Faith-based sham

FAITH-BASED SHAM…. Nearly all of the executive branch agencies have prepared end-of-term media packages, intended to show how successful they’ve been over the course of the last eight years. Apparently, even the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives believes it’s earned the right to take a bow.

The office, which President Bush created at the beginning of his administration, has been sullied by criticisms from a former agency head and a former staffer, who charged that the White House had used the office for political reasons.

The report, titled “Innovations in Compassion,” a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times, argues that the president’s effort to direct more federal funding to faith-based local groups across the country has transformed thousands of lives.

Look, I realize the agency has to justify its work, and put as positive a spin on its record as possible, but this is kind of silly.

From the outset, the legislation Bush wanted for his faith-based initiative never passed Congress. The White House relied on some executive orders to let ministries apply for grants, but the project itself was a bust.

What’s more, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives was, as a practical matter, created to score points with the Republican Party’s religious right base. We know this, of course, because its former deputy director, David Kuo, eventually came forward to tell the truth about the initiative. Kuo said the office was a political prop, explaining that the office was quickly used as little more than a vehicle to help vulnerable Republican congressional candidates.

Indeed, it was John DiIulio who famously said, “There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus. What you’ve got is everything — and I mean everything — being run by the political arm. It’s the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis.” DiIulio was the first head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

And what about the faith-based grants that have allegedly “transformed thousands of lives”? The administration never delivered.

The administration may take some comfort in knowing that Barack Obama has decided to keep the office in existence, but Bushies shouldn’t be too pleased — Obama intends to completely overhaul how the executive branch funds faith-based groups, bolstering the legal safeguards Bush sought to eliminate.

It’s hardly a record for the Bush administration to be proud of.