Campaign Poetry: Bush’s “Christ moment”

“For most of the mid-December evening in 1999, the Republican Party primary debate in Des Moines, Iowa, followed a predictable pattern. … As the debate neared its conclusion, one of the moderators, local newsman John Bachman, posed a question sent in from an Iowan watching the debate: ‘I’d like to run the table quickly with one individual question. What political philosopher or thinker, Mr. Forbes, do you most identify with and why?’ Forbes said John Locke, because ‘[e]ven though there are some flaws, I think he set the stage for what became a revolution.’ Keyes followed, and he opted for the nation’s founders, because they created ‘instruments of government that have preserved our liberty now for over 200 years.’ Bush was to answer next. He was known as a savvy politician – in Texas he had knocked off popular Democrat Ann Richards to become governor in 1994 and then coasted to reelection in 1998 – and he seized the moment.

With all eyes on him, Bush answered, ‘Christ, because he changed my heart.’ There was a pause; a beat or two passed in the room as the answer settled. Bush gave a quick, confident nod, indicating he was content to leave it at that. But Bachman followed up: ‘I think the viewer would like to know more on how he’s changed your heart.’ Bush smiled momentarily, then turned serious as he said, ‘Well, if they don’t know, it’s going to to be hard to explain. When you turn your heart and your life over to Christ’ – and here Bush had the perfect words to connect with religious conservatives – ‘when you accept Christ as the savior, it changes your heart. It changes your life. And that’s what happened to me.’ Bush’s response drew loud applause from the audience.”

David Domke & Kevin Coe – The God Strategy. How Religion Became a Political Weapon in America (p. 29-30).

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