Magazine article Insight on the News

Media Plays the Faith Card at the GOP's Expense

Magazine article Insight on the News

Media Plays the Faith Card at the GOP's Expense

Article excerpt

What's the quickest way for a candidate to make a national reporter squirm? Bring up religion. Texas Republican Gov. George W. Bush's decision in a December debate to name Jesus Christ as the philosopher with the most impact on him gave reporters the willies.

NBC's Tim Russert is a devout Roman Catholic who has spoken publicly and profoundly about his faith. Yet when the Republican candidates met again in January, he felt it necessary repeatedly to question whether Bush's faith in Jesus somehow translated into Christian theocracy: "I think people watching, some want to hear your God is Jesus Christ, they don't have a God, or they have Yahweh or they have Allah. They want to know it's okay."

Russert went so far as to suggest that every Republican debate seems to mention Jesus, and he asked Gary Bauer, "Are you concerned that many people in the country are watching that exchange and saying, `You know, that's a little more about religion than it is about politics and that concerns me?'" Russert's colleague, Brian Williams, added that the Republicans were "strident tonight: antigay, pro-Jesus and antiabortion, and no gray matter in between."

What message is the public supposed to take away from this? It's the quadrennial network message: Republican primaries are polluted with the Christian right, and their Bible-toting intolerance will cost them in the fall. They're stridently pro-Jesus and are frightening average Americans by dragging too much religion into the public square. …

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