Compassionate conservativism just words
The curtain of compassionate conservatism covering the Bush administrations domestic policy was just pulled back by the man who used to run it, John DiIulio, former director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
His informed conclusion: Theres nothing behind the flowery rhetoric except politics.
DiIulio, a widely respected academic who left the administration to return to the University of Pennsylvania in August 2001, gave a lengthy (a 3,500-word letter) description of the Bush administration domestic policy apparatus to Esquire magazine.
Not since December 1981, when Reagan Budget Director David Stockman revealed that none of us really understands whats going on with all these numbers has a Washington insider spilled the beans so completely.
DiIulio offered a damning indictment:
There was, said DiIulio, a lone exception to the adhocracy ruling White House domestic decision-making: stem cell research. I would have favored a position closer to the Catholic churchs on the issue, but this was one instance where the administration really took pains with both politics and policy, invited real substantive knowledge into the process, and so forth.
DiIulio went into the administration with a plan. His research showed that government funding of programs administered at the local level by churches or faith-based groups -- organizations with credibility at the neighborhood level -- could make a real difference in the lives of the poor. DiIulios approach was well worth the effort, but it was sabotaged by White House political operatives more interested in the points they could score with the religious right than getting an inner-city teenager a job. What a shame.
Soon after the Esquire magazine piece hit the streets, DiIulio apologized to his former colleagues in the Bush administration and said he would no longer be commenting on his days in the White House. Its not he who owes an apology.
Governing, whether making choices over funds for Medicare or Medicaid, housing programs, welfare reform or education, is serious business. Its time the administration ridded itself of its Mayberry Machiavellis, the Barney Fifes of the West Wing, and began to act like the poor and the marginalized in this society deserve serious consideration.
National Catholic Reporter, December 13, 2002