George W. "Shrub", "Dubyaa", "Baby Bush", "The Boy," Bush

                                                                     Judas Goat or Trojan Horse?

                              "We have understood that we cannot gain with candidates with no chance of winning,
                              admits Ron Meinke of the Christian coalition, might as well choose a potential winner,
                              with whom we can deal later."  "We will do all we can to elect George Bush, says Ron
                             Meinke, itís when he is in the White House that the real battle will start."


                          Fabrice Rousselot "Le Monde" 14 March 2000. Translated from the French by Amina Woods

Bush the Favorite of the Christian Right.  The religious right bets on the republican candidate to protect its ideas.

The church is not the church. Rather itís a Texan version of a Hollywood super production. On the grounds of the Second Baptist church, west of Houston, a TV studio, a gym, a family center, a book store, a library and several day care centers for children are located. On the seventh day of the week, ten thousands assemble "to meet god." Outside on an electric panel a message blinks: "Sunday, at 9:45 am, just one thing to doÖ"

Inside, the pastorís son, Ben Young, consecrates his sermon on "the difficulty to make a good decision, the one that the lord dictates." After an hour of ceremonials transmitted on two giant screens, comes the question that everybody has been waiting for:" At the dawn of this new millennium, that is taking us onto the road of the 21st Century, Gore or Bush?" "Those who are here know the answer," confides Ron Meinke, the director of the Christian coalition for Harris county, which is also a diocese of the Second Baptist Church. "We are doing nothing wrong, he adds, We simply encourage a voter in favor of candidates that respect our values. Bush would be an excellent president."

Last month George W. Bush was under ferocious attacks by his then adversary, John McCain, for his "Kowtowing to the leaders of the Christian right." The Arizona Senator was reacting to the Texasís governor visit to the ultra conservative Bob Jones University of South Carolina, and to the message of support from the reverend Pat Robertson (founder of the Christian coalition), to the son of the ex-president. The group is sending depth charges across the country. During a recent interview, the republican candidate declared that the person that influenced him the most was "Jesus Christ."

A "dance." In Texas, in the heart of the "Bible belt" Bush has made the Christian right, one of his main allies, a long time ago. The reason is simple: for the past six years, the Christian right has taken control of the Republican Party, and represents about 70% of its members. Without its support Bush would have never become governor in 1994, or got reelected in 1998. All this with a platform considered quite moderate, of which the central message "compassionate conservatism," is at the heart of the presidential campaign.

On his turf, Bush a Methodist who "rediscovered" religion in 1985 plays a strange game with the Christian right. In a book that was just published [Shrub: the short but happy political life of George W. Bush. Random House], Molly Ivins, a journalist, talks about "the dance" of the governor with the religious right, assuring that "he fed the lions enough, so that they would not attack him", and without at the same time going too far to the right. For example on the very sensitive subject of abortion, he has not assured that he would require an anti-abortion stand as a pre-requisite for new Supreme Court nominees.

Pact with the Devil. However according to Charlotte Coffelt, of the Americans United Association, which fights the influence of religion in politics, "the danger today is real." "Though Bush cannot afford to loose moderate republicans if he wants to win the White House, he knows what he owes the Christian right, and the movement expects something in return". In Texas, Bush could not avoid making concessions to the "extremists." Several of the members of his administration belong to the Christian right. In the state legislature, the governor has supported a law, which forbids doctors to perform an abortion on a minor without parental consent. He also fought to forbid adoption by homosexual couples, and for imposing prayers in public schools. "He hears our message," assures Terry Lowery, a religious right activist, who left his job to publish a newsletter "destined to wake up the believers." "With Bush, even though he is not the ideal candidate, we know that we can begin our march towards power."

And the "march" has already started. In a country that makes the separation of church and state one of its founding principles, forbidding a church defacto to take a partisan position, the Christian right seems to navigate at the limit of illegality. At Pearland, a small town sandwiched between two highways south of Houston, Rick Scarborough a young pastor is proud of his Vision America, a political organization of which the avowed objective is to"mobilize Christians so that they intervene in the electoral process and the future of a delinquent America." Since its arrival in 1990, the religious right has taken control of the municipal council, the school board, and succeeded in nominating one of its own to head the Police. When he is asked, if he supports candidates in his sermons, the man of the church responds that he "does not have the right as pastor" before adding that he"does not stop himself from telling who he will vote for from the pulpit as an individual, and that he always adds, vote for George Bush."

But the most striking fact in this new generation of crusaders is the change in strategy. During the past three presidential elections, the hopes of the Christian right lay with Pat Robertson or an extremist like Pat Buchanan. Today, the tactic is different. "We have understood that we cannot gain with candidates with no chance of winning, admits Ron Meinke of the Christian coalition, might as well choose a potential winner, with whom we can deal later."

A foot in the door. On this spring Sunday, in the middle of the afternoon, the Second Baptist Church of Houston has assembled its troops for what it calls the "Nehemiah Project." A reunion destined to convince the faithful to get elected as delegates of a party so that they can influence the national convention. At the entrance of the hall, as required by law, a sign cautions against the distribution of "campaign material." The discussion however is lead by a militant republican for the past 30years, and on a table, well in evidence the participants can consult Christian Alert, the "bulletin of the Christian coalition that reviles liberals (meaning the Democrats) without morality." "We will do all we can to elect George Bush, says Ron Meinke, itís when he is in the White House that the real battle will start."