is just something that just Christians do when you have important decisions in your life and of course you are going to pray. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that Bush sees himself as some Neshanic figure who was installed in the White House by God. Now whatever Pat Robinson may say about the next election is unclear.
That said, however, I think that he does have a responsibility to recognize the situation that we are at right now in terms of world opinion and particularly with Moslem countries and that it would behoove him to be a little more careful with the language that he uses, particularly when he is talking about going to war.
Somebody sent me a quote, apparently Dick Cheney’s Christmas card from this year included the quote “If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his capital notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid”, which I think would argue a view that God was certainly behind the US and behind our actions abroad.
The same thing I think has been sort of a reaction to a piece from the Woodward Book’s, Woodward said that in fact he did not consult his father as former President about going to war. It turns out that he hasn’t really consulted other countries or his Secretary of Defense or Secretary of State. He did consult God.
I would expect him to pray before he made a decision about going to war, but I think that other countries may look at that in see a President who is led only by his Christian belief, which I don’t believe is true. But I think that perception is very damaging.
David Aikman: I agree. I think that there are problems with international perception. But it is not just international perception of President Bush, it is of the United States as a whole. For example, in Europe, church-going, church attendants, religious belief is far, far lower and upper or lower…..It is on a much reduced scale compared to the United States.
When European journalists hear that a leader of a major power resorts to prayer, they roll their eyes and they think that it is something vaguely mid-evil. Actually, in the Islamic world, there tends to be a little bit of respect, even though it may not be a respect for the policies, but respect for somebody who takes his faith quite seriously.
So I would say that the problem lies as much with a tone deafness towards religious issues on the part of significant parts of elite media institutions globally, including in Europe as it does with the unwillingness to be a little bit more sensitive on the part of the White House. And as I suggested, I think that the White House has modulated it’s language rather carefully and after an initial series of blunders like using the word “crusader”, I think that President Bush has been almost excruciatingly careful not to use terminology that could be considered inflammatory.
MC: This gentleman back here and please identify yourself.
Amy Sullivan: I guess that I would agree that it is an important story that should be covered and it should be covered right. And my question is whether it is being covered correctly right now. I think that if you look politically is this going to really make a difference in terms of the Catholic vote?
Catholic voters who are going to vote on the basis of a candidate’s position on abortion will never be for John Kerry to begin with. Catholic voters who don’t care one wit whether he is a good Catholic are always going to be with him. What we are talking about are those persuadable Catholics in the middle and in deed, there may be some of the details of this infighting that would sway them one way or the other.
I think that there is an obligation to put this all in context and what I’m saying is that I’m not sure that it has been entirely put in context in terms of this is not just John Kerry against the church in terms of the fact that he has made other comments about his religious beliefs that have been sort of overshadowed by this one debate. And I agree that it is a story. I don’t agree that it is being covered entirely correctly right now.
S: This lady right here was next.
P: I think that is a fair point, I mean just in terms of good journalism. I think that there always should be a full identification so that a reader…..And I just saw, in fact, a reference of the kind that you just described, maybe in today’s….one of the newspapers that I just read today, this morning in fact. I think that you do need the fuller description.
S: Others? This gentleman over here.
S: That is addressed to the entire panel, I take it.
MC: Well, one of the problems that we have is that we don’t have anybody from the Secret Service on the panel. And I think that post 911, there are some issues there and it is also true, by the way, as the moderator, I can answer any question that I like and I’m going to try on this one.
It is true that the President spends most weekends at Camp David and he does attend chapel there. And what I find interesting is that this President, because of all of the talk about his faith has not made an issue on where he goes to church and he gets sometime critiqued for not exploiting his faith more. I kind of find it refreshing that we don’t have a President coming out of a church with a Bible about this size under his arm, but in fact, he is kind of secretly going to a chapel up in Maryland up at Camp David. And then some people want to say, well, where is he going to church. But I think that the Secret Service should be called in on this one, but then maybe Doug Tanner knows the Secret Service Agent that can handle it.
Rev. Tanner: I think that it is a stretch to think that the Secret Service can’t handle security at the United Methodist Church.
I’m a United Methodist minister. It is a huge big tent and there are many cultures reflected in it and I think that it is there to assume that the President or anyone else is going to, if he/she goes to the United Methodist Church is going to choose one in which he or she feels comfortable as well as one that feels accessible.
P: I think that it is worth noting that the President is formed very much by a small group of Christianity experience and that is where he first started as an adult and getting back into the church and he is not sort of a big congregation guy and one of the examples that is often brought up is that he and Hillary Clinton belong to the same denomination and yet they relate to their Methodism in a very, very different way. She comes at it from a much more community fellowship congregation perspective.
That said, because I think that it is perfect fine for him to attend services up at Camp David and it doesn’t mean that he is any less of an authentic Christian. That said, he has placed a lot of, particularly his domestic agenda on this argument that civil society can do a lot to solve social problems. And that in fact, it is religious communities and in particularly congregations that can do a lot and I think that it is worth asking why he himself is not an active member of a congregation. If there are other things that he can do personally to support in his life other then encouraging other people to be active members of congregations. I think that is perfectly fair.
MC: I think David wants to comment and then Terry and then I want to make a comment first and that is that it would be an interesting story, I just want to say to the press in the room to find out an answer to this question. We have the most…..As Terry Easton said, the most evangelical President of at least this century and yet we don’t quite know where he goes to church. I think that is a story for one of you, Jay or somebody to find out the answer. And some of you know that the staff who advise him on many issues, especially theological ones, where is the President going to be going to church these days. Maybe…..David Aikman has just written a book on it and maybe he can tell us and then your question is next.
David Aikman: Well, first of all, the President, before he was President, when he was owner of the Texas Rangers and lived in Dallas, attended a large United Methodist Church in Dallas and was quite an active participant in social programs. He was a major contributor and organizer of a program of providing daycare for the lower income members of the Parrish community.
When he was in Austin, he also attended the United Methodist Church and I talked to the Pastor of that church and that Pastor was distinctly liberal politically. He would not describe himself in anyway as a Republican. So this President, whatever you think of him, is not uncomfortable with people who disagree with him politically when he attends church.
Why he doesn’t go to a church right now? Largely for the same reason that President Regan never attended church when he was in the White House, although I think that it is quite clear that Regan was, in his own way, a devote Christian believer.
Because it would be very disruptive, he did go to an African American church. His closest spiritual mentor is an African American Methodist minister. It is not generally known, but it is not a secret either. This gentleman, Kirby John Caldwell of Winds of Village United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas, which is the largest Methodist church in the nation, and he is not a democrat and he is not a republican either, is a significant component in the President’s personal spiritual walk. So I don’t think that many people are particularly worried by the fact that unlike President Clinton, who went quite frequently to Foundry Methodist, this particular President, as Michael suggested, in the wake of 911 doesn’t really want to cause this sort of major weekly disruption that probably would be caused if he regularly attended a church.
MC: Terry, you had a comment?
Terry Eastland: Just one question as someone who grew up in Dallas and went to the Highland Park Methodist Church for a while, it is a quite large church and theologically at the time that I went to it was more on the liberal side then not. Doug comes to us from a Methodist Church and there are many different congregations.
It has always puzzled me why is it that Presidents of politicians in this city have to go to Foundry? I mean, there are other options, surely. I mean one could find a more conservative, theologically speaking, Methodist Church if that is what one wants.
In any event, I think that the reasons though that David gave are probably right. When I have asked this question at the White House, the reply that I have gotten is that well look, he is at Camp David a lot. You know he goes to the chapel out there and then when he is in Crawford he sometimes goes to church there although I don’t think that it is as frequent down there as it is up here when he is at Camp David.
But again, why is it that he can’t find a church other then Foundry is a bit of a puzzle if he is someone who identifies himself as a Methodist. I mean, it could be that he has gone through some change of mind in that respect and we don’t know.
S: Jean, you had a comment.
S: It was disruptive?
Q: It was. (inaudible)
Terry Eastland: I’m a member of Fourth Presbyterian in Bethesda, having moved from the Methodist to the Presbyterians many years ago, by the way. But we had Dan Quail come…..There was never any disruption and maybe it was because……..(LAUGHTER)
MC: Terry, you were commenting? Are you finished?
Terry: I was just saying, at Fourth we never had any disruption there.
MC: Okay. Mark and identify yourself.
Amy Sullivan: That is a very good question because I think that what you are getting at is correct that most voters don’t themselves separate their religious beliefs from the rest of their lives and certainly not from how they approach some pretty contentious controversial issues and it would be hard for them to try to imagine how a politician can do the same.
I’m not entirely sure why Kerry has used this argument. It is part of, as I said before, his separation argument of let’s just change the subject as quickly as possible. But I know from experience from working in the Senate with him and with other Catholic Senators that they can’t and they don’t separate their religious beliefs from their political actions and their political behavior. And in fact, you know, it is much more difficult for them because they do have to struggle with attention between the political agenda of their party and what they have been taught in their church. Abortion is a perfect example here.
I worked quite a bit in the mid-1990’s on developing an alternative to the partial birth abortion ban when I walked for Tom Daschal. And our effort on that was really motivated by a small group of Catholic senators, all of whom are know for being politically liberal and all of whom were struggling with how to reconcile their religious beliefs with this political choice that they were being asked to make. So I would say I think that what he has trouble with is articulating this to people around him. I think that within National Democratic Politics that there are very few people who are comfortable with the language of faith or if you even have a background with faith. And that when they try to come up with a method of just how to talk about this within the campaign, it is sort of the senator against everyone else and as a Catholic he is much less comfortable explaining his religious beliefs and evangelicals.
I don’t think that it is a coincidence that Carter, Clinton and Bush have been the most explicitly religious Presidents because they are the ones that have the best access to how to talk about their religion. I think that Kerry has a way to go and I think that he will get closer. But he is never going to be a George Bush. He is never going to be Bill Clinton. He is not just going to start quoting scripture and hymn verses, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t make some steps to try to articulate what it is about his Catholicism that influences him as a person because I believe that it does and I believe that he knows that it does.
MC: I think that they should hire Amy as a consultant. Terry?
Terry Eastland: Just one addition to that. Sometimes in John Kerry I hear him use that language and I’m not going to let my beliefs influence policy, but I see it more in terms of some of the legal issues in terms of establishment clause cases, for example. Maybe if he had been President, his list of general would not have authorized a brief in the Zelman case and the vouchers case. I mean, maybe they would have taken a different position on that case and he sees, in other words, the litigated position of this government is being, if you will, not separation is enough to use his language.
I mean, I have sensed some of that in his comments and I think that would probably be the case if you did have a Kerry administration; you would have a slight shift in some of those positions.
Karen Tumulty: I just want to say one more thing just following on Amy’s point. The one exception to Kerry not quoting scripture is that he repeatedly has talked about President Bush and put it in the terms of faith without works. And I just found that…..I don’t know what to make of it, but I found it interesting though, you know, that he has sort of asked people, however subtlety to, you know, take a look at President Bush’s faith against, I guess, their own values and their own definitions of how faith is carried out.
S: This gentleman over here.
MC: We are going to let David Aikman answer that. And by the way, David has written a new book……..(Laughter)
David Aikman: I think that study after study has demonstrated that members of the elite in the United States, including elite reporters and editors within mainstream media, are less religious then the population as a whole. They also happen to be more politically liberal. But leaving aside that issue, as I mentioned in the offset of remarks that when then candidate Jimmy Carter announced that he was a born again Christian in 1976, it was quite apparent that the Washington mainstream media that covered the White House hadn’t a clue what a born again Christian was. They could probably tell you more about Buddhism then they could about born again Christianity and they were sent scurrying to their phones to call up distant relatives in heartland America to try and learn what it was.
But I don’t think……I disagree with some people who argue that there is sort of an inherit bias. I don’t think that there is. I think it is what I would call a lack of knowledge, a lack of sophistication and a lack of appreciation of how vital faith issues are for large numbers of people.
MC: Anybody else want to comment?
Karen Tumulty: Well, this Pope in particular issued a doctoral note within the last year and a half, basically saying that the church was no longer going to look the other way when Catholic politicians, you know, kind of tried to make the separation that so many of them have, Mario Cuomo, Geraldine Ferraro, basically, you know, operating with one set of principles in their public duties and another in their private life.
So I think that in some ways that the Pope has in some ways very directly forced this issue and it was sort of John Kerry’s bad luck to have walked into this as the context.
MC: I might just add this. Just think how different this conversation on this panel would be today if a different person had been selected as the presumptive nominee.
P: What do you mean? Howard Dean?
MC: If Dean or if John Edwards, for example, maybe particularly someone like Edwards, but in any event, as I said earlier, first of all a religion story in the sense of the Catholic church and America. It is a very interesting story and it involves not just Kerry, but other politicians as well as what has been said here.
And secondly, the fact that the electorate, I think that in the last election, Karen, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that roughly 20 to 25 percent of the electorate was Catholic in terms of those who are religiously observant as some pollsters and some surveyors will tell us and those who are less so. But none the less, you have 20 to 25 percent and that is a large slice of the electorates; so therefore, it is a political story in that sense.
MC: Ladies and gentlemen, we are about out of time. I want to ask our panelist……We have about a minute. I don’t know if the National Press Club is going to run us out, but ma’am, I’ll let you have the last question then.
MC: There you go. I hope you can get a short answer out of that, but try.
P: There is kind of a micro and a macro answer to that I think. You know, I love that phrase, wafer a watch. You know, if it so happens that John Kerry, you know, is refused communion at the communion rail, that is a story that is going to go on for weeks and it is going to be talked over and talked over and talked over. So it could in fact be a real kind of news bump in the road at some point during the campaign.
But I also think that a candidates religious values, whether he has them or doesn’t, whether he, you know, it becomes a part of the voter’s view of the whole person. And with George Bush, it has become very much sort of a proxy for this is a person who believes in things and that is, quite frankly, in part, you know federal ground by 50 million dollars of republican advertising so far is the suggestion that John Kerry doesn’t believe in anything and that he is a flip flopper. You know, fair or not, people are going to be looking at his senate record. They are going to be looking at his Viet Nam biography. But somewhere in this picture I also see his religious faith and how he practices it is going to be yet another data point that voters are going to be using to just weigh this basic question of does this man believe in things.
Amy Sullivan: Just one more point on the so-called religion gap, which is what I think that you were referring to, but there has been a lot made from some exit polls from 2000 that did indeed find that people that go to church more then once a week almost always vote republican. People who never go to church almost always vote democratic.
What has been obscured by that is the people in the middle and it turns out that people who attend church a number of times a month voted slightly more for Gore in 2000 then they did for Bush. And I think that is going to be where you find the majority of voters.
Religion is not going to be something that matters to one party and not to the other this year. I think that it is true that it is always something that matters to people across the political spectrum and it is going to be a question of whether what they are valuing is the person and what this religion actually tells them about the person. Or what they are valuing are the issues that they religious beliefs drive them to care about and I think that there is a big distinction between the two and that it falls pretty much along political lines and it is just going to be a matter of which one is more important to voters in the middle.
MC: Well, thank you Amy. And ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank the journalist, not only on this panel, but in this room. What you write about has huge consequences and implications and this subject is not going to go away.
Some of you will remember that a cover story in the New Republic by Franklin Ford, which was called Howard Dean’s religion problem. Two days later, Howard Dean announced that he was religious and his favorite book in the New Testament was Joe. So what you write and what you say is read by political consultants on both the right and the left and continue please, writing about this subject, which will be an important subject in the months ahead.
Join me please in thanking our panelist for an excellent job and thank you for coming.