Give credit where credit is due. President George W. Bush's
faith-based initiatives did exactly what they were intended to do on
Election Day. By giving, or promising to give, taxpayer money to
churches, Bush was able to win the support of kinky clergymen
His handout to religious groups was so successful that even the Roman
Catholic bishops rooted for him. They spent the campaign badmouthing
one of their own, John F. Kerry, who never knew what hit him.
The election campaign of 2004 turned out to be exactly as advertised,
full of twists and turns, shocks and surprises, and more than a few
One of the surprises was the inaccuracy of the exit polls on election
day. Exit polls are famous for their accuracy, because they measure
what is rather than what might be. They're almost always 100 percent
accurate. The one exception is when George W. Bush is running for
public office. Then the polls are off.
Could it be, could it possibly be, that the exit polls were accurate
and the vote-counting off a wee bit? Naw, perish the thought. The
Bushies play hardball, but they wouldn't cheat, would they?
I have to admit that the difference in Vietnam War records didn't turn
out the way I expected. I thought going in that Kerry, the war hero,
would crush Bush, the war zero, but I reckoned not on the legions of
Swift Boat veterans who turned on one of their own.
What I've tried to imagine, ever since the Swift Boat ads started
popping up, is where all those spectators were positioned. They must
have lined the shores of the Mekong River like spectators watching a
regatta on the Charles River in Boston.
With all those guys watching, you'd think that at least one of them
would have pulled Kerry's boatmate out of the water rather than waiting
for Kerry to do a U-turn down river and come chugging back for him.
One must wonder, too, what kind of impression Kerry made during his
brief four months in Vietnam. How did so many guys get to know him in
such a short period of time?
Life is full of mysteries.
In any case, John Kerry's failure last Tuesday ought to put to rest
forever the belief that honorable military service is a plus when
running for president. Not only did the slippery Bush beat a rock-solid
war veteran, but the draft-evading Bill Clinton beat two genuine World
War II fighters, George Herbert Walker Bush and Bob Dole. Before that,
the flag-waving Ronald Reagan, who wore the uniform but never left
Hollywood, defeated two bona fide military veterans, Jimmy Carter and
In his appeal to so-called religious people, George W. Bush was true
to the sentiments he expressed at a Gridiron Club dinner in Washington
on March 24, 2001. At that time Bush paraphrased Lincoln when he said,
"You can fool some of the people all of the time, and those are the
ones you have to concentrate on."
By funneling your dollars to religious leaders, Bush knew he could
count on those leaders to convince their parishioners to vote for him.
Their strongest selling point was that if Kerry got elected gay men
would marry one another and that would rapidly lead to the destruction
of the holy sacrament of marriage. Just exactly how that would happen
wasn't made clear, but it didn't have to be if you bear in mind that
you can fool some of the people all of the time.
It never occurred to those fine people in the redneck states (or red
states, for short) that their own disregard for marriage vows, as
indicted by their high divorce rate, is a greater threat than two
same-sex sweeties and their cats sharing a bungalow with a framed
marriage certificate hanging on the living room wall.
And then there was the dreaded embryonic stem-cell research.
Put Kerry in the White House, the pastors warned, and all those
potential babies destined for the trash can would instead end up in
scientific laboratories to be mercilessly slaughtered by mad scientists
pretending to look for cures to diseases. Well, what
fooled-all-of-the-timer could resist an appeal like that?
But it gets worse. The good pastors, not wanting to lose that
faith-based money, warned their flocks that Kerry was pro-abortion and
therefore the most immoral of immoral men, not fit to be dog catcher
let alone president.
Whoa, Nellie, we can't allow an immoral man in the White House, the
fooled-all-of-the-timers chimed in unison. We need a good, moral man
like George W. Bush, who seriously regrets the 100,000 or so Iraqis
killed accidentally by American troops.
Sure, Bush's message to the Iraqis is, "Become a democracy or we'll
kill you," but these are desperate times, and desperate times call for
desperate measures. Pastor Jones said so himself.
All in all, the Bush people ran a brilliant campaign. Of the 10
Democrats seeking their party's nomination, John Kerry was the choice
of the Bushies. They knew he was the one they could beat, and they were
How do I know the GOP wanted Kerry? Because I watch Fox News and Fox
News consistently badmouthed all the serious candidates but Kerry. It
seemed strange that Fox was soft on Kerry, who was not my choice, until
I realized what they were up to. Fox, the TV propaganda arm of the
Republican Party, wanted Kerry to win the Democratic nomination.
Remember the infamous "Dean scream" in Iowa, when candidate Howard
Dean, then the front-runner, seemed to be shouting like a madman?
Replayed more than 700 times on television, that incident spelled the
end for Dean.
But is was a bum rap. In the first place, it was nothing more than an
exuberant candidate having fun with his friends at the end of a long
but happy day. And, as ABC-12 in Michigan reported later, the noise in
the room at the time was deafening, but the microphone Dean used picked
up only his voice. Thus, Dean seemed to be shouting irrationally.
Instead, he was merely struggling to be heard over the crowd.
What we witnessed with the "Dean scream" was news manipulation. The
end result was that Dean, the only antiwar candidate who had a chance,
was eliminated, and we ended up with Kerry, who came across like a
milquetoast on the war issue.
I don't agree with those who say America is a Christian nation, but
I'll concede that no non-Christian religions were professed by any of
our founders. So, as a rhetorical shortcut, yes, you could call us a
In that case, I think it's time -- way past time -- for those who
profess Christianity to return to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Duping
the devout is not Christian.
Harley Sorensen is a longtime journalist. His column appears Mondays. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2004 SF Gate