Timothy Goeglein’s political memoir The Man in the Middle is an intimate account of nearly a decade of working for former president George W. Bush. From director of media coalitions for the 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign to deputy director of the White House Office of Public Liaison, Goeglein was in the President’s inner circle for key events such as the Florida ballot recount, 9/11, and the nomination of two Supreme Court justices.
In his role in the Office of Public Liaison, Goeglein’s stated job was “communicating and conveying the President’s key agenda items with crystal clarity to people of influence,” as well as being the middleman between the President and conservative and faith-based communities. In doing so, Goeglein consistently observed Bush’s strong character, moral fortitude and Christian faith, not just in his personal life, but in his decisions as President of the United States.
“His Christian faith, he believed, was relevant to good public policy, and from that principle, he would not, and could not, waver.”
Goeglein shares a poignant moment during a difficult week of a troop surge in Iraq, when he informed Bush that many people wanted to tell the President that they were praying for him. Bush responded, “Tim, that is the most important thing I have heard this week. Please thank them and tell them their prayers mean a lot to me.”
Goeglein describes the President’s composure in crisis situations, unwavering confidence in his controversial policy decisions, such as banning new stem-cell research and supporting a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman, and his commitment to securing the trust and respect of the developing “values voters” community.
George W. Bush was not just a political machine, Goeglein relates, but a loving and devoted family man. Some of the most touching parts of the book are his accounts of visits to the White House, where he was privileged to witness the first family outside the public spotlight.
“Laura and George W. Bush just go together, and it is wonderful to see them together, as I often did, in private settings. They are the same in private as they are in public—able verbally to poke and prod each other in a loving, playful manner … able to tenderly hug or kiss each other in a way that was respectful and appropriate but sincerely felt. The President’s love of family—and most especially his wonderful and tender relationships with his “girls,” as he always called his daughters—was real.”
The Man in the Middle is more than just a tribute to a man whom the author is proud to call “his favorite President.” It provides delightful anecdotes of relationships and interactions with high-profile individuals such as Karl Rove, Russell Kirk and Condoleezza Rice, and a fascinating personal peek into the complicated internal workings of the White House staff from a man who dealt with every branch.
Goeglein remembers his naiveté in his early years at the White House, asking a Secret Service agent whether it would be possible for the President to make it on time to a dinner engagement in Maryland, in 30 minutes, during D.C. rush-hour traffic. The agent responded, “You’re new here, aren’t you?” And almost exactly 30 minutes later, Goeglein arrived at the dinner in the President’s motorcade.
While it doesn’t contain any groundbreaking revelations about George W. Bush behind closed doors, The Man in the Middle provides a glimpse of the real man, away from microphones and cameras. Goeglein shows that the man in private was the same as the man in public, dealing with crises big and small with the same compassion and confidence, both in himself and in his God.