October 17, 2004FromWithout a DoubtBy RON SUSKIND.....A few months later, on Feb. 1, 2002, Jim Wallis of the Sojourners stood in the Roosevelt Room for the introduction of Jim Towey as head of the president's faith-based and community initiative. John DiIulio, the original head, had left the job feeling that the initiative was not about 'compassionate conservatism,' as originally promised, but rather a political giveaway to the Christian right, a way to consolidate and energize that part of the base. Moments after the ceremony, Bush saw Wallis. He bounded over and grabbed the cheeks of his face, one in each hand, and squeezed. 'Jim, how ya doin', how ya doin'!' he exclaimed. Wallis was taken aback. Bush excitedly said that his massage therapist had given him Wallis's book, 'Faith Works.' His joy at seeing Wallis, as Wallis and others remember it, was palpable -- a president, wrestling with faith and its role at a time of peril, seeing that rare bird: an independent counselor. Wallis recalls telling Bush he was doing fine, ''but in the State of the Union address a few days before, you said that unless we devote all our energies, our focus, our resources on this war on terrorism, we're going to lose.' I said, 'Mr. President, if we don't devote our energy, our focus and our time on also overcoming global poverty and desperation, we will lose not only the war on poverty, but we'll lose the war on terrorism.'' Bush replied that that was why America needed the leadership of Wallis and other members of the clergy. 'No, Mr. President,' Wallis says he told Bush, 'We need your leadership on this question, and all of us will then commit to support you. Unless we drain the swamp of injustice in which the mosquitoes of terrorism breed, we'll never defeat the threat of terrorism.' Bush looked quizzically at the minister, Wallis recalls. They never spoke again after that. 'When I was first with Bush in Austin, what I saw was a self-help Methodist, very open, seeking,' Wallis says now. 'What I started to see at this point was the man that would emerge over the next year -- a messianic American Calvinist. He doesn't want to hear from anyone who doubts him.' Ron Suskind was the senior national-affairs reporter for The Wall Street Journal from 1993 to 2000. He is the author most recently of 'The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House and the Education of Paul O'Neill.'
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