March 10 2010

Washington Post article
November 14, 1992

Bush’s Link to Evangelicals Awaits Next Calling

by Carey Kinsolving

Leigh Ann Metzger sat in her office in the Old Executive Office Building the day after the Nov. 3 election, her perky manner only slightly masking the strain of nonstop campaigning and her boss’s defeat.

Now and then Metzger’s words revealed what she calls her “righteous indignation,” an apt phrase for President Bush’s liaison to the evangelical community.

“Christians don’t need to be thin-skinned,” Metzger said. “You can have righteous indignation, which I have quite often.”

But she admits to being frustrated over the bitterness of some moderate Republicans who charge that the religious right forced Bush into an “ugly, nasty, hatred” posture.

“George Bush couldn’t hate a bug,” Metzger said. “He hates clear evil, but he doesn’t hate anybody.”

Metzger has been Bush’s tie to the evangelical community since 1990. Now bearing the title of deputy assistant to the president at the ripe age of 30, she also has served as his liaison to veterans, law enforcement and Catholic groups.

But it is her intimate knowledge of the evangelical community that prompts Bush to seek her counsel. She is an insider with roots in the heart of the Bible Belt.

In fact, some call her home congregation, the mammoth First Baptist Church in Atlanta, the buckle on the belt. Metzger started attending the church at age 12.

Her interest in politics also began in childhood, and her rise to presidential adviser is nothing less than meteoric. In 1984, as a senior at Stanford University, a Southern Baptist institution in Birmingham, she worked with a White House advance team to coordinate a Bush speech at her school.

At 22, she managed the Reagan-Bush campaign office in Atlanta. After stints in Washington with Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle forum, the Pornography Commission Report Project and the National Republican Congressional Committee, Metzger accepted the White House position in 1990.

“I’ve always been a hard worker, and I take advantage of opportunities,” she said.

The animated Metzger goes into overdrive when talking about incidents in which she helped influence national policy.

One of Metzger’s most cherished victories for Bush came during the Persian Gulf War. Representatives from the National Council of Churches were calling for an end to the war on grounds that it violated the principles of a “just war.” Metzger consulted Richard Land, of the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission, in December 1990 and drafted a memo to her boss.

Land said he told Metzger: “You know that I’m a pretty conservative guy. If you go into the gulf without [congressional] authorization, I’ll protest against you.”

Metzger forwarded Land’s theological arguments for a just war to Bush. Metzger then briefed Bush for a major speech to the National Religious Broadcasters, where he cited the arguments for a just war in defending U.S. involvement in the gulf.

Although most evangelicals gave Metzger high marks in briefing Bush on the theology of a just war, some clashed with her over the administration’s overtures to the gay-rights community.

The Rev. Rich Cizik, policy analyst for the National Association of Evangelicals, said he does not feel that his reasons for objecting to the overtures ever got through to the president.

However, Cizik said he does not fault Metzger so much as he faults Bush’s failure to distinguish between “a biblical stand against homosexual behavior and the Christian call for loving the sinner.”

“Christians are portrayed as mean, nasty and ugly on this issue,” Metzger said, instead of compassionate and caring. Hollywood liberals are winning the battle on this one, she added.