Bush Conversion by Graham a Fraud
mick arran printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Nov 08, 2007 at 12:09:36 PM EST
When I first started researching George Bush's background in 2000 after he announced his intention to run for president, I of course read all about the famous conversation between Billy Graham and George W that supposedly resulted in W's conversion to born-again evangelical Christianity. It was stressed over and over again that W was a Methodist. But then I noticed something odd.
Whenever Bush got into trouble, it wasn't Billy Graham or Methodist preachers he ran to for solace and counsel, it was Pat Robertson and Bob Jones. I began to suspect that Bush's Methodism was part of Karl Rove's For Campaign Purposes Only "compassionate conservative" illusion and that he was really a fundamentalist in disguise, a far-right-winger playing to the center. Then, when Graham himself debunked Bush's account after the publication of W's campaign biography, ghost-written by a sports writer named Mickey Herskowitz, I knew it.

"I was with him and I used to teach the Bible at Kennebunkport to the Bush family when he was a younger man, but I never feel that I in any way turned his life around."

Graham was, of course, telling the truth. Though Bush's "autobiography" was eloquent about the details and the meaning of that special night, the special night never happened. Karen Hughes, Bush's long-time PR handler, made it up.

Mickey Herskowitz, a sportswriter for the Houston Chronicle who became close friends with the Bush family and was originally contracted to ghostwrite "A Charge to Keep," recalled interviewing Bush about it when he was doing research for the book. "I remember asking him about the famous meeting at Kennebunkport with the Reverend Billy Graham...." Herskowitz said. "And you know what? He couldn't remember a single word that passed between them."

Herskowitz was so stunned by Bush's memory lapse that he began prompting him. "It was so unlikely he wouldn't remember anything Billy Graham said, especially because that was a defining moment in his life. So I asked, 'Well, Governor, would he have said something like, "Have you gotten right with God?'"

According to Herskowitz, Bush was visibly taken aback and bristled at the suggestion. "No," Bush replied. "Billy Graham isn't going to ask you a question like that."

Herskowitz met with Bush about twenty times for the project and submitted about ten chapters before Bush's staff, working under director of communications Karen Hughes, took control of it. But when Herskowitz finally read "A Charge to Keep" he was stunned by its contents. "Anyone who is writing a memoir of George Bush for campaign purposes knew you had to have some glimpse of what passed between Bush and Billy Graham," he said. But Hughes and her team had changed a key part. "It had Graham asking Bush, 'George, are you right with God?'"

In other words, Herskowitz's question to Bush was now coming out of Billy Graham's mouth. "Karen Hughes picked it off the tape," said Herskowitz.

The Graham/Bush conversion was supposed to have taken place in the summer of '85, but the real conversion actually took place a year earlier, and the preacher involved wasn't Billy but theatrical fundie named (so appropriately one has to wonder if the name was invented, a sort of religious stage name) Arthur Blessit.

"The Minister of Sunset Strip," as he was known, transformed himself into "The Man who Carried the Cross Around the World" by lugging a twelve-foot-long cross for Jesus through sixty countries all over the world, on what would become, according to the "Guinness Book of World Records," the longest walk in human history. Blessitt delivered countless lost souls to Jesus. He went to Jerusalem. He prayed on Mount Sinai. He crossed the Iron Curtain.

Sounds about right for a George W Bush deliverer.

Blessit may have been a bit of a showman but by all accounts his belief was - is - genuine enough. Introduced to Blessit by an oilman named Don Poage, one night the three of them prayed for George W's soul. Blessit asked him if he wanted to be "with Jesus...or without him?" Bush said, "With him" and with that was saved.

The truth is a long way from the Hughes fiction, and one has a duty to ask "Why?" What was the point of re-working a simple, honest moment of faith - if that's what it was - into an iconic fable of redemption involving a legendary figure whose ingrained sense of integrity was such that he would refute it when asked?

The answer, while obvious, is nevertheless deeply disturbing. In the world of George W Bush, political expediency trumps everything, even faith.

I have long suspected that many of the details, if not the entire narrative of Bush's "faith journey" were exaggerated, glossed, or just plain made-up to conform to a certain style of evangelical conversion tale.  

by Frederick Clarkson on Thu Nov 08, 2007 at 01:52:07 PM EST
Was purely due to Graham's enormously puffed name. Plus, Graham was considered a "safe" fundamentalist.

On Arthur Blessit's cross - actually, it rolled around the world. The cross was on wheels. Frightening, huh ? - A man pulling a huge cross on wheels brought George W. Bush to Jesus ( or vice versa ).

by Bruce Wilson on Fri Nov 09, 2007 at 02:24:01 PM EST

Looks like you were right.

- mick -

by mick arran on Thu Nov 08, 2007 at 08:34:10 PM EST

of the pathological lies told by Bush

The man is an addict. Addicts lie. And religion is just one of many addictions, and these days a popular one.

When I studied it at the U of Mn, we were taught that it is an emotional disease at it's root. If you read "Political Brain" by Drew Westin, addiction and religion dove tail together nicey in the current miasma we call the religious right.

by Leckey on Sun Nov 11, 2007 at 05:57:04 PM EST

just like the rest of George W. Bush's career.
   His entire success as governor of Texas was based on his manipulation of a dying man, the consummate Texas politician Bob Bullock, and Bush's selling himself to Bullock as the son Bullock never had. It was heart-wrenching and nauseating to those of us who watched it in Texas.
   If Bush did not think of his base as wholly Protestant, you may be sure that he would have found some way to tie his public image extremely intimately to the most popular religious figure going, not necessarily Billy Graham. I could see him kissing the Pope's ring, Vatican II reforms or no Vatican II reforms, if he (or, more accurately, whoever on his staff provides him with brain function) thought that would do him political benefit.

by nogodsnomasters on Sun Nov 11, 2007 at 11:05:35 PM EST
"Brain function" was provided by Karl Rove. The "compassionate conservative" dodge was his, so was the strategy of having a fundamentalist pretend to be a mainline Methodist in order to play to the center for the election. Texans knew better but they loved George anyway, for reasons unclear to anyone then and still unclear to me today. Other than signing a record number of executions (152, including one woman whose plea for mercy he actually laughed at, and a number considered by outside experts to be innocent) in his short time as Gov, he didn't really do anything. But maybe using the state to kill a lot of people goes over big in Texas.

- mick -

by mick arran on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 01:36:01 PM EST

...these folks can't sink any lower, they get out their shovels and start digging. Absolutely, totally sickening.

by GreenEyed Lilo on Tue Nov 13, 2007 at 01:55:41 PM EST

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