Rove 'described fundamentalist Christians as nuts'

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The Independent US

Efforts by the Republican Party to rally grassroots support for next month's mid-term elections were knocked yesterday by a new book suggesting that right-wing evangelical Christians are regarded with contempt by the White House's top strategists and courted strictly for their votes.

The book, by former White House insider David Kuo, suggested that Karl Rove, President Bush's top political advisor, and his staff, routinely refer to fundamentalist Christians as "the nuts". That is unlikely to be taken kindly by the evangelicals who voted in 2004 and made the crucial difference in securing President Bush's re-election.

Mr Kuo writes: "National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as 'ridiculous' and 'out of control'."

Mr Kuo also suggested the White House's Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, where he was deputy director, was a get-out-the-vote machine more than an instrument of policy.

His book, Tempting Faith, could do great political damage in an election season in which Republicans are fighting to retain control of the House and Senate.

Already, evangelical leaders have expressed disquiet that the Bush regime has not enacted their agenda as they had hoped, and party strategists have fretted that many Christian conservatives will not vote.

Mr Kuo's claims have been challenged by his former boss, Jim Towey, who told the New York Times he kept the office of faith-based initiatives non-political.

The White House has its share of religious conservatives, including President Bush. But the Christian wing of the Republican Party has co-existed uneasily for years with apologists for big business and hawkish security policies.

In his best-selling analysis of the Republican movement, What's the Matter With Kansas?, Thomas Frank described a party that "talks Christ but walks corporate". Earlier this week, television host Tucker Carlson said "the elites" in the party had "pure contempt" for the evangelicals, but added that the evangelicals were "beginning to figure it out".