Listening In: Tim Goeglein


WARREN SMITH, HOST: I’m Warren Smith and today you’re listening in on my conversation with former George W. Bush aide and vice president at Focus on the Family, Tim Goeglein. 

TIM GOEGLEIN, GUEST: If we want a restored, renewed, regenerated country, culture, and civilization, it has got to—in large measure—be a spiritual renewal. That is where the best part of what’s to come for America will happen. 

SMITH: Tim Goeglein is the vice president for external and governmental affairs that Focus on the Family, but this job—which he’s had for a decade—is just the latest in what has been a 30 year career in Washington—including eight years working directly with President George W. Bush in the West Wing. His time in Washington hasn’t made him cynical. In fact, as you’ll hear, it’s made him hopeful, but it’s a hope underpinned by the hope of the Gospel and a belief that Christians can and will engage the current culture and not flee from it. 

These are the ideas he explains in his new book, American Restoration: How Faith, Family, and Personal Sacrifice Can Heal Our Nation. It’s a book he co-wrote with Craig Osten. 

I had this conversation with Tim Goeglein in his office on Capitol Hill within sight of the Supreme Court building and the United States Capitol. 

Tim, welcome to the program. It’s always great to see you with your bow tie and your smile. You were just one of the most upbeat and positive persons I know. And I read in your book, in this new book that a lot of that comes from your family that you just had a good, godly upbringing and gave you, I guess, this outlook on life. Is that fair? 

GOEGLEIN: It is fair. And thank you so much for this time, Warren. I love seeing you as well. I love our friendship. You know, I would have made a terrible novelist ‘cause I had a happy home. My parents met when they were in their teens. In fact, I don’t put this in the book, but it’s a fact. They met in a study hall, I think in eighth or ninth grade. 62 years of marriage. My mother went to heaven last year. My father is still living. He’s my best friend. And I had a very happy upbringing.

We were a serious family of faith, a family of Christians. My parents, very serious about their faith. And it was a beautiful way to grow up. My grandparents lived in the same city, my extended family live in the same city. It was a really wonderful way to spend my boyhood. 

SMITH: And now, Indiana, right? 

GOEGLEIN: Indiana. Fort Wayne, Indiana. 

SMITH: Yeah. And you got your start really in politics with Dan Coats, right? 

GOEGLEIN: I did. When I was in sixth grade, I decided that I wanted to be involved in a campaign of some kind. I had been influenced actually by a neighbor friend in this regard. And the first thing I ever did was I went door to door dropping off door knockers for Dan Quayle who was, it turned out, was successful in his run for the House of Representatives.

And I was involved every two years thereafter for somebody—usually Dan Quayle or Dan Coats. In the summer of 1985, I was an intern in the United States Senate for Dan Quayle. He was then the youngest senator in the Senate. And it was a wonderful internship. I was then at Indiana University and the following summer, the summer of 1986, I came back to Washington. I was an intern in the House of Representatives. So, the Senate one summer, the House the next, and at NBC News for Roger Mudd on the weekends here in Washington. 

So I really had a wonderful—by God’s grace—a really wonderful two summers. 

SMITH: Yeah. I don’t think I understood or remembered the Roger Mudd part, which of course prepared you well for when you ultimately became a press secretary to Dan Coats. Is that right? 

GOEGLEIN: I did. And much of it, much of my young training was the Ernie Pyle School of Journalism at Indiana University. Of course, Ernie Pyle—I’m terribly biased, the greatest journalist of World War II. Killed with the troops in the South Pacific from Little Dana, Indiana. But I must tell you, Warren, I had a remarkable summer in the summer of 1986 at NBC News. That was for many of those great correspondents who had covered the Korean conflict, who had covered Vietnam, who had covered the civil rights movement. Many of them were closing their careers. Irv Levine, Roger Mudd, Doug Kiker, John Palmer. And, you know, it was a remarkable thing to really learn from these rather extraordinary journalists. 

SMITH: Well, that is extraordinary because every name that you mentioned is a name that I know, and it’s legendary in some ways. Maybe not quite like the Murrow boys of CBS, but storied journalists in their own right. 

GOEGLEIN: I love to tell this story. I still see Roger Mudd once a year. He lives in northern Virginia. We have lunch together. What an incredible career. He’s one of the last people, I think, in Washington, D.C., who actually knew Ed Murrow, which is pretty extraordinary. And it’s also extraordinary in light of the anniversaries that we are all commemorating of the space launch, all the great speeches in the civil rights movement. That Roger covered the “I have a dream” speech for CBS News at the time. So, you know, it was a storied time and this combination of politics, public policy, and the press got into my DNA. 

SMITH: Well, it obviously did and we’re going to telescope a lot of your history, Tim, because I really want to get straight into this book, but I wanted to give at least that overview or have you give that overview because it really does set the stage for this book, this new book that you’ve written, American Restoration. And I’m leaving out, of course, the eight years that you spent in the George W. Bush administration, which you also wrote a book about. The Man in the Mirror, I believe is the name of the book. A really fascinating read there. But I had all that context to ask these two questions: why this book and why now? Because, you know, obviously you’re a writer, you’re a journalist. You’ve been a journalist. You’re a communicator. You’ve been that your whole life. And yet this is just your second book and it’s eight years after your first book. Again, why this book? Why now?

GOEGLEIN: Well, I’m one of the vice presidents at Focus on the Family here in Washington, where I’ve lived and worked for 30 years. And I travel a lot for Focus on the Family, whether I go to Maine, South Carolina, Alaska, California, Texas, or any place in the middle. When I speak or make remarks and we get to the Q&A or conversation and dialogue, with absolute predictability somebody will stand up—Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative—and will say the following: I’ve never been more concerned about my country than I am now. Warren, if they have children or grandchildren, they will say, I’ve never been more concerned about the country that I’m leaving them. And the third thing they say, most importantly, is the following: I don’t know what to do. And in my time of reading, travel, really thinking about, you know, these questions, I’ve been heavily influenced by the sociologist Charles Murray, who’s must-read book Coming Apart, tells the story of the chaos and social dysfunction that defines much of contemporary America.

Alienated Americans by my friend Tim Carney, another must-read book. And Generation Unbound by a very thoughtful, progressive historian. Isabel Sawhill. I spent time, as you said, for eight years in the White House with George W. Bush. She worked for Bill Clinton. And that book Generation Unbound is powerful. And so I thought to myself, all these great books have something in common. They all distill why the chaos. They all distill why the social dysfunction. They talk at length about what’s happening in urban, rural, ex-urban America, but they don’t really say, well, what’s the way forward? 

And I said to my co-author Craig Osten, let’s do a book on how to restore, how to regenerate, how to renew America. And so we called it simply American Restoration: How Faith, Family, and Personal Sacrifice Can Heal Our Nation. We are categorical hopefulists because we are Christians. I’m not a confetti to the wind optimist. I don’t think there’s ever going to be the conservative equivalent of the great society. You know, a Washington-directed, Silicon Valley-directed, Hollywood-directed restoration of America. The way it’s going to happen is organically from the bottom up—in our homes, in our marriages, in our families, in our neighborhoods, in our communities, in our churches. And the Judeo-Christian principle works. It’s a great way forward for America. So, we believe very strongly that the best days for our country are genuinely ahead of us, not behind us.

SMITH: Well, you’re speaking my language, Tim. As you know, John Stonestreet and I wrote a book called Restoring All Things, which could fit hand in glove. In fact, even some of the chapter titles in your book could’ve been chapter titles in our book. But one of the things that I really love about your book is what you just said, that you kind of in some ways point us back to first principles. That the Judeo-Christian worldview, the Christian ethic, if you will or found in scripture, really does work. And one of the ideas that shows up over and over and over again, but especially towards the beginning of your book, and I want you to talk a little about this is the idea of the Imago Dei—that we are all made in the image of God and that is a uniquely Biblical idea. And in some ways it’s a foundational idea for this American restoration that you’re talking about because it deals with the life issue. It deals with the marriage issue. It deals with a lot of the racial and other kinds of social upheaval that was going on in the country. Is that a fair assessment? And would you say more?

GOEGLEIN: It’s a very fair assessment. Two snapshots, if I may. The second time that I ever met Chuck Colson—and I knew who I’m speaking with today, love the Colson Center. Love everything you do, period. A to Zed. Second time I met Chuck Colson, he said to me, just like we’re having a conversation here, he said, “Just remember, Tim, that the body of our ethics, the foundation of it, begins in this concept that everybody counts. Everybody matters.” “Why Chuck?” “Because we are all made in the image of God.” Wow. What an incredible way to think about ethics. Second snapshot. Several years later, I’m sitting in the office at the American Enterprise Institute with my great friend, Arthur Brooks, who had just been made the president of AEI. Recently retired, resigned. All under all under good circumstances. He’s going to Harvard. 

SMITH: He’s a hero of mine, too. 

GOEGLEIN: And he will do an extraordinary job at Harvard. And he said to me just again, like we’re talking today, he said to me, “You know, Tim we ought to ask ourselves more often what kind of a country do we want 50 years from now?” And I’m just pausing for a minute because when Arthur said that immediately I thought of Chuck Colson. I thought that any answer to that extraordinary question—by the way, that’s a question that we deal with at length as you know, in American Restoration because we believe in our country. We believe in our culture, in our civilization, but the whole thing that powers it is this combination of the Imago Dei. Everybody has dignity, everybody has worth, everybody is absolutely, totally equal in the eyes of God. We combine this Judeo-Christian foundational principle, an immutable principle with the idea, this side of eternity, of what kind of a country do we want the United States of America to be. And so in 15 chapters rooted in what we believe are 15 great ideas, every one of those chapters, beginning with the word restoring, we talk about the acts of renewal, the acts of regeneration, you know, restoring family and marriage, restoring biblical values, restoring the Constitution. And the one chapter—and by now, I say with humility. I’ve done, you know, several interviews on the book—the only chapter, Warren, that I’ve been asked about in every single interview is the chapter restoring the idea of a gentleman. 

SMITH Yeah. Well, I’m going to ask you about that later, but not right now. 

GOEGLEIN: I think it’s foundational.

SMITH: Well, I do, too. It’s one of the very few chapters that I wanted to single out and talk to you about. But, Tim, before we get there, there’s another idea. So the image of the Imago Dei is vital. It really permeates the entire book. There’s another idea that I wanted you to say a little bit more about. You’ve already brought it up, but that is that the best days are ahead. You know, a lot of Christians—and to me, it kind of baffles me. I mean, I understand why others might say this, but for Christians who should have read the last chapter of the book and know that God wins, right? 

GOEGLEIN: Yes, absolutely. 

SMITH: I always struggle with this idea that Christians are such doomsayers when they look at our culture and they don’t realize—among other things—that in Acts 17, for example, Paul says on Mars Hill, God has appointed the times for us to live and He has circumscribed the boundaries of our dwelling place. In other words, if we say to ourselves, oh, it was so much better 25 years ago, or I wish I had lived 50 years ago, I mean, that is really an affront to the sovereignty of God in many, many ways. God put us here right now to be about this work of restoration that you’re describing.

GOEGLEIN: One of the most extraordinary books that I’ve been honored to read in the last 20 years was written by the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. And it’s a wonderful book called Team of Rivals. And, in fact, for anybody who loves politics, public policy, history, the 19th century, above all the great Abraham Lincoln, it is a peerless book. And what she does so seamlessly is she shows us what was happening in our country between 1855 and the election of the Great Lincoln in 1860. Warren, may I just say to your exact example, it would have been really tempting in all those years leading up to the election of Abraham Lincoln for people of goodwill, for people who think about things, for people who were very involved in American public life at any level to say it’s over. We’ve had a nullification crisis which nearly broke up the country. We are in the midst of a cold civil war that absolutely everybody who thinks about these things is certain that by the first day of Lincoln’s inaugural, that it’s going to be one part of the country at the throat of the other part of the country.

And it is so routine today in America for people of goodwill on both sides of the aisle to despair and to be discouraged. But back to your perfect example of St. Paul, discouragement and despair said Saint Augustine is a sin. Why? Because it negates the hope of Jesus Christ in the life of a great nation and in the life of an individual. Renewal, redemption, the way forward is possible. And so we have to have a national dialogue right now. Not 10 years from now, but right now. And that dialogue between people of goodwill who hold competing worldviews—back to Chuck Colson, right? We have to be able to find a way and that’s why we did a chapter restoring our civil discourse. We have to find a way to say what kind of a country do we want and what are going to be the components in the way forward. And American restoration is designed to contribute to that conversation and national dialogue.

SMITH: Okay, so Tim I wouldn’t let you talk about the chapter on gentlemanliness in the first segment. But let’s get to it now. You do have a chapter restoring the concept of the gentleman and it was one of the chapters that once I read, I was like, of course. But before I read it or whenever I just read the chapter title, I was like, that’s an interesting choice. So say more about that.

GOEGLEIN: I’d love to. I wrote an article for Citizen Magazine for Focus on the Family several years ago called “The Idea of a Gentleman.” And it was not about Fred Astaire. It’s not about top hats and dancing in tails and white ties. It’s about this unique concept of a man of integrity, a man of character, a man who values masculinity. A person who knows the difference between yes and no. A person who treats women really well—beginning with wife, daughters, mother, et cetera. A person who embodies great personal honor and has a moral code that is immutable. And I used Abraham Lincoln, I used George Washington and others as examples. Warren, nothing that I’ve ever written got that much attention. And overwhelmingly and counter-intuitively from young mothers from all around the country who sent me emails, letters, et cetera, saying, I have a young son. I have a young boy. I know that he’s going to grow up to be a man, but famously to me, a woman said in a letter, but not every man is going to become a gentleman. I’m really concerned about the culture we’re in. And I want to have a son who will become a gentleman, a man of integrity and character. This is long before the Me Too movement, but I think it was a presage in our coarsened culture about the importance to the vitality of our nation that we have the next generation in the worlds of moral ecology. That we have a next generation of gentlemen. 

SMITH: Well, since you brought up the Me Too movement, I mean, Tim, in some ways talking about what it means to be a gentleman sounds hopelessly old fashioned. And yet when we think about it in the context of the Me Too movement, it couldn’t be more relevant to what’s going on today. And one of the things you just said was that a gentleman, among other things, knows how to how to treat women and knows the difference between yes and no. 

We hear a lot of talk today about consent and the consent culture. But one of the things that you say in the book is that yes, consent is important in relationships between men and women. But it’s not enough. It’s not enough. Can you say more about that? 

GOEGLEIN: I’d love to. You know, the thing that constitutes a gentleman, the thing that constitutes a lady is a moral code that is unbreakable. And it begins with a comfortability in the distinction between right and wrong. And one of the things that I think is so important to say in light of our conversation today is that moral relativism is a kind of corrosive thing that has seeped into our politics, making it poisonous. It seeped into our culture and made it toxic. So this idea of the gentleman, the idea of a lady, in my view, Warren, those are evergreen topics. It’s not just, you know, a person who’s well dressed or knows how to comport himself or herself. That’s important. But it goes to this fundamental question of the embodiment of the best of the Judeo-Christian tradition. No one is perfect. We are all sinners, right? Saved by grace. But that does not mean that we do not have a benchmark and the benchmark of a gentleman is very important when we discuss the way forward for America. 

SMITH: Well, I’m going to read some of your own words back to you, Tim. “Edmund Burke believed a true gentleman made the best citizen because he made countless excellent contributions to his family, church, community, and country through self sacrifice, personal discipline, and internal strength while exhibiting a tender heart.” Okay, that’s one passage. Hold that. Here’s another passage: “Instead of asking, how much money will I make? How fast can I climb the corporate ladder? How can I find self-fulfillment? The questions young men should be asking themselves are of the spiritual and moral ilk. How do I become a good man? How can I make a lifelong contribution to my family and society? What is my ultimate purpose in life?” These are the questions that you’ve pondered and tried to instill in your sons. This is what your book says. Say a little more about that. 

GOEGLEIN: I’d be happy to. Our sons are 23 and 21. Tim and Paul. They’re the glory of our life. Jenny’s and my sons. It’s our favorite topic. And when our sons were preparing to choose a college, maybe you had this in your family as well, they were overwhelmed with the following question: What do you want to do? In fact, I kept saying to our children, I wish we would have a $10 bill for the predictable sense—people of goodwill, by the way— saying, what do you want to do? What do you want to do? What do you want to do? That’s a very American question. God bless America. The better question is who do you want to be? And that’s what we’re talking about here. And this is an important thing. It’s not an existential, it’s not a philosophical, it’s not sort of a weighty, huge topic. This is the question of what constitutes the good life and what am I honor-bound to do? You know, may I tell you, we are preoccupied. We are in a sea of conversation about rights. Very important. I think we ought to equalize that with an with an important conversation about duties because duties, it seems to me, rightly understood, rightly practiced, that constitutes the answer to the life well-lived. 

SMITH: Tim, I’m gonna skip around a little bit in your book because I think that another chapter kinda goes with this gentleman chapter and that is the chapter on civility. You’ve got a whole chapter on restoring civility and one of the things that you talk about as being the enemy of civility is contempt. And I wonder, even though y’all don’t talk about—you have a whole separate chapter on life, restoring a culture of life. But I do wonder if abortion, the abortion controversy in this country hasn’t contributed to that atmosphere of contempt. In other words, if you and I disagree about whether we should grant China most-favored nation status or what kind of trade agreement we should have with the European Union, I might disagree with you, but I don’t think you’re evil over that disagreement. But abortion, it seems to me, has really polluted the national conversation. In some ways turned political combatants into true contemptuous enemies with each other. First of all, does that make sense to you? I mean, do think abortion has been a particularly polluting aspect of our culture? And how do we get away from that contempt and back towards a culture of civility? 

GOEGLEIN: I’m so grateful you asked this question and more than you know, Warren, for this reason. I mentioned earlier that I have spent a good part of my life—10 years—working in the United States Senate for Dan Coats, right? Eight years or nearly eight years for George W. Bush at the White House and I’m now in my 11th year at Focus on the Family—all of them living and working inside the beltway. If there is one measurement that I have seen in the category of drastic change across those three decades, it is absolutely with no equal this chapter in American Restoration and this narrative that we’re talking about—the lack of basic civility. It’s missing grace, it’s missing magnanimity, it’s missing diplomacy. It really is okay to disagree gracefully, magnanimously, with mercy toward the person with whom you disagree. You can even do so unapologetically and you can do so diplomatically, but we have got to find a way. 

In fact, I would say it is morally incumbent upon us to find a way forward for our national dialogue to disagree agreeably on the biggest topics that there are. 

SMITH: Yeah, but I get that and I—let’s just stipulate for the record, Tim—that I agree with you, but it is very hard for me to trust the moral compass of someone who thinks killing a million babies a year is OK. 

GOEGLEIN: May I tell you, routinely in my own life, and I mean iron sharpening iron I’ve had these debates. I’ve witnessed these debates. Sat in the Senate Gallery, sat at the White House, here at Focus on the Family, et cetera. I couldn’t agree with you more. I mentioned earlier the nullification crisis. I mentioned earlier the fact that a civil war that resulted in 750,000 deaths in a country, you know, overwhelmingly smaller than the one that we live in. I mean cousins were really shooting and killing each other in peach orchards in our own country, right, over this question, this basic question about whether a person who is African American is a person. Now, that to me is on another scale, the kind of massive debate we are having now on the question of human life. Warren, here’s the great news and I mean this is the really great news. If you are pro-life, which I have been my entire life and been very involved in this debate, elementally there’s been no public policy debate that I’ve invested more of personal hours and then this issue of human life. Here’s the great news. We are winning. I believe that. I mean, I think you can measure whether you are winning or losing on the question of life. I’m going to share this, if I may. I sat in an office with Dan Coats who was a brand new member of the Senate and I had somebody who’s very well known to people listening to us today who essentially said to him, and I’m paraphrasing, this debate is over. Abortion is a loser. Don’t ever talk about this issue again because if you talk about it again, you may not be reelected to the United States Senate. I mean this is where that debate was in real time in the late 1980s. And Dan Coats to his great credit, said the following, I am pro-life and I am going to talk about it. And of course he was a leader in those years in the Senate for this issue.

The pro-life cause is absolutely, by any objective measure, one of the great civil rights issues of our time and largely successful because we have—those of us who are pro life—in a pro abortion atmosphere, we have found a way to execute our view in the public life in public life and to do so successfully. 

SMITH: Well, I get that and I agree with you. It’s clear from looking at public opinion surveys that we are slowly becoming more of a pro-life nation. So, what do we do with those that seem to be intractable on this issue? Do we just as Jesus said, shake the dust off of our sandals and move onto the next person? Look for people of goodwill and peace that might disagree with us but are influenceable? Or is there a third way? 

GOEGLEIN: I think there are several things that we do, but for purposes of time, there’s two big ideas that come to mind.

One is nobody is persuaded with a knuckle in the chest. I think we are really long past that kind of success on this particular topic. One of the things that the pro-life movement has done to its great glory is we have found a way through story, through narrative, through personal engagement to share the absolute beauty and truth of every baby. And we have done so successfully in a way that absolutely major issues in the pro-abortion movement have just in the last few years say, I can no longer in good conscience defend that position. When you study and find out what persuaded them, you find overwhelmingly it’s what we’re doing today. It’s a personal story. It’s a personal relationship. It’s engagement at that level. The second thing that is also happening is that in the public square, we are watching the refashioning of the judicial legacy in the United States. In the Trump presidency, we have had more appellate, more district, and more Supreme Court justices successfully nominated and confirmed in a shorter period of time than ever in American history. That is not nothing. Of course, we can ever say for certain all of these judges will do the right thing on the issue of life, but public policy matters and, in my view, it is categorically going in the right direction.

SMITH: Tim, a lot of what we’ve talked about so far has been, you know, ideas related to personal virtue. Even though when we were talking about abortion, we did get into the public policy. And I want to talk a little more about that, too. But I want to pivot a little bit in our conversation and talk about more culture and community types of things. There are two reports in your book that play prominent roles at different times. One of them is the Moynihan report that you talk about in the chapter on restoring family and one is the Coleman report, which is the report that you talk about and restoring education. For our listeners who might not have heard of or know about those two reports, very briefly, what is the Moynihan report and what is the Coleman report?

GOEGLEIN: I’ll distill both of these reports very quickly. In 1965, Pat Moynihan, who went on to become a very famous senator and ambassador and White House senior staff person, was a very important young demographer and sociologist. He found in 1965, Warren, that 25% of all black Americans were born out of wedlock. And in 1965, a mere 56 years ago, he called that a crisis. That number today is well over 70%. And in some major urban areas, it’s over 80% or higher. That is unsustainable. What is remarkable, equally astonishing, is that 53% of all Hispanic Americans are now born out of wedlock. And more than one third of all native born white people are born out of wedlock. In sum, the majority of babies born to American women who are 30 years of age and under have been born out of wedlock. That is absolutely unsustainable. And that confirms that we have an epidemic of fatherlessness. That’s the Moynihan report. I think it was prophetic and I think it was accurate. 

SMITH: Well, unfortunately, one of the responses to the Moynihan report or that kind of thinking was the great society which was pouring more government money onto the problem and in many ways making it worse. The Coleman report came to similar kinds of conclusions as it related to education. It also said that there was a crisis and money doesn’t solve it. Money doesn’t fix it.

GOEGLEIN: May I tell you, when I discovered the Coleman report, I said to my wife that night, this is the greatest report, the most important consequential report that nobody’s ever heard of. Coleman, who was a very famous sociologist, did a massive study of public schools and there was a big debate going on in the United States over what constitutes students who do really well and the general national consensus, Warren, was oh, that’s easy. I mean really it was just like that in real time. Give more money to the schools or these school districts and you’ll get better outcomes. What Coleman found was just the opposite. You could fund and fund and fund public schools to the nth degree, to the point even where you could build more schools and have more teachers and more administrators, but he found overwhelmingly empirically the data said no. That even in very well funded schools, the thing that turned out better students at the end of the day mostly had nothing to do with more funding. It had to do with what was going on at home. Did the child come from an intact family? If a child came from an intact family, it could be in a neighborhood with affluence and education. It could be in a neighborhood that was otherwise very working class.

But overwhelmingly Coleman confirmed that what matters is marriages, families, parenting. What is the home life ecology? And at Focus on the Family, that’s what we do. For us, the bullseye is marriage, family, parenting. And in American Restoration I hope we are as clear as we can be that for all of the things that we want in renewing our country, our culture, our civilization, that what matters in the home is as important, more important, than any of the things. 

SMITH: Well, so you’ve got the Moynihan report that really talks about fatherlessness and the need for intact families. You’ve got the Coleman report, which echoes—it’s about education, but it echoes or rhymes with the Moynihan report in many ways, which brings us to the power and importance of community because community is really rooted in the home and rooted in the family.

You talk about one of the most important things that we can do to restore American culture is to restore community rooted in the family and the church. But you also say that the enemy—just as contempt as the enemy of civility—that the enemy of community is tribalism. Say a little bit more about that idea. 

GOEGLEIN: Two of my greatest heroes, Alexis de Tocqueville, who came to this country in the 1830s. He was a French aristocrat. He spent three years essentially looking at America and drew conclusions. Edmund Burke, who was a great supporter of the American revolution. Anglo Irish statesman. Came up with this incredibly brilliant phrase, the little platoons.And what Burke meant by that is absolutely what Tocqueville observed in reality about what made America such an exemplary, extraordinary country. They both agreed that it was about intact families, marriages, parenting, community groups, churches, synagogues, volunteer associations. That it wasn’t the government, it wasn’t the aristocracy, it was not the monarchy, who was imposing this upon the, strong culture or subcultures of America. It came from the bottom up. 

And by the way, overwhelmingly both men observed—as did our greatest founders—that it was the Judeo-Christian principle that was the foundation. So any restoration, whatever. And this is the absolute bottom line of American Restoration that if we want a restored, renewed, regenerated country, culture, and civilization, it has got to in large measure be a spiritual renewal. That is where that the best part of what’s to come for America will happen. I actually believe that we have pockets of this happening already. That in the kind of destructive, toxic things that we see in America all too often that we also, I think Warren, miss the seedlings of restoration. That even in those parts of decadence and of decline, that even in those measures there are seedlings of incline and of renewal. And I think that we’re seeing them now. 

SMITH: Tim, I’d like to hit you with just a lightning round of questions in closing, if we could. I know you worked for Dan Coats for a long time. Dan Coats was in the Trump administration. He was kind of unceremoniously canned from the Trump administration. Have you had a chance to talk to him lately? 

GOEGLEIN: Dan Coats is a great friend next to my father. He is the man who I love and honor most in the world. I have been in touch with him and I’m happy to say, and I hope this is as categorical as I can be, if Dan Coats is not a good man, Warren, there are no good men. 

SMITH: Yeah. So what does that mean? Does that mean he’s doing okay? Does that mean—Is he frustrated or angry or…?

GOEGLEIN: This is a man who spent 24 years in public life—in the House, in the Senate. He was also our ambassador to Germany. And he is, as you say, been our director of national intelligence. In other words, our top spy. He’s 76 years old. He’s in love with his wife, Marsha—children, grandchildren. He’s extremely comfortable with where he’s in life. And I’ll tell you, even at the age of 76, I predict that there is something very good to come for him still in public life. 

SMITH: That’s really interesting. So, what you’re telling me is that Dan Coats will be fine, but we miss him in public life. Let me just speak for myself. I miss him in public life. I think he was treated badly by this administration. 

GOEGLEIN: May I tell you, Dan Coats is an uncommonly decent man. He is a person who is humble. And the most extraordinary thing about Dan Coats, I mean, the most extraordinary thing, I saw it when I was an intern in the House. I saw it when I worked with him for 10 years in the U.S. Senate. We were colleagues in the Bush administration when he was ambassador to Germany. And all the years since. The number one thing, he is the same in private as he is in public. In Washington, that is so incredibly rare. And he loves to do the following: tell me what you think. Why do you think that? And then he does something remarkable. He listens. I mean, he’s just really a person who has gone from being a politician, to a statesman and that kind of invisible line very rarely happens. but he has entered, in my view, he’s entered into that Pantheon.

SMITH: Well, I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m a big fan of his and share your high regard and also makes, I think, his departure from government all the more tragic for our country. But, Tim, you wouldn’t be you if you weren’t as circumspect and as gracious as you just were in your answers to my questions. And I appreciate that very much. The second person I gotta ask you about, and that is your old boss, George W. Bush. Are you ever in touch with him? How’s he doing?

GOEGLEIN: I am in touch with George W. Bush. I see President Bush at least once a year and sometimes twice. I’m very happy to say we’re a very close White House staff. And I will be seeing President Bush here in Washington at least once and maybe twice in September when the Bush-Cheney administration from the White House is going to have a wonderful get together. I’m very much looking forward to it.

SMITH: Well, now that you’ve had maybe 10 years to reflect on that experience, I guess he went out of office in January of 2009 and now we’re into 2019. So it has been until a little over 10 years. Refute this narrative or respond to this narrative. I think a lot of people look at George W. Bush’s presidency as being maybe one that didn’t live up to its full potential—maybe not quite as feckless or passionless as the Carter administration. But one that was derailed by 9/11 and was never able to really get back on track. Agree or disagree

GOEGLEIN: May I say, I think that in the popular imagination that in fact, you know, could be the case. But I have a friend who is a very important historian of Ulysses Grant. And he famously said to me, Tim, it would have been unfashionable at the time because of all the views of Ulysses Grant for years. But the more that we learn about that administration, the more we say, Oh my heavens. And my friend the historian said, buy stock in Bush because with the advent of time, we will look again at the war in Afghanistan and in Iraq. We will look again at the great recession. We will look again at Katrina. It’s important to do that. And, you know, every administration—every single one—has the potential of having a difficult period of time. 

SMITH: Yeah, well, I think a case in point would be the war in Afghanistan, right? I mean, a lot of people were calling it Bush’s war whenever he left the White House. And yet here we are 8, 10, 12 years later, and every president that has promised to get us out of Afghanistan has not been able to do so. And yet we also—even though I’m not trying to in any way diminish the sacrifice of our servicemen who have been killed or wounded and their families and the sacrifice that they’ve made—the management of that war under Bush has been at least as good, if not better, than the management of that war under his successors. 

GOEGLEIN: I totally agree. And I can speak with humility, I pray, but from firsthand account. And this really matters. George W. Bush is a person of categorical integrity, categorical high character, and a person who I believe was a truly, genuinely, not only a fine person, but a very important and successful president. And I think that it’s going to be interesting over the course of the next 25 and 30 years to look at how people of goodwill, when they begin to look at all the details, to actually say I think we ought to give this another assessment or reassessment as we’ve done with Grant and with several other presidents. I think that will happen for the George W. Bush administration. And I think we’ll come to see that 43 was actually a very gifted, excellent president. 

SMITH: Final question, Tim, before we turn the recorder on you were telling me that this may have been the last couple of years may have been the busiest years of your life. Why?

GOEGLEIN: You know, my role is to be Focus on the Family’s eyes and ears in Washington, to be our ambassador on the issues of family, marriage, parenting, pro-life, religious liberty, et cetera. We are very interested and part of the coalition on Supreme Court justices, appellate judges, district judges. On the whole issue of life, religious liberty, marriage, you know, in all of the executive cabinet agencies in the House, in the Senate, et cetera. This has been an extraordinary 24 months. May I say, whether somebody listening today is a detractor of Donald Trump and Mike Pence, or if somebody’s listening today and they are champions of Donald Trump and Mike Pence, nobody of goodwill can conclude that this has not been already a presidency of consequence. And consequence matters. And I think we are, you know, heading into a presidential election year on policy, on personnel that will say whether this period of American history and the way that we were led in it was the right thing for this part of 21st century America or was not. My own sense is that when it comes, for instance, to things like the pro-life movement, the issues of religious liberty and conscience rights, you know, who is on the Supreme Court, who are on the federal courts, I think that conservatives and men and women of faith like us, I think we have a lot to be pleased with. And I feel that that will be confirmed by historians 50 years from now.

SMITH: But you don’t feel, though, that this president’s temperament and sometimes the way he engages public conversation is alienating folks and maybe turning them off to the conservative brand? In other words, is it possible that we might have three or four years of success and that the cost of that will be 10, 20, 30 years of an American populace that will say I don’t want to have anything to do with conservatism ever again. 

GOEGLEIN: I believe very strongly that we are having this massive debate between whether President Trump will be the next president of the United States and whether the between 25 and 27 Democrats who will take his place will be the person. That is on one track. That is a massive debate. But I think there is a separate, a very important debate going on among American conservatives who are asking, does the paradigm that we think of as conservatism, which is this combination of libertarian economics, hawkish foreign policy, and moral and social conservatism. Does that paradigm still serve for this part of the 21st century in American conservatism? That to me is a rollicking important debate. And I’m really uncertain on the outcome of both. But I think I am certain that it’s important, more important than ever that we—all of us at the Colson Center, at Focus on the Family, at the Heritage Foundation, all of our friends and allies—that we engage as never before. And the thing that American Restoration says is it’s awfully tempting to say, I’m done. I’m discouraged. I’m despairing. I’m disengaging. I’m standing down. And I think that the opposite is the case. We have to engage more than ever before and we have to appeal to and reach out to the rising generation of young Christian men and women to say, here’s why it matters. 

SMITH: Tim, thanks so much for your time. I could do this all day long. I appreciate your time today. It’s been really a lot of fun.

GOEGLEIN: Warren thank you so much. I mean a real pleasure.


(Photo/The King’s College)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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