Monday, October 23, 2006

Fear of God

Gerhard Schroeder, the former German chancellor, has written in a new book that George W. Bush‘s frequent references to God in their meetings before the Iraq war had made him wary of Mr. Bush’s political decisions. Mr. Schroeder also suggested that America’s Christian conservatives are not much different than Islamists who impose their beliefs on entire nations.

Mr. Schroeder wrote in an advance excerpt of his memoirs that Germany had stood by its vow of “unlimited solidarity” after the September 11 attacks. But Germany stayed out of Iraq, causing a breach in U.S.-Germany ties.

He wrote in “Decisions: My Life in Politics,” excerpted yesterday in Der Spiegel magazine, that he was alarmed by Mr. Bush’s talk of God, which made him fear religion influenced decisions.

“What worried me, despite a relaxed atmosphere to our talks, and to a certain degree what made me skeptical was how much it came through that this president saw himself as ‘God-fearing’ and saw that as the highest authority,” Mr. Schroeder wrote.

Mr. Schroeder, a Social Democrat who left politics after his party lost a 2005 election to end his seven years in power, said he had no qualms with Mr. Bush’s Christian faith, but could not escape a fear that religion was a driving force behind his decisions.

The former chancellor also took aim at America’s Christian conservatives, Reuters news agency reports.

“Quite rightly, we criticize that in most Islamic states the role of religion in society and the secular character of the legal system are not clearly separated,” he said. “But we haven’t taken note as readily of the U.S. Christian fundamentalists and their interpretation of the Bible that show similar tendencies.”


“We see where the Democrats are laying in cases of champagne to celebrate their Nov. 7 victory in the congressional elections. If as seems possible control of the Senate turns on a single seat, attention will return to one probable winner who likely won’t be in the Democratic clubhouse spraying bubbly that night — Joe Lieberman,” Wall Street Journal columnist Daniel Henninger writes.

“Sen. Lieberman is going to defeat the Ned Lamont ‘insurgency’ from the Democratic left. Now what?” Mr. Henninger asked.

“His lead in the most recent polls runs between 8 and 13 points. It is safe to assume that if the Democrats win next month, they won’t be urging reporters to focus on the Lieberman victory in Connecticut. This wasn’t supposed to happen.

“What was supposed to happen is that Joe Lieberman was supposed to go away. After Ned Lamont defeated Mr. Lieberman in the primary, a procession of his Senate friends traveled ostentatiously to Connecticut to re-create the scene in ‘Godfather II,’ where Tom Hagen tells Frank Pentangeli about how marked guys went away in the time of the Roman Empire. ‘Yeah,’ said Frankie, ‘and their families were taken care of.’ Hagen: ‘A nice deal.’

“That was a movie. Instead of a political corpse, the Democratic Party is about to get its own version of John McCain — a shrewd and independent maverick. By the accounts of friends and associates, Joe Lieberman feels ‘liberated’ and ‘unshackled.’ ”

Surprise probe

“Did a Democratic member of Congress improperly enlist the support of a major pro-Israel lobbying group to try to win a top committee assignment? That’s the question at the heart of an ongoing investigation by the FBI and Justice Department prosecutors, who are examining whether Rep. Jane Harman of California and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) may have violated the law in a scheme to get Harman reappointed as the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, according to knowledgeable sources in and out of the U.S. government,” Timothy J. Burger reports at

“The sources tell Time that the investigation by Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has simmered out of sight since about the middle of last year, is examining whether Harman and AIPAC arranged for wealthy supporters to lobby House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi on Harman’s behalf. Harman said Thursday in a voicemail message that any investigation of — or allegation of improper conduct by — her would be ‘irresponsible, laughable and scurrilous.’

“On Friday, Washington GOP superlawyer Ted Olson left voicemail messages underscoring that Harman has no knowledge of any investigation. …

“It is not, however, a given that Harman would know that she is under investigation,” Time reports.

McCain’s kin dies

Sen. John McCain‘s mother-in-law died yesterday morning after a long illness.

Marguerite Hensley passed away peacefully with her daughter — Mr. McCain’s wife, Cindy McCain — at her side, said Melissa Shuffield, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Republican. Mrs. Hensley was the wife of James Hensley, founder of Hensley & Co., the Phoenix-area Anheuser-Busch distributor. James Hensley died in June 2000.

Texas ‘push’?

In former Rep. Tom DeLay‘s Texas district, Libertarian candidate Bob Smither has accused Republicans of operating a “push poll” that suggests voters must choose between Democrat Nick Lampson and Republican write-in candidate Shelley Sekula-Gibbs.

A recording of a poll call — at — captures a caller who identifies herself as representing “Southern Research” asking, “If the election were held tomorrow would you vote for Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, the Republican, or Nick Lampson, the Democrat?”

“This incident represents the latest in a pattern of deceptive polling by the Sekula-Gibbs campaign,” said Kevin Tunstall, Mr. Smither’s campaign manager and vice chairman of the Texas Libertarian Party. “Sekula-Gibbs seems to be intent on denying the fact that Bob Smither is actually on the ballot and she is not.”

Blog grenade

Ignorance is bliss, and Bill O’Reilly says President Bush is blissfully unaware of the rhetorical savagery perpetrated on the Internet by some partisan bloggers.

On his Fox News Channel show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” last week, Mr. O’Reilly was interviewing University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato, who commented on “the vitriol, the vile nature of the comments” on some political blogs.

“I know for a fact that President Bush doesn’t know what’s going on in the Internet,” Mr. O’Reilly responded, describing many bloggers as “hired guns.”

“These are people … being paid very well to smear and try to destroy people,” he said.

Mr. O’Reilly concluded, “I have to say President Bush has a much healthier attitude toward this than I do. Because if I can get away with it, boy, I’d go in with a hand grenade.”

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or

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