A handful of Catholic and evangelical “social justice” (read: politically liberal) leaders had a press conference in Washington yesterday to announce that they were very, very disappointed with President Bush. According to USA Today:
Catholic and evangelical social justice leaders on Thursday urged President Bush to use his upcoming State of the Union address to turn around what they called his faltering moral legacy.
Frequently referring to the state of American public policy as “shameful,” the representatives of five major religious organizations said Bush has sidestepped pressing religious concerns, despite his recurrent religious rhetoric.
Me, I thought the president, as well as other officials of the federal government, weren’t supposed to deal with “pressing religious concerns,” what with separation of church and state and all. But then, one thing that has become crystal clear over time is that according to the religious left, church-state separation is another way of saying, “keep conservative Christians away from the levers of power!”
Specifically, they said the White House has failed to deal with growing poverty at home and abroad, turned a blind eye to torture, ignored climate change, and neglected the human suffering from the war in Iraq.
“We have yet to fully sort out the legacy of an explicitly evangelical president, who sadly has had such a truncated vision of what a moral leadership looks like,” said the Rev. David Gushee, president of Evangelicals for Human Rights.
The four other participants were the Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA; Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action; the Rev. Paul de Vries, board member of the National Association of Evangelicals; and Sister Anne Curtis of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy.
Let’s take a look at those specifics:
1) “Growing poverty”: the poverty rate in America has dropped from 12.7% in 2004 to 12.6% in 2005 to 12.3% in 2006 (the latest figures available). That’s not enough, but it’s going in the right direction. World-wide, poverty rates have declined significantly in South and East Asia (especially China and India, where one-third of humanity lives), and have done so because of the operations of global free markets. In other areas, especially sub-Saharan Africa, poverty is still a horrendous reality, but in fact is no worse that it was eight years ago. In any case, blaming George Bush because we haven’t beaten world poverty is the silly declamation of people who don’t even begin to understand economics or political economy.
2) “Turned a blind eye to torture”: Hey, we destroyed Saddam Hussein’s regime, one of the most torture-dependent in the entire world, didn’t we? As for American “torture,” most of what Gushee and his colleagues object to is not torture, and waterboarding has apparently been used only three times since 9/11. These folks, I suspect, are of the opinion that raised voices and harsh language is somehow torturous, and not to be taken terribly seriously. After all, some of these are among those who have most insistently called for the closing of the Guantanamo facility, despite the lack of proof of even a single case of torture there.
3) “Ignored climate change”: right. So what’s your point? Of course, we’re talking about folks who believe in anthropogenic climate change, and in human ability to control climate, almost as fervently as they believe in the Resurrection. On the latter, they are on solid grounds; on the former, not so much. If I were in Bush’s shoes, I’d wear their scorn on this item as a badge of honor.
4) “Neglected the human suffering from the war in Iraq”: excuse me? Has the United States, at the president’s urging, not poured tens of billions of dollars into reconstruction in Iraq? We’ve gotten the Iraqi oil industry off the deck, and are helping to modernize it after decades of neglect; we’ve built countless schools, hospitals, medical clinics, and other public facilities; we’ve rebuilt roads and bridges; joined with other countries in bringing back the wetlands of southern Iraq and restoring the Marsh Arabs to the homeland that was virtually destroyed by Saddam; brought peace and security to millions of Iraqis who otherwise lived in constant fear of the midnight knock on the door; and so on. Can these folks really be so blind to what the U.S. has done over the last five years?
Does this mean all has been hunky-dory under George Bush’s stewardship? Of course not. Iraq and to a lesser extent Afghanistan have been mishandled; the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was botched in lots of ways; the border continues to hemorrhage; the mortgage mess has been allowed to fester; America’s dependence on foreign oil continues to grow, etc. But it seems as though for these folks, his besetting sin is that he hasn’t bought into a liberal political agenda. I hope they aren’t holding their breath waiting for him to do so.