- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 23, 2006

We’re in the midst of the Great Election Year Pile On. George W. Bush can’t even pray without an officious old biddie looking over his shoulder to make sure he asks God for the right things.

Willie Nelson’s Chinese pothead flavor of the week, apparently inspired by a fortune cookie, led him to write a thrilling bong-Bush ditty. Madonna, the aging Material Girl who gave up her pornographic schtick when motherhood struck and travels now with her own private rabbi, interrupted her act in Los Angeles to lash out at George W. and then climbed on a faux cross to show how George W.’s America “crucifies” anyone who opposes him. (She climbed down to sip champagne and collect a $70 million gate.)

Al Gore, working now as a televangelist for the First Church of the Warming Globe, has hit the sawdust trail with a docudrama about the end of the world as he knows it. He dares George W. to look at it.

But no one critiques faith with the busybody enthusiasm of Madeleine Albright, who with Janet Reno supplied the bling and bling to the Clinton Cabinet. The ex-secretary of State has sampled nearly everybody else’s religion and can’t make up her mind what she believes, if anything, but she’s comfortable critiquing George W.’s faith. She wants him to find a new one. (Islam, anyone?)

“I worked for two presidents who were men of faith,” she told Reuters, “and they did not make their religious views part of American policy… The absolute truth is what makes Bush so worrying to some of us.”

Mrs. Albright frets that the president’s fervent but unexceptional Christian faith upsets Muslims, who are, truth to tell, upset by any faith but their own. She thinks George W.’s faith gives certain Muslims the heartburn they could expect from a jumbo pulled-pork sandwich at the Dixie Pig (with the Carolina mustard sauce).

She recalls that Gov. George W. Bush of Texas once told his Christian friends that he believed God wanted him to be president. She remembers his telling the Republican National Convention two years ago that “we have a calling from beyond the stars to stand for freedom.”

This is boilerplate stuff from every president’s speech archives, but such sentiments wrinkle Madeleine’s chador. “Some of his language is really quite over the top,” she told reporters in London. “When he says ‘God is on our side,’ it’s very different from Lincoln saying, ‘We have to be on God’s side’.”

Only a theological grasshopper like Madeleine Albright would attempt to parse these doctrinal differences. She has ranged over the years from cathedral to church, synagogue to mosque, attempting to set everyone straight. She was born a Roman Catholic in Czechoslovakia and reared in that faith, more or less, in Britain and the United States and was astonished, so she says, when she learned only late in life that she is Jewish, too. She describes herself now as “an Episcopalian with a Catholic background, and I used to pray to the Virgin Mary as a child, and still do.”

“I know I believe in God, but I have doubts, and doubt is part of faith.”

We all rejoice for anyone with faith, and pray for those with doubt. But you might think that someone with the chutzpah to fly-speck the faith of others would show a soupcon of tolerance for those others. She’s the first fly-specker so far to accuse George W. of intolerance toward Muslims. He’s always telling us that Islam is “a religion of peace.”

Bill Clinton, who she cites with Jimmy Carter as examplar of true faith at work, wore his religiosity as a cloak when it suited his purposes, as it frequently did. Not particularly skilled at carrying a tune, he joined the choir at Little Rock’s Immanuel Baptist Church when the church began televising the Sunday morning services so he could be seen on camera for the full hour just over the preacher’s right elbow.

During one particularly sordid episode of “As the Worm Turns,” the soap opera his White House years became, he invited five prominent ministers, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, to rehabilitate his character. So far we have not received even the first of the promised progress reports. Maybe Madeleine is about to share them.

Pruden on Politics runs on Tuesday and Friday.

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