A plagiarism scandal forced Timothy Goeglein to resign in 2008 from former President George W. Bush’s administration. The special assistant to President Bush and public liaison deputy director often engaged with evangelicals before he admitted to copying work for several of his columns for a newspaper in Indiana. He previously worked for Indiana Senator Dan Coats and once served as a spokesman for Gary Bauer, who ran for President in 2000. The now vice president for external relations at Focus on the Family spoke toChristianity Today about what led to the plagiarism, how the President responded, and what grace and redemption mean in a political context.
What happened after a reporter revealed that you had plagiarized?
When you embarrass the President, a divorce takes place. You become persona non grata immediately. Through my own fault, no pressure, no stress, no extenuating circumstances, because of what I did and the choices I made, I inflicted shame and embarrassment on the man who has given me the greatest professional opportunity of my life. I inflicted shame and embarrassment on my wife, my children, my 20 years of interns—I was a total hypocrite—and I resigned.
How did President Bush react?
I resigned, no excuses, on a Friday. On a Monday I came in to take the pictures off my wall and clear off my desk, and I received a call from the chief of staff, Josh Bolton. He asked me how my wife and children were doing and told me he forgave me. He said, “The boss wants to see you.” That means the President. When I got there, it was just the President and me, and I apologized. He looked at me and said “Tim, I forgive you.” I tried to apologize a second time, and he said, “Grace and mercy is real. I’ve known it in my life and I’m sending it to you.” And I said, “Mr. President, I apologize. Please forgive me.” He said, “I’ll say it again: Grace and mercy is real. You are forgiven. Now we can talk about all of this, or we can talk about the last eight years.” We spent 20 minutes together. We prayed and we embraced. I cried when I was looking around the Oval Office for the last time. And as I prepared to leave he said, “By the way, I want you to bring your wife and sons here so I can tell them what a great husband and father you’ve been.” Sure enough, he invited them to come. He was the leader of the free world, validating me, after I did what I did, before my wife and children.
Via Lex Communis who adds:
George W. Bush may not have been a great president, but my sense is that he was a great man.
Liberals mocked Bush for having been a drunk, or being a “dry drunk,” but it seems that Bush did something that too few do after such an experience; he learned from it and projected his lessons onto other people. That’s is true greatness.
You bet your arse I miss him.