04 November, 2011

G-R-A-C-E

Recently Tim Dalrymple spoke with Tim Goeglein, who served as Deputy Director of the Office of Public Liaison for seven years under George W. Bush. He recently published a book entitled, The Man in the Middle.

Too often, as the interview (found here) points out, we tend to throw out everything about Bush and forget that there was more to his presidency than war. Working in Washington towards the end of his tenure, I got to see what effect his policies at home and abroad were having on the development world - and they were good. For too long Christian NGOs were denied a place because of their faith stance, Mr. Bush got roasted for trying to give them an equal playing field. If people cared to look at those in poverty Bush's policies eventually trickled down to, they would find that things improved greatly under his presidency.

I am going to state the obvious and say that there is nothing Mr. Bush could have done to be accepted. Our country and our media will never give a Republican president a fair shot. As evidenced, by the fact that things that he was blasted for Mr. Obama is given a free pass on. It's pathetic. And I can only hope that history comes to see Mr. Bush in a different light, a fair one, that looks beyond what bias and short-sightedness have chosen to condemn him for.

That being said, I was drawn to the Dalrymple interview because I read this story. I think it defines more of what the Bush presidency stood for, and the heart of the man who people are too quick to mock for being "simple" and "folksy." Trust me when I say - very few other men would have had this response to what Goeglein did. And I can only hope that perhaps Bush's leadership will someday be extolled because to hear those who worked for him speak, he knew how to care for, edify and motivate his staff.

Reprinted from Patheos.com:

You had your own experience of sin and grace when a reporter discovered that some words in unpaid pieces you wrote for a newspaper had been taken from other sources. You describe this in your book without flinching. What happened? How does someone in the White House, especially someone as savvy as yourself, start down that road? And how did the President respond when this came to his attention?
Goeglein: I’m pleased to be asked about this. Proverbs is correct: Pride goes before the fall. But in the words of T. S. Eliot, “humility is endless.”
In my time in the White House, I was becoming a very prideful person. This pride and vanity extended to plagiarizing columns for my hometown newspaper. I was not writing about politics, but about many other things that interested me. Pride takes many forms, and one of them is always wanting to be the brightest guy, the one with something interesting to say. I began plagiarizing these columns. I knew what I was doing, and I knew it was wrong.

One morning I came to work at the White House and when I opened my email I found a reporter asking whether this was true that I had plagiarized these columns. I literally fell to the side of my desk. I prayed, “Oh God, oh God.” I knew right away that the world as I had known it was over on that day. I felt, as I say in The Man in the Middle, that my world was collapsing. By return email, I told the reporter that it was entirely true, and I was guilty as charged. I had no one to blame but myself.

There are, in this world, two kinds of crises. One is where it’s beyond your control, and another is where you’re directly responsible. I was directly responsible, without excuse. I inflicted, as a result of my own sin, shame and embarrassment on the President, and on my colleagues and mentors. I had violated everything I believed in, and was a hypocrite to my wife and children and family. Categorically. So I resigned from the White House that day. That was on a Friday.

On a Monday, I came back to the White House to begin clearing out my desk and taking the pictures off the walls. I received a call from Josh Bolton, who had become a friend from the first Bush campaign when we met in Austin, Texas. Josh was now the Chief of Staff, and he said he wanted to see me. I presumed that would be the proverbial “woodshed” moment, which I thoroughly deserved.

The first thing he asked me was, “How are your wife and boys doing?” Then he extended to me his forgiveness. I was genuinely shocked and deeply moved by this. We spent a considerable amount of time together, and before I departed his office he said, “By the way, the boss wants to see you.”

So surely this, I thought, would be the woodshed moment, and again I completely deserved it. I expected other people to be there, but when I got to the Oval Office the only other person there was the executive assistant. I thought I must have come on the wrong day—but the President called me in. I thought: This is going to be really bad. I went in and closed the door.

I turned to him to apologize, but barely got the words out before he looked me in the eyes and said, “Tim, I forgive you.” To say I was stunned would be an understatement. I tried again to apologize, but he wouldn’t let me. He said, “Tim, I’ve known grace and mercy in my life. I’m extending it to you. You’re forgiven.”

I said, “You should have thrown me into Pennsylvania Avenue.” Again he said, “My friend, you’re forgiven. We can talk about all of this, or we can talk about the last eight years.”

I turned to sit on the couch in the Oval Office, but he directed me to the seat of honor beneath the portrait of Washington, where Heads of State sit. I sat there, and he and I had a conversation about two remarkable presidential campaigns, and what was at that point about seven-and-a-half years in the White House. I was by then one of the longest serving aides to the President. We embraced, and I thought this was the last time I would see George W. Bush. As I turned to head out, though, he said, “I want you to bring your wife and boys here, so I can tell them what a great job you’ve done.”

I was stunned and speechless. The leader of the free world, the most powerful man on earth, wanted to affirm me before my wife and children. Sure enough, my wife and boys came, the President gave them a great amount of time in the Oval Office and gave them gifts. We were invited back to the White House as a family on subsequent occasions. We were there at Andrews Air Force Base for his departure. I’ve seen the President a number of times in Texas and he’s never mentioned it again. So, in my mind, George W. Bush is and was grace personified.

So to go back to your earlier question about compassion: I was the wounded man on the side of the highway. I was totally and completely guilty and undeserving of the President’s forgiveness, and yet he gave it to me without reservation. He extended grace to me at the lowest point in my life.

Read the whole interview here, buy the book here.


Was there ever a time when you were given grace at work? How about a time you felt like it was not given when it should have been? How would you react if you found out an employee had done something like this? 

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© Amanda Lunday