If you’re looking for a book as a Christmas gift this year, rush out and order The Man in the Middle by Tim Goeglein, who for seven years was an adviser to President George W. Bush. Throughout that time, Goeglein did faith-based outreach, including to Catholics. If you want a truly remarkable story of forgiveness and redemption, and with a lot of material of interest to Catholics, this is it.
The story begins with Goeglein falling to his knees, trembling in his office in the building next to the White House. He had just gotten an email from an old journalist friend.
Writes Goeglein: “I … was overcome with a fear and trepidation as never before. My only prayer, which I repeated again and again, was ‘God help me. God help me.’”
Goeglein knew immediately it would be the worst day of his life, with a trial he had never faced, a cross perhaps too heavy to bear.
The journalist asked Goeglein if he had plagiarized part of a recent column he had written for his hometown newspaper.
Goeglein, a man of character and integrity—and, yes, failings—told the truth. It was indeed true. And it was worse than she knew.
Goeglein writes in his book: “When I sent that email reply, acknowledging what I had done, in all my guilt and shame, I knew events of that day would move rapidly toward my resignation from the White House and service to a president I loved and respected…. My hypocrisy was transparent, and I was guilty as charged. What a prideful fool I was.”
Taken by pride and temptation to the dark side, Goeglein vowed never to darken the doorstep of the West Wing again.
Ah, but he would have no choice: A few days later, after a weekend from Hell, Goeglein got a call: The president wanted to see him.
Goeglein braced himself for a well-deserved trip to the woodshed, a final ugly memory to soil his seven years of devoted service.
Tim Goeglein walked alone toward the open Oval Office door. He heard the president’s voice: “Timmy, is that you? Please come in.”
Goeglein quickly tried to say the first words, “Mr. President, I owe you an …”
President Bush stopped him: “Tim, I want you to know I forgive you. I have known mercy and grace in my own life, and I am offering it to you now…. Now we can talk about this, or we can spend some time together talking about the last seven years.”
The president escorted Goeglein over to the two couches in the Oval Office. “No, sit here,” he told Goeglein, gesturing to the chair of honor in front of the fireplace, reserved for distinguished guests. They talked about their families and prayed together.
When they finished, George Bush offered yet something more: “Tim,” he said, “I would like you to bring Jenny and your two sons here to the Oval Office so I can tell them what a great husband and father you are.”
Goeglein was stunned.
For more on that, you’ll need to get the book. And when you do, don’t skip the chapters on stem cells and “The President and the Pope.” Tim Goeglein’s The Man in the Middle is one of the best books of year—a must-read.
For Catholic Exchange.com and Ave Maria Radio, I’m Paul Kengor.