- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 3, 2002

John DiIulio, the former director of the White House faith-based initiative office, yesterday apologized for saying that President Bush's domestic priorities are determined exclusively by political considerations.
Using words uttered hours earlier by White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, who called Mr. DiIulio's remarks in the January edition of Esquire magazine "baseless and groundless," the first high-ranking Bush official to leave the administration asked for forgiveness and vowed never to speak or write again about his short White House stint.
"My criticisms were groundless and baseless due to poorly chosen words and examples. I sincerely apologize and I am deeply remorseful," Mr. DiIulio said in a statement.
"I will not be offering any further comment, or speaking or writing further on any aspect of my limited and unrepresentative White House experience or any matters or persons related thereto. I regret any and all misimpressions. In this season of fellowship and forgiveness, I pray the same," he said.
An aide at the University of Pennsylvania, where Mr. DiIulio is a professor, said he had taken sick leave and could not be reached for comment.
The article's author, Ron Suskind, yesterday stood by his piece.
Mr. DiIulio, a registered Democrat, worked as director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives for seven months. The office's task is to promote Mr. Bush's faith-based initiative, which stalled in Congress amid fierce debate about the Constitution's ban on the establishment of religion.
Mr. DiIulio resigned in August 2001, citing health and family concerns.
He appeared to be the first former Bush administration official to criticize the president, but yesterday said a 10-page Esquire article contained factual errors and included statements "I did not write and I do not recall making."
The article by Mr. Suskind, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, quotes Mr. DiIulio as saying: "There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: complete lack of a policy apparatus.
"Besides the tax cut, which was cut and dried during the campaign, and the education bill, which was really a Ted Kennedy bill, the administration has not done much, either in absolute terms or in comparison to previous administrations at this stage, on domestic policy," Mr. DiIulio was quoted as saying in the article.
"What you've got is everything, and I mean everything, being run by the political arm. It's the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis."
He also said senior presidential adviser Karl Rove is "enormously powerful, maybe the single most powerful person in the modern, post-Hoover era ever to occupy a political adviser post near the Oval Office."
"Some staff members, senior and junior, are awed and cowed by Karl's real or perceived powers," he added.
Mr. DiIulio also was quoted as saying that what White House domestic policy adviser Margaret LaMontagne "knows about domestic policy could fit in a thimble."
"I did not write, and I do not recall making, the statement quoted regarding Ms. LaMontagne," Mr. DiIulio said in his statement. "I humbly and sincerely apologize to her just the same."
Mr. DiIulio said the article is "unjustly hard on Mr. Rove and over-the-top complimentary to me, thereby creating a too-pat contrast that is, I feel, most unfair to Mr. Rove."
Mr. DiIulio said Mr. Suskind called him in September requesting in-depth interviews "concerning the Bush administration's domestic- and social-welfare policy apparatus."
The two had "a long, rambling, off-the-record chat," he said, followed by "a single long memo in late October 2002" that Mr. DiIulio sent to Mr. Suskind.
"However, several quotes and anecdotes concerning or attributed to me in the article are not from that" memo, Mr. DiIulio said in his statement.
Mr. Suskind said in a statement, "The vast majority of the quotations attributed to Mr. DiIulio in the article are from a sweeping, sober letter he wrote me as I reported the piece."
The author said Mr. DiIulio "respectfully asked" if their first telephone conversation could be off-the-record. "I declined."
"Though Mr. DiIulio's desire to apologize to former colleagues is understandable, his desire to speak truthfully about his experiences at the center of power is to be hailed," Mr. Suskind said. "In the end, Mr. DiIulio is the first senior White House staff member to break this administration's code of silence. His is an act of civic education, for which he should not be attacked."


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