When George W. Bush arrived at the White House after his 2000 election, he came with a hardened reputation as a man who held grudges and who liked to swing the ax against his foes and those of his friends. His rep was made when, as his dad's hatchet man, he told then White House Chief of Staff John Sununu in 1991 that it was time to leave the employ of George H.W. Bush because he had become a political distraction.
But with the release of a new round of books about W's White House, a different portrayal of Bush as a forgiving born-again Christian is being drawn. The latest comes from former faith-based outreach director Timothy Goeglein, who embarrassed the administration in 2008 with a plagiarism scandal that should have had Bush seeing red. When he quit, Goeglein admitted to using other people's work for over two dozen columns he had published in his hometown Indiana newspaper. [Condoleezza Rice Should Have Quit Over Iraq War]
Goeglein tells Whispers he expected to be tarred and feathered by the president. Instead, Bush embraced him. Goeglein tells us: "When the president told me he forgave me, and was extending to me the grace and mercy he had known in his life, I was genuinely stunned. In fact, it was surreal. In the political classes, when you embarrass the president, or the senator, or the governor, there is usually a kind of divorce that takes place; you become persona non grata immediately. But this did not happen with President Bush. His faith was the root of it, and my gratitude is depthless. I will never forget that day."
In his new book, The Man in the Middle, Goeglein recalls the fear he felt when a similarly forgiving Chief of Staff Josh Bolten said Bush wanted to see him after the scandal broke. "I knew instantly what that meant; a much-deserved woodshed moment," he writes. Instead, Bush said, "Tim, you are forgiven and mercy is real." When Goeglein pressed on with apologies, the prez brushed them aside. What's more, he asked Goeglein to bring his wife and two sons to the Oval Office for a chat. "Pardon me, sir?" he recalls saying with shock. A week later, the family was in the Oval receiving presents from Bush. [Dick Cheney's Book Is Less Memoir Than Caricature]
Expecting the worst, he was greeted with the best. "We were not forgotten; we were not shunned; we were not cut off; our friendships continued; our sense of belonging continued in a healthy way," says Goeglein, now a Washington vice president for Focus on the Family, a major Christian group.