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So, in 2000, I received a call that I never expected. I was asked to join the Bush-Cheney Presidential Campaign.
I was married to the love of my life, we had two young boys, and that summer we drove our Dodge Caravan to Austin, TX, where for the first two weeks it was 112 degrees! Everything was brown, the region was in a drought, and I thought about nine times a day, “What have I done?!”
But, you’ll find in the Christian life that what you think is “the thing”, is actually just a preparation for “the thing”.
So, we arrived in Austin, living in our cozy two-bedroom apartment next door to day laborers who smoked pot every night and who apparently had never heard of deodorant. And we both thought, “What have we done?!”
Now, you may remember the “2000 Almost Election”. It was the election when no one “won”. The day after the election, my three-year-old asked me point plank, “Daddy, why didn’t anyone win?”
And those words still haunt me.
Three days later, I was asked to fly to Florida for a couple days. 32 days later, I finally came back. I had to stay until Bush v. Gore was settled in the Supreme Court, putting an end to the most high-profile and most contentious Presidential Election in American history.
During those weeks in Florida, I stayed in nine different cities, averaging less than four hours of sleep per night. At the end of it all, George W. Bush did win and I was offered a gigantic title: Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Liaison. This is basically a fancy way of saying that I was the President’s Chief Outreach Person to all my fellow Christians and Conservatives. I had direct access to the President with an office in the White House! Additionally, I served as Karl Rove’s Deputy.
For a kid whose illiterate grandfather had come from Macedonia and whose father was a painting contractor without a college degree, working at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. was extraordinary!
Now, I can go on for hours and hours and make my entire experience in D.C. sound like nothing but mountaintop experiences – absolute perfection.
But, the fact of the matter is that I am a poor, miserable sinner. I was a fool. An absolute fool.
And that’s the real story.
In Washington D.C., Manitou Springs, Timbuktu… or anywhere you can name, there is a poison. This poison is called Pride. And, in Washington, Pride typically takes one of three routes: sex, power, or money.
In the Beltway, it’s known as “Potomac Fever”.
Consider my friend, William F. Buckley, Jr.. He once told me, “It’s a wonderful thing to go into the Oval Office and to know that the Leader of the Free World is taking notes while you are speaking.”
In politics, it doesn’t get any better than that. It’s like winning a gold medal, academy award, world championship, and Pulitzer prize all wrapped up in one.
When you stand in the Oval Office as I and Mr. Buckley did, you have arrived!
And it’s all about you.
Because in all those years that I was living this remarkable life – happily married, father of two boys, with a top notch Washington resume – I was also writing a column for my hometown newspaper about all the other things that interested me outside of politics. I wrote about art, music, philosophy, and theology… and baseball.
I always wanted to be “the clever one”, the one who wrote it better than anybody else.
By the way, the one thing that people of Pride have in common is Deception. They are like a display at a wax museum. They perpetually have the right smile, the right stance, and say and do the right thing. They are never wrong.
And that’s what Pride had done to me.
So, when it came to the column I was submitting for the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, I didn’t want my name attached to just a good column. I wanted each of my columns to be regarded like Cicero!
And so I began plagiarizing some of my columns.
I wish that I could say that I did it because I was under pressure, over stressed, and layered with extenuating circumstances. But, this was not the case. I knew exactly what I was doing, and I did it anyway. Over, and over, and over again.
One day, I returned from a breakfast at the White House, popped open my email, and received a letter from a reporter asking, “I think you have plagiarized this column. Is it true?”
I immediately dropped to my knees, right next to my desk at the White House and cried out, “Oh, God… Oh God!”
Because it was true.
(For the continuation of Tim’s story, check out the e2 media network at e2medianetwork.com)