Can you jump back over the shark?
: I was glad that in his press conference last night, Bush distanced himself from the religious fringe.
THE PRESIDENT: … The role of religion in our society? I view religion as a personal matter. I think a person ought to be judged on how he or she lives his life, or lives her life. And that’s how I’ve tried to live my life, through example. Faith-based is an important part of my life, individually, but I don’t — I don’t ascribe a person’s opposing my nominations to an issue of faith.
Q Do you think that’s an inappropriate statement? And what I asked is —
THE PRESIDENT: No, I just don’t agree with it.
Q You don’t agree with it.
THE PRESIDENT: No, I think people oppose my nominees because — because of judicial philosophy.
Q Sorry, I asked you what you think of the ways faith is being used in our political debates, not just in society —
THE PRESIDENT: No, I know you asked me that. Well, I can only speak to myself, and I am mindful that people in political office should not say to somebody, you’re not equally American if you don’t happen to agree with my view of religion. As I said, I think faith is a personal issue, and I get great strength from my faith. But I don’t condemn somebody in the political process because they may not agree with me on religion.
The great thing about America, David, is that you should be allowed to worship any way you want, and if you choose not to worship, you’re equally as patriotic as somebody who does worship. And if you choose to worship, you’re equally American if you’re a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim. That’s the wonderful thing about our country, and that’s the way it should be.
Of course, the cynical view is that he gets to come off as more moderate — on prime-time TV, at least — and lets others suck–up to the religous right for him. Another cynical view is that the polls indicate that DeLay, Frist, et al went too far and so Bush is reacting to that (but if he were just listening to the polls, he wouldn’t have been pushing Social Security so hard). But — risking an Ollie Volley — I’ll say I think he is more moderate on religion. He has not pushed for regulating speech on cable and satellite and has told parents to use the remote control. He gives this speech to pull back from the right-wing religious shark-jumpers. We can only hope that this is a recognition that they went too far and Bush used this opportunity to say so, to pull back to the middle.