JACKSON, Tenn. – April 30, 2001 – Many in the national media have a hard time understanding President George W. Bush because they don’t understand the faith that guides his life, according to political commentator Fred Barnes. Barnes spoke to a group of business and civic leaders at Union University as part of the third annual Union Forum series.
Political reporter and columnist Fred Barnes speaks to a group of students before his Union Forum address on Monday, April 30.
“I think he’s already achieved the most popular promise he made in the campaign: to change the tone in Washington,” according to Barnes. “Most of the press in Washington ignores a particular factor in Bush’s changing the tone in Washington, and that is his very serious Christian faith. There are two things he enjoys talking about the most: his faith and baseball.”
The political writer and editor -- who is himself an evangelical Christian -- recalled the 1986 conversation Bush had with Billy Graham as the two walked on the beach at Kennebunkport, Maine. Graham asked him, “Are you right with God?”
“George W. decided he wasn’t, and his life has changed remarkably since then,” Barnes explains.
According to Barnes, during an interview for Fox News Channel in conjunction with the first hundred days of his presidency, Brit Hume asked Bush about the role of his faith in his life and work. Bush responded: “I start with being on bended knee every morning. Seriously. I find great comfort in my faith. It helps me realize I am a person who has a lot of responsibility, but I am just a person...I pray every day, I read the Bible every morning.”
“If you don’t understand that -- Bush and his faith -- you don’t understand Bush,” Barnes insists. “That’s why I think so many people in Washington and the mainstream media simply don’t understand Bush. This is paramount with him.”
This faith perspective is part of why Bush believes so much in supporting faith-based initiatives, which Barnes calls the President’s “signature issue.”
“Bush believes in these faith-based initiatives. It’s based on a very simple proposition: government-run social service programs aren’t working. They don’t produce results. Yet there is strong anecdotal evidence that faith-based groups working in drug rehabilitation and job skills and so on, do work and work much better. Why not make them eligible to apply for those government grants?
Barnes is a co-founder and serves as executive editor of The Weekly Standard, a conservative political magazine. He is also a regular political commentator on Fox News Channel, and is co-host of “The Beltway Boys,” a weekly political discussion show on Fox News.
Sara B. Horn,