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Fred Barnes: Faith is paramount in understanding George W. Bush

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–Many in the national media have a hard time understanding President George W. Bush because they don’t understand the faith that guides his life, said Fox News Channel political commentator Fred Barnes.

Barnes spoke to a group of business and civic leaders April 30 at Union University as part of the third annual Union Forum series. He is the executive editor and a cofounder of The Weekly Standard, a conservative political journal and co-host of “The Beltway Boys,” a weekly political discussion show on the Fox News Channel.

Speaking on the 101st day of the Bush presidency, Barnes said it is impossible to understand the priorities and style of the new president apart from his Christian faith.

“I think he’s already achieved the most popular promise he made in the campaign: to change the tone in Washington,” Barnes said. “Most of the press in Washington ignores a particular factor in Bush’s changing the tone in Washington, and that is his very serious Christian faith. There are two things he enjoys talking about the most: his faith and baseball.”

The political writer and editor — and evangelical Christian — recalled the 1986 conversation Bush had with evangelist Billy Graham as the two walked on the beach at Kennebunkport, Maine. Graham asked him, “Are you right with God?”

“George W. decided he wasn’t, and his life has changed remarkably since then,” Barnes said.

Barnes recounted that Bush, in an interview for Fox News Channel in conjunction with the first 100 days of his presidency, was asked by Brit Hume about the role of his faith in his life and work. Bush responded: “I start with being on bended knee every morning. Seriously. I find great comfort in my faith. It helps me realize I am a person who has a lot of responsibility, but I am just a person…. I pray every day, I read the Bible every morning.”

“If you don’t understand that — Bush and his faith — you don’t understand Bush,” said Barnes, who will be a keynote speaker for the 2001 Baptist Press National Student Journalism Conference Sept. 27-29. “That’s why I think so many people in Washington and the mainstream media simply don’t understand Bush. This is paramount with him.”

This faith perspective is part of why Bush believes so much in supporting faith-based initiatives, which Barnes called the president’s “signature issue.”

Bush’s belief in faith-based initiatives, Barnes said, is “based on a very simple proposition: government-run social service programs aren’t working. They don’t produce results. Yet there is strong anecdotal evidence that faith-based groups working in drug rehabilitation and job skills, and so on, do work and work much better. Why not make them eligible to apply for those government grants?”

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