This report from the Lancaster New Era's Jack Brubaker, has gotten a lot of attention.

Brubaker reports on President Bush's campaign visit with a group of Old Order Amish. This in itself is a bit odd — a bit like Caesar making a campaign stop among the Essenes. It's kind of strange for someone so devoted to his image as a "war president" to stump for votes among a group of nonvoting pacifists.

Brubaker's account of the meeting comes via Sam Stoltzfus, "an Old Order historian" who "spoke with a number of people present at the session with the president." So it's not a firsthand account, but the Amish usually speak as plainly as they dress, and they are not known for embellishing their accounts. And most of Stoltzfus' details have the ring of truth:

Bush said he had never met any Amish before and was curious about why the men were wearing straw hats rather than black wool hats. The Amish explained that they wear cooler straw in summer. Bush tried on a hat.

But here's the part of Brubaker's/Stoltzfus' account that created a stir:

At the end of the session, Bush reportedly told the group, "I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn’t do my job."

Now, many of the president's (and speechwriter Michael Gerson's) religious statements probably sound a little batty to people outside of the evangelical subculture. But this one sounds batty even to people inside the evangelical subculture he's trying to woo with such statements.

Here's Ted Olson, of the Christianity Today Web log:

If that's a real quote, then it's a rather shocking statement. If Bush had said that he trusts God works through him, then the comment would be rather innocuous: Evangelicals believe that God works through all types of people, good and bad, Christian and non-Christian. And it's common to hear many Christians speak of God working through them — sometimes in spite of their best efforts.

Christians believe that God speaks through all manner of people, too. And we believe that there are times when God has spoken through us. … But talking about God speaking through someone is rarely done in the first person. It's usually, "I just heard God speaking through him/you." Very rarely "me."

It's even rarer to hear someone say that God speaks through them regularly, or that God's speaking through me is essential to one's vocation. You'll hear pastors praying that God would speak through them every Sunday, but the pastor who tells his congregation that God really does speak through him week after week is taking a pretty serious risk. How much more so for the president of the United States?

Olson, however, doesn't believe the quote is genuine. "Bush reportedly told the group …" Brubaker wrote, since he wasn't himself there to hear it. He's relying on Stoltzfus' account of what the Amish present at the meeting told him. And, of course, none of the Amish present thought to bring along a camcorder.

Tim Dunlop points out the news, at the bottom of this piece by the WaPo's Dana Milbank, that the White House denies the president actually said this.

"Lying Amish, apparently," Tim writes. Precisely. After all, who are you going to trust more, George W. Bush, or a bunch of objectively pro-Saddam Old Order Amish?

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  • Tim

    i live in Lancaster, he said it, and he believes it

  • Eli

    Oh, now I have to tell my George H.W. Bush in Lancaster story.
    Some time in the late ’80s, the then commander-in-chief was advised by someone to make a visit to Lancaster County, to talk about the War on Drugs. The White House had apparently just learned the not particularly secret fact that Lancaster was (probably still is) a major hub of cocaine trafficking between Philly and points south. (It’s a reasonably urban town after all, and the regular economy has been in the toilet for decades.)
    So the elder Bush showed up at a local high school – not the inner-city school I went to that was heavily Puerto Rican and Vietnamese, but still, a big school full of modern-looking kids. And, heaving with emotion (or trying to), he talked about what horrible times we were living in, to think that this terrible scourge of Drugs had now come even here… “even here, to the peaceful Amish.”

  • Patrick Mullins

    Whether God speaks or works through GWB is irrelevant isn’t it? It’s the second part, where he claims he can do his job, that is so bumptious.
    Hilarious about the GHWB person being condescending to the “peaceful Amish” when they got hold of some drugs too–especially since the ‘Amish Country’was populated with Vietnamese and Ricans that day. Also funny that the GWB went to the non-voting anythings. Maybe he has time for sightseeing, since he doesn’t do a lot of engagement; could have seemed like a theme park to him. Or maybe he needed one piece of publicity with non-voters and thought this would be harmless. Probably thinks Shoo Fly Pie is FABULOUS or something (their Coconut Pies are better.)

  • Mysterious way and means 2

    There was a little piece in this morning’s WaPo noting that the White House was denying that Mr Bush had said, “God speaks through me”, something I made fun of in a post below: The Misquotable Bush “I trust God…

  • Luke Francl

    From what I’ve read, the Amish believe voting is a personal matter. Some do vote, and though no polls have been done, its assumed that they vote mostly Republican.
    Anyway, probably the real reason Bush Bush was talking to the Old Order Amish is that he was trying to get a positive press hit. The campaign didn’t have to deal with his off-the-cuff Divine Right of Presidents comment, though.

  • Luke Francl

    Er, the campaign didn’t WANT to deal with his comment.

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