President George W. Bush has attracted a good deal of criticism for looking to his religious faith for political guidance. Why has the hand God played in Woodrow Wilson’s idealism and Harry Truman’s Cold War crusade been so easily forgotten?
Since George W. Bush assumed the presidency five years ago, arguments about the proper role of religious faith in politics have been at the center of American political debate. To many members of the intellectual and media establishments, and to others in the wider world, Bush seems a disturbing historical aberration. Not only does the president talk openly about God, but his political beliefs are plainly informed by his religious faith. He regularly incorporates Bible scriptures into his political speeches, asserts that he heard God’s call to run for the presidency, and has said that he has prayed for God’s help since taking office, including when he decided to lead the United States into war in Iraq. In the minds of his critics, Bush represents a radical departure from established precedent. That religious faith should play any part in decisions made in the Oval Office seems an alarming possibility.
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Elizabeth Edwards Spalding, assistant professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, is the author of The First Cold Warrior: Harry Truman, Containment, and the Remaking of Liberal Internationalism, forthcoming in May from University Press of Kentucky.more from this author >>