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Bush aide blames ego for hasty exit

Says morality drives politics

Compassionate conservatism is still gospel to Timothy Goeglein.

The former special assistant to President George W. Bush said Monday the nation’s greatest problem is “the plague of fatherlessness.” Yet he is encouraged by young adults who want to marry and “be parts of a strong community.”

The Fort Wayne native is a vice president for Focus on the Family, a socially conservative group. He spoke for 75 minutes Monday at Concordia Theological Seminary, with many of his remarks referencing his 2011 book, “The Man in the Middle: An Inside Account of Faith and Politics in the George W. Bush Era.”

He believes President Obama was more confident and comfortable talking about his values during his 2012 re-election campaign than Republican rival Mitt Romney was his.

Goeglein, 49, said if he were to shun everybody whose views differ from his, “as a Christian living and working in Washington, I would be having breakfast, lunch and dinner alone.”

Goeglein quit his White House job – he was a liaison to conservative and religious organizations – in 2008 after the disclosure that he had plagiarized columns he wrote for The News-Sentinel.

“I wanted to be the clever one, the one who said it or wrote it better than anyone else,” the Harding High School graduate recalled. “It was arrogance and ego. I knew what I was doing, and I did it anyway.”

The day he resigned, he met with Bush and tried three times to apologize to the president.

“He said, ‘You are forgiven; grace and mercy are real.’ ” Goeglein remembered.

Bush was able “to mix faith and politics, God and government” when it was unpopular to do so, Goeglein said. He said Bush’s brand of compassionate conservatism drew more flak from the right than from the left.

But Goeglein, a deacon in his Lutheran church, argued that morality has always driven American politics.

“Public policy is a bridge, a kind of extension of values and principles, whether we like it or not,” he said.

Civil rights, including the abolishment of slavery, “would not have happened without the moral fervor that emanated from our pulpits,” he said.

He called on his “beloved” Republican Party to use values issues – including same-sex marriage, abortion and religious liberty – to reach out to women and minorities. If the GOP doesn’t attract more of the fast-growing Hispanic vote, “it shall place itself on a road to near-oblivion in the presidential stakes,” Goeglein said.

Although most Hispanics vote for Democrats, “over half of those same voters when asked say they are conservative,” he said.

bfrancisco@jg.net

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