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Published: Thursday, 5/20/2004

Bush uses prayer for strength, his chief of staff says

BY JAMES DREW
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS - As the United States wages war against terrorism and struggles to "win the peace" in Iraq, the nation can "make it through this troubling time" because President Bush benefits from prayer, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card told a religious group yesterday.

"We have a President who has the resolve to do that which is right; a President who understands it is important to listen not just to people, but also to that quiet little voice that can always find us, when we're in prayer, and how he can listen to your prayers without hearing them," Mr. Card told 400 people at a luncheon held by The Gathering.

The Columbus group describes itself as a "faith-based mentoring network."

"We are a blessed nation," said Mr. Card. "You are a blessed people. And our obligations are huge because we are also the light of the world, bringing hope and freedom to others who are crying out for it."

Mr. Card's wife, Kathleene, a United Methodist minister in suburban Washington, offered the prayer at The Gathering's luncheon, held in a huge ballroom at the Columbus convention center.

"Guide those in authority at every level, especially our President, George W. Bush. Our President carries a tremendous burden to protect us, Lord. He's working to defeat terror and eliminate the fear it invites. He listens to you daily, and he's also leading those people in the world who too want to bring freedom and hope to people in other lands," she said.

Mr. Card said Mr. Bush starts every day "in prayer," sitting at his desk and "practicing by devotion."

Cabinet meetings also start with a prayer, he added.

In a speech yesterday at the annual meeting of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, journalist Bob Woodward said he has seen no evidence that Mr. Bush's religious faith is not genuine.

"It's standard Christian theology; he's not getting guidance from God. He's not channeling with God, and he said during an interview, 'I'm not going to justify war on the basis of God,'‚óŹ" said Mr. Woodward, a reporter and editor at The Washington Post.

In his book, Plan of Attack, Mr. Woodward recounts how he asked Mr. Bush whether he consulted his father about the decision to invade Iraq and the President said: "You know, he is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength. There is a higher father that I appeal to."

In a speech later yesterday to members of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Card said he is bullish about the nation's economy, saying that 288,000 new jobs were created last month.

Outside the state office tower where Mr. Card spoke, members of America Coming Together stood in front of a 5-foot-tall greeting card with the message asking Mr. Card, "Did you bring any jobs?"

"We need jobs that pay a livable wage," said Jennifer Farmer, spokesman for the independent anti-Bush group, referred to as a section "527" for the part of federal tax code in which the groups are formed.

Mr. Card, who was a lobbyist for General Motors Corp. before becoming Mr. Bush's chief of staff, told Chamber of Commerce members that the President will "stay the course to meet the obligation of a peaceful and democratic and free Iraq."

Mr. Woodward noted that Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, before the CIA said Saddam Hussein had biological and chemical weapons.

"The process here got screwed up, to have the vice president and the President out delivering their own conclusions of intelligence before the experts had weighed in," he said.

Mr. Woodward said he expects the United States will turn Iraq over to "somebody," the new Iraqi government will ask the U.S. military to withdraw, and the Bush administration sharply will reduce the number of troops this fall.

Contact James Drew at:

jdrew@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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