The Downfall of Tim Goeglein

Another White House staffer falls from grace. This time it’s Tim Goeglein, the administration’s liaison to the conservative movement. He’d been writing an occasional column for the Fort Worth Wayne News Sentinel for no pay and with no deadline pressure. But still he plagiarized, stealing liberally from Jeffrey Hart and other authors, as a hostile blogger discovered.

Most of the media coverage of the Goeglein scandal has emphasized that he was the White House’s point man for contact with the religious Right, and some accounts even credit him with the landslide religious turnout for Bush in 2004. Goeglein reached out beyond the usual Bush constituencies, however. He interpreted his role as liaison to conservatives to include at least a little liasing with paleoconservatives. One paleo professor of my acquaintance received a friendly note from Goeglein about a book the prof had written (though he wasn’t flattered by Goeglein’s attention) and a certain paleo editor received a cordial invitation to lunch with Goeglein. Was the White House just trying to curry favor with its right-wing critics or, as one of my friends suspects, was Goeglein just too stupid to see the difference between Bushism and paleo-ism? I like to be charitable and think that Goeglein took a genuine interest in paleo thought, but that’s moot now.

One might wonder why there seems to be an unusual number of conservatives lately getting nabbed for things like plagiarism and shoplifting. I think the mixture power-mania and personalized religion that mainstream conservatives have embraced in recent years has something to do with it. (If you know you’re on the side of the angels when it comes to big matters like the GWOT and abortion, what does it matter if you cheat a little — especially when you have a close personal relationship with Jesus?) Although it’s an overblown book in many respects and makes some dubious Adorno-esque claims, John Dean’s Conservatives Without Conscience is on to something. It’s worth a read in light of all the Republican scandals great and small of recent years.


5 thoughts on “The Downfall of Tim Goeglein

  1. Eric March 4, 2008 / 6:24 pm

    Fort Wayne (not Fort Worth). A small typo, but still a typo.

    Fort Wayne is in northern Indiana.

  2. Ben March 5, 2008 / 12:25 am

    Well, I think perhaps more than anything it shows that these people are real people. I’ve met both Ben Domenech and Claude Allen. Both great people. And for both I wonder what went through their minds when they committed their crimes. But, then again, I think about all the mistakes I’ve made and wonder what they’d look like under a spotlight. It’s no excuse for their mistakes, and I think unlike our opponents, our people take responsibility for their mistakes, yet we continue to castigate them.

    Goeglin was a lackey for the administration, no doubt. And he made a major mistake in committing plagiarism, no doubt. But he resigned, lost his job, and probably now lost his career. Does it really speak to a grand corruption to have this kind of thing occur? Or does it show us that people make mistakes, and suffer consequences. People are flawed, and three people with relatively minor incidents isn’t much to make hay about.

  3. Daniel McCarthy March 6, 2008 / 1:04 am

    Thanks for the link to the Eisenstadt blog, Marwan. Maybe I’m misreading it, but it doesn’t seem to have uncovered anything that suggests plagiarism on Hart’s part. The same Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy quote that Hart cited in 1998 also crops up in a remark attributed to Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Callahan in a piece in the Dartmouth alumni magazine — a piece written by an ’03 student. The alumni mag piece was almost certainly published *after* Hart’s piece, but that’s beside the point, since nothing that’s been cited from either the alumni magazine story or Hart’s story sounds like any form of plagiarism — using the same quote that somebody else uses is not a scandal. Hart introduced the quote in a manner different from the alumni mag story, so nothing that was not an attributed quote seems to be copied. (But then, I haven’t read the full Hart story.) The only thing that’s odd is the identical misspelling of Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy’s name. But that’s not odd at all, since every instance of Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy in this blog post, for example, is simply cut-and-pasted into the piece. Cutting and pasting a difficult-to-spell name into a document is not plagiarism, no more than citing a semi-famous quote is plagiarism.

    Am I missing something here?

    In another post, Eisenstadt writes, “Goeglein is accused of lifting a line” from Hart. No, he isn’t. Goeglein is not just accused, but actually did, lift copious amounts of original prose from several writers. Not just “a line” and certainly not just a quote and a misspelled name. The quote and misspelling are relevant only because they tipped off Nancy Derringer to the scope of Goeglein’s plagiarism. Somebody else who uses the Rosenstock-Huessy (that one I didn’t copy-n-paste) line and misspells R-H’s name the same way Hart did is not necessarily guilty of plagiarism. Eisenstadt has no case.

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