A Loss Of Faith

Former White House Insider Tells Lesley Stahl Staffers Called Evangelicals "Nuts" And "Goofy"

David Kuo is an evangelical Christian and card-carrying member of the religious right, who got a job in the White House in the president's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. He thought it was a dream-come-true: a chance to work for a president whose vision about compassionate conservatism would be matched with sweeping legislation to help the poor.

But Kuo says the so-called compassion agenda has fallen short of its promise and he blames President Bush for that in his new book.

As correspondent Lesley Stahl reports, he also says the White House was a place that cynically used religion for political ends and that White House aides ridiculed the very Christian leaders who helped bring Mr. Bush to office.



In his book, Kuo wrote that White House staffers would roll their eyes at evangelicals, calling them "nuts" and "goofy."

Asked if that was really the attitude, Kuo tells Stahl, "Oh, absolutely. You name the important Christian leader and I have heard them mocked by serious people in serious places."

Specifically, Kuo says people in the White House political affairs office referred to Pat Robertson as "insane," Jerry Falwell as "ridiculous," and that James Dobson "had to be controlled." And President Bush, he writes, talked about his compassion agenda, but never really fought for it.

"The President of the United States promised he would be the leading lobbying on behalf of the poor. What better lobbyist could anybody get?" Kuo wonders.

What happened?

"The lobbyist didn't follow through," he claims.

"What about 9/11?" Stahl asks. "All the priorities got turned about."

"I was there before 9/11. I know what happened before 9/11 … The trend before 9/11 was…president makes a big announcement and nothing happens," Kuo replies.

Kuo speaks as an insider. Even before he became the number two guy in the White House faith-based office, he had a long resume in the world of Christian conservatives.

Kuo says he took candidate Bush at his word during the 2000 campaign.

At the time, Bush proposed for the first time that he would spend $8 billion dollars on programs for the poor.

"I think it's one of the most important political speeches given in the last generation. I really do," says Kuo. "It laid out a whole new philosophy for Republicans."

After the election, to much fanfare, President Bush created the office of faith-based initiatives to increase funds to religious charities.

But Kuo says there were problems right off the bat. For one, he says the office dropped very quickly down the list of priorities.

Asked how much money finally went to them, Kuo says laughing, "Oh, in the first two years, first two years I think $60 million."

"When you hold it up to a promise of $8 billion, I don't know how good I am at math, but I know that's less than one percent of a promise," says Kuo.

Part of the problem, he says, was indifference from "the base," the religious right. He took 60 Minutes to a convention of evangelical groups – his old stomping ground - and walked around the display booths, looking for any reference to the poor.

"You've got homosexuality in your kid's school, and you've got human cloning, and partial birth abortion and divorce and stem cell," Kuo remarked. "Not a mention of the poor."

"This message that has been sent out to Christians for a long time now: that Jesus came primarily for a political agenda, and recently primarily a right-wing political agenda - as if this culture war is a war for God. And it's not a war for God, it's a war for politics. And that's a huge difference," says Kuo.
  • Daniel Schorn

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