Editor’s Note: While working on his father's 1988 campaign, George W. Bush read an internal memo about how to manipulate Christian evangelicals for political gain. [For details, see our book, Neck Deep.] Then with the help of Karl Rove, Bush put the plan into practice.

In this guest essay, Bill Moyers reflects on the legacy of his fellow Texan and Bush's political guru, Karl Rove:

You may think God summoned Billy Graham to Florida on the eve of the 2000 election to endorse George W. Bush just in the nick of time, but if it did happen that way, the Good Lord was speaking in a Texas accent.

Karl Rove figured out a long time ago that the way to take an intellectually incurious, draft-averse, naughty playboy in a flight jacket with chewing tobacco in his back pocket and make him governor of Texas, was to sell him as God’s anointed in a state where preachers and televangelists outnumber even oil derricks and jack rabbits.

Using church pews as precincts, Rove turned religion into a weapon of political combat -- a battering ram, aimed at the devil’s minions. Especially at gay people.

It’s so easy, as Karl knew, to scapegoat people you outnumber. And if God is love, as rumor has it, Rove knew in politics to bet on fear and loathing. Never mind that in stroking the basest bigotry of true believers you coarsen both politics and religion.

At the same time he was recruiting an army of the Lord for the born-again Bush, Rove was also shaking down corporations for campaign cash. Crony capitalism became a biblical injunction.

Greed and God won four elections in a row -- twice in the Lone Star state and twice again in the nation at large. But the result has been to leave Texas under the thumb of big money with huge holes ripped in its social contract, and the U.S. government in shambles -- paralyzed, polarized, and mired in war, debt and corruption.

Rove himself is deeply enmeshed in some of the scandals now being investigated, including those missing e-mails that could tell us who turned the Attorney General of the United States into a partisan sock puppet.

Rove is riding out of Dodge City as the posse rides in.

At his press conference this week he asked God to bless the President and the country, even as reports were circulating that he himself had confessed to friends his own agnosticism. He wished he could believe, but he cannot.

That kind of intellectual honesty is to be admired, but you have to wonder how all those folks on the Christian right must feel discovering they were used for partisan reasons by a secular skeptic, a manipulator.

On his last play of the game all Karl Rove had to offer them was a Hail Mary pass, while telling himself there’s no one there to catch it.

Bill Moyers is managing editor of the weekly public affairs program Bill Moyers Journal, which airs Friday night on PBS.  Check local airtimes or comment at The Moyers Blog at www.pbs.org/moyers.

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