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Players: Tim Goeglein

Pipeline to the President For GOP Conservatives

Give and Take Flows Through Public Liaison Aide

By Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 24, 2004; Page A15

Tim Goeglein's self-described White House mission is one that would certainly delight the Barry Goldwaters of the world: catering to the purveyors of modern "American conservatism."

Starting most days at 6 a.m. and often lasting well into the night, Goeglein, a special assistant to President Bush, operates as a virtual middleman between the White House and conservatives of all stripes seeking to shape its policies. "[I] make sure they have a reliable access point, which is me," Goeglein said.

"I love people. I love policy, and I love politics," declares presidential assistant Tim Goeglein, whose job is to keep the right happy. (Rich Lipski -- The Washington Post)

In Profile

Tim Goeglein

Title: Special assistant to the president/deputy director of public liaison at the White House.

Education: Bachelor's degree in journalism, Indiana University at Bloomington.


Family: Married; two children.

Career highlights: Communications director for Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.); communications director for presidential candidate Gary Bauer in 2000; coalitions media director, Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign; TV news producer.

Book on bedside table: "Washington's Crossing" by David Hackett Fischer.

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Officially, Goeglein, a 40-year-old who looks as if he would be carded trying to buy a beer, is deputy director of the Office of Public Liaison, one of four White House political departments run by uberstrategist Karl Rove. Yet Goeglein's role is much more central to how this president operates -- and wins elections -- than the job title suggests, according to several Republicans outside and inside the White House.

It is Goeglein's job to make sure conservatives are happy, in the loop and getting their best ideas before the president and turned into laws. With Goeglein's assistance, Christian conservatives, for instance, were successful in lobbying Bush to push for abstinence-first funding to combat AIDs and speak out against the persecution of Christians in Sudan, according to Charles W. Colson, an evangelical Christian who works closely with Bush and Goeglein.

"My experience has been a lot of times when we have had serious questions and we needed administration backing to get them through . . . if we call Tim, all of a sudden things get through," said Colson, who was a public liaison under President Richard M. Nixon.

Bush enjoys fervent support among most conservatives, especially the neoconservatives who helped shape his foreign policy vision and the social ones who helped elevate "values" to the top of the election-year agenda. This support manifests itself in myriad ways, some obvious, some not. The most public example was the November election, when conservative Republicans turned out in record numbers to vote Bush into a second term.

The campaign was largely credited for the voting surge, but groups such as the National Rifle Association and the National Right to Life Committee trumpeted the president's strengths and usually kept quiet when they disagreed to help keep GOP voters enthused. As the president's father, former president George H.W. Bush, learned the hard way, it is no easy task to silence critics on the right on issues including abortion and federal spending.

A chief reason Bush has succeeded where his father failed is Goeglein and a few others like him strategically stationed in the White House in positions of authority.

John F. Kennedy created the concept of a public liaison, Nixon institutionalized the office and Republicans say Bush has perfected it. Few, if any, have been as effective at using the taxpayer-funded staff to keep the base of the party happy and involved in the policymaking process. Rove's intimate involvement in the office enhances its influence not only inside the White House but also outside with the scores of activist groups Bush relies on to help sell his agenda.

Most mornings at 8:30, Rove huddles with about eight White House aides from the four political offices to plot strategy. These offices are public liaison, intergovernmental affairs, political affairs and strategic initiatives.

This is where Rove, Goeglein and others share thoughts on synthesizing the president's ideas, enlisting outside assistance to sell them and heading off potential fights with or among supporters on the outside. When the meeting lets out, Goeglein operates as an ambassador of sorts for Bush and Rove.

In Republican politics, a person's conservative fervor is often judged by the people he worked for or with. In the eyes of many conservatives, Goeglein's credentials are unassailable.

A product of Indiana from the era of Democratic Sen. Birch Bayh's reign, Goeglein learned politics from the two conservative Dans of the Hoosier State -- Coats in the Senate and later Quayle, when he was vice president.

After spending his first year out of college in broadcast media, Goeglein, a native of Fort Wayne, often found himself handling communications strategy for the two Indiana Republicans during the 1990s. In the 2000 campaign, he signed on as spokesman not for Bush, but for Gary Bauer, who ran as the most conservative conservative in the Republican primary.

Shortly after Bauer dropped out, Karen Hughes, one of Bush's closest advisers, recruited Goeglein to help shop Bush's message to voters and activists. Goeglein packed up his wife and two young sons and headed to a cramped apartment in Austin.

He assumed he was headed to the White House press shop after the election. But, he said, Rove phoned with an unexpected message: "I am calling to change your life." A few minutes later, Goeglein was Rove's right-hand man dealing with the political right. Goeglein plans to assume the same role in the second term. "I love people. I love policy, and I love politics."

Goeglein will be an influential, if little-seen, player in coming years, too, working with conservatives to create private Social Security savings accounts, overhaul the tax code, outlaw same-sex marriage, and limit the number and size of lawsuits. If a Supreme Court vacancy emerges, Goeglein will be Rove's point man dealing with the political right over who should become the next justice. After all, it was Goeglein who three years ago created an influential coalition of conservatives to pressure lawmakers to approve Bush's judges in the Senate and prepare for the next Supreme Court fight. That group has raised as much as $5 million and is planning to lead the charge for conservative justices.

"One of the principal roles of public liaison is not only explaining policies that have been decided but to faithfully and accurately report into the White House bloodstream" the views of conservatives, he said.

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