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The perils of wedding faith to politics

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Kuo calls on conservative Christians to take a fast from politics, at least temporarily.

One might wonder if the deep disappointments Kuo experienced led to a coloring of the story. But the stark honesty and insight with which he depicts his own shifting allegiances and personal failings suggests that this book is the stuff of genuine soul- baring and truth-telling. And there are also warm, funny, and grateful memories of his White House days.

Kuo "found Jesus" in high school and was a political liberal in his early years, interning in the Massachusetts office of Sen. Edward Kennedy. Yet he started out in Washington in 1990 at the National Right-to-Life Committee, after experiencing guilt over a shared decision to have his college girlfriend get an abortion.

It was regular attendance at a Baptist church in Virginia that taught him that "our Christian faith presupposed a common political agenda" as well as being a conservative Republican.

As the Christian Coalition grew in influence, Kuo started writing speeches for the big guys – Ralph Reed, Pat Robertson, presidential candidate Bob Dole – and became an adviser to Sen. John Ashcroft.

His story is replete with fascinating insider anecdotes, from how he learned fly-fishing from Sandra Day O'Connor to his first gabby interview with Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

Kuo left national politics in an effort to save his first marriage (he did not succeed) and to start his own charity. But he was soon wooed back by the charming governor, Bush, who convinced him of his own deep desire to close "the gap between the rich and the poor."

"I loved him," Kuo writes. "Bush was the real deal. He loved Jesus. He wanted to help the poor. He was the embodiment of the Christian political statesman I had dreamed of finding."

Campaigning for the presidency, Bush promised $8 billion a year in spending for his "compassionate conservatism" – tax credits totaling $6.3 billion to spur charitable giving, and another $1.7 billion for specific programs. After he won, the longest section of his inaugural speech focused on compassion, and the faith-based initiative was touted as his domestic priority.

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