Bush was asked yesterday about whether he believed we were in the end of times, the Biblical period that marks the appearance of the Rapture (i.e., good people rise to heaven, bad people stay on earth). The audience broke into pretty loud laughter, clearly mocking the question, and Bush smirked and hemmed and hawed, clearly uncomfortable.
Arianna has the exact transcript:
The first question came from a woman who asked: "[Author Kevin Phillips] makes the point that members of your administration have reached out to prophetic Christians who see the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism as signs of the apocalypse. Do you believe this, that the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism are signs of the apocalypse? And if not, why not?"Now, Arianna's take is a bit different than mine. She expresses shock that Bush would claim to have never thought about the Rapture, as a born again Christian.
The president was clearly taken aback. He reacted as if he'd just seen a burning bush -- or had just been asked a really hard math question.
First he hemmed. Then he hawed. Then he hemmed some more.
"Um... uh... I... The answer is, I haven't really thought of it that way," he finally spit out. "Here's how I think of it. The first I've heard of that, by the way. I guess I'm more of a practical fellow." He then abruptly Left Behind the question at hand and went off on a long, standard-issue answer about 9/11 and fighting terrorists over there so we don't have to fight them over here.
I would tend to go another route with all of this.
Namely, that Bush got asked a serious question about a serious tenet of his religious faith, in response the audience hooted and hollered in totally mockery of that faith, and all Bush could muster was a grin. There was no affirmation of his faith, no chastizing of the audience to simmer down, nothing.
I can't think of a more Biblical allegory of Bush's approach to his own supposed faith.
I've written before about Bush's embarrassment over the evangelical wing of his party, which he claims to represent. He doesn't like them, he's not like them, and he's embarrassed whenever any of them raise their head and go public in his presence. He finds them embarrassing, which means he finds his own self-professed religion embarrassing.
"I'm guess I'm more of a practical fellow." That's Bush's response to a question about the Bible. So you mean you don't believe what the Bible says about life, because you're, you know, a practical fellow? I thought you were a literalist? I thought you spoke to God and God told you to invade Iraq and save the Middle East for all of Christianity?
Am I wrong? Were we all wrong? Was Bush's embrace of born-again America just another political strategem?
And now that I think about it, Arianna's take is the same as mine. This guy's a faker, even when it comes to a public affirmation of his own faith.