Billy Graham has died: Speaking the truth to power

February 21, 2018

Billy Graham was “the good Rasputin,” an independent religious figure who whispered into the ears of the powerful but always for the greater good rather than his own personal aggrandizement.  His emergence coincided with the rapid rise of the Evangelical Movement in America and thus his political power.

In 1950, when he met with President Harry Truman, his first president,  he was awkward and indiscreet but by the time he met with President Barrack Obama in 2010, presidents needed the picture with him far more than he needed one with them.

Politicians and Graham had a symbiotic relationship.  Both had parts to play and both sides knew it.

In 1985, I prepared a memo for Vice President George H. W. Bush on how he could build a relationship with Evangelicals. Polling data available at the time showed Billy Graham as the least controversial Evangelical in public life.  The vice president’s son, George W. Bush quizzed me at length about the memo and asked questions about another evangelical leader, Arthur Blessitt.  That summer, Billy Graham was invited to the Bush compound at Kennebunkport, Maine and a friendship developed with the family, including father and son.

Ten years later, when then Texas governor, George W. Bush began to think seriously of running for president he began talking about a spiritual awakening that had been triggered by Billy Graham’s visit to Maine.  As Bush remembered, they had walked the beach together and talked.

As the 2000 election neared, Richard Ostling a religious editor for the Associated Press called me to say that he had interviewed Dr. Graham and the evangelist had no idea of what Governor Bush was talking about.  There was no beach in Kennebunkport, it was all rocks.  And Graham remembered no such conversation.

I called Bush to warn him about the discrepancy.  “Aw, he just probably forgot,” Bush said.

And afterward a apoplectic Arthur Blessitt began publishing a blog saying that he, Blessitt, had actually prayed with George W. Bush to be “born again.”  “Where was this Billy Graham stuff coming from?”

By 2000, Governor George W. Bush was in a tight presidential race with Tennessee Senator Al Gore.  By then Billy Graham and Bush had a clear understanding.  I worked with a young staffer, Brian Jacobs, to help arrange a meeting between Bush and Graham in Jacksonville, Florida.  The meeting took place the day before the election and both men appeared before the media.  “I don’t endorse politicians,” Graham said, “But if I did it would be someone like this man right here.”  How could he deny his own convert?  The next day Bush won Florida by 537 votes and with it the White House.

Billy Graham was not perfect.  When the television scandals hit he was the target of an IRS probe for illegally retained income and an ongoing Knight-Ridder investigation.  When the Watergate tapes were released there he was apparently sympathetic to Richard Nixon’s anti Semitic ramblings.

Most people would be surprised to know that Graham was a hypochondriac who was constantly checking himself into Mayo Clinic.  I received a call from him one day, from his hospital bed, just wanting to talk about politics and the White House.  He sounded very much like he had only days to live.  That was twenty five years ago.

Like all old men, Graham needed assurance that he was still wanted and needed and important.  I called him one day and he appeared piqued.  Reagan had always asked for his input for his speech before the National Prayer Breakfast. But we hadn’t bothered to call.

“I can assure you that the president wants your input,” I said confidently.  “Why he would welcome anything you suggest.”

“Well, if you really think he would want it?”

“I can assure you Dr. Graham, he would be very grateful.”

“Well, I don’t want it to be a bother,” he added sheepishly.

“No, no, we want it, we want it.”

He promptly sent us suggested remarks that had the president recounting stories about “my good friend, Billy Graham.”

President George H. W. Bush did not miss a beat.  He worked every line into his speech, lauding the evangelist and cementing their relationship.

Graham sat humbly, sometimes laughing as if he were hearing the stories for the first time, sometimes red with embarrassment at the praise and always surprised that the president would be so thoughtful to say such things..

Only two people in that ballroom knew that Billy Graham, himself, had written the words.  They both got what they wanted.

One of the most telling moments I had with Dr. Billy Graham came in a private meeting with President G.H.W. Bush and four heads of state.  Within a year, one was deposed, another in jail, another had died.  Bush, himself, would not be re-elected.  But Billy Graham endured.  Many times I have thought back on that meeting.  This was one of Graham’s greatest accomplishments, public figures come and go, somehow he survived them all.


Rubio’s blunder is Trump’s gain in Iowa

January 31, 2016


Doug Wead
In the closing hours before the Iowa Caucus Senator Marco Rubio has made a significant blunder. It may be crippling his last minute Iowa surge just as it is getting off the ground.  So far, Donald Trump is the big beneficiary.
Here’s the story. On January 10, 2016 Senator Rubio brashly announced in an email that he now represented the Billy Graham wing of the Evangelical Movement, Ted Cruz represented the Jerry Falwell wing and Donald Trump represented the Jimmy Swaggart wing. In that one email he managed to offend some of the most important leaders of influence in the Christian world as well as damage himself with some of the most important blocks of Evangelicals in Iowa. It was a clumsy move that is still causing his campaign to lose air right when it needs all the help it can get.
First, this writer was told that he did not have Billy Graham’s permission to use his name. No, the beloved evangelist had not endorsed him. Months earlier, when cocky Rubio officials tried to set up a meeting with the evangelist they were turned down. Later, when Rubio used his name anyway it created a backlash that it is still unfolding. Evangelical leaders, who have a lot of influence over the rank and file, deeply resent the apparent manipulation. They see Rubio as taking advantage of the aging Christian leader.
Second, by announcing that Ted Cruz had won the Jerry Falwell wing of the party Marco Rubio rankled many Southern Baptists.
The late Jerry Falwell was a controversial figure in American culture. The national media had demonized him. His negatives were high. His own followers were well aware of the challenges and loved him anyway. His inner circle was working to help. Toward the end of his life Falwell had moved from his Fundamentalist beginnings at the Baptist Bible Fellowship to become a major figure in the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. Meanwhile, his son, Jerry Falwell, Jr., was building the largest University in America.
Rubio’s veiled put down of Falwell and Cruz backfired not only on Rubio but on Cruz as well.  On January 26, 2016, Jerry Falwell, Jr., clearly his own man, promptly endorsed Donald Trump.
Finally, Rubio’s caustic remark about Swaggart and Trump may turn out to be his biggest blunder of all. Donald Trump, Rubio claimed, was the leader of the Jimmy Swaggart wing of the Evangelical Movement.  Swaggart, a Pentecostal, was at the center of the televangelist scandal of the 1980’s which involved prostitutes and other misconduct.  And after all, Donald Trump was getting some help from Paula White a prominent Pentecostal figure. White had arranged a meeting between Trump and national Christian leaders.
Rubio, allegedly getting counsel from Southern Baptist insider, Russell Moore,  must have thought he would be pretty safe dissing the Pentecostals.
One big problem. According to Gallup 41% of the American people claim to be Born Again. A disproportionate number of them live in Iowa.  And according to Barna 51% of those born again Christians believe in the charismata or gifts of the Holy Spirit. “For the Barna survey, this included people who said they were a charismatic or Pentecostal Christian, that they had been ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ and who said they believe that ‘the charismatic gifts, such as tongues and healing, are still valid and active today.'”
It gets worse. 82% of the members of the Southern Baptist Convention live in thirteen southern states. They will be the single most important voting block in Southern States on March 1st.  But most of the born again Christians in Iowa are neither Billy Graham Baptists nor Jerry Falwell Baptists. They are Pentecostals who Rubio just painted with the same Jimmy Swaggart brush.
If Rubio doesn’t want their votes, Donald Trump will take them.
It gets worse.  If Rubio’s false flag Billy Graham endorsement were not enough, it turns out that the Charismatic Catholics are at the heart of his own Catholic Church.  They number into the millions worldwide.  As word of Rubio’s insults spread his Evangelical supporters are troubled and now his own fellow Catholic Charismatics, major players in Iowa, are beginning to get the news.
Ben Carson had his own meltdown with Evangelicals last December. He was briefly leading in national polls when he gave an interview to Sally Quinn. She asked the candidate if he believed in a literal hell.  He did not.  It turns out that an astonishing 61% of Americans believe in hell and more importantly for Carson, 87% of Evangelical Christians do.  As word of Carson’s interview spread his support collapsed in Iowa and Ted Cruz was the chief beneficiary.
Ghandi once said, “He who says that religion and politics don’t mix, understands neither one.”


McCain meets with Billy Graham but there is more!

June 29, 2008


 Evangelicals welcomed John McCain’s meeting with Billy Graham today, but more importantly, recent appointments, such as Pam Pryor as senior advisor at the RNC, is sending their morale soaring.

After feeling like they had been hung out to dry, with the dumping of Pastors John Hagee and Rod Parsley, evangelicals are feeling a little better about John McCain.  His meeting today with Billy Graham came just in time.  In fact, if my e-mail bag is any indication, for the last ten days some evangelical leaders have been feeling downright warm and fuzzy about the Republican nominee and primarily because of his willingness to use born again Christian staffers at the RNC and in his campaign. 

Democrats and the national media have long considered that Blacks, Hispanics, Women and Gays represent “diversity” while evangelicals were to be shunned and demonized for trying to get involved in public life.  “Diversity” didn’t apply to them, separation of church and state you know.  But the savvy campaign of Barack Obama has represented something more.  His new “Joshua” project, an outreach to evangelicals, represents true diversity and a threat to the Republican monopoly on faith.

This is where it gets interesting.  If Obama is a different sort of Democrat, it turns out that John  McCain is a different sort of Republican.  McCain makes no bones about his appreciation for Blacks, Hispanics, Women and Gays, but it is growing increasingly clear that he too is quite willing to include evangelicals.  You could call it real life, honest to goodness “diversity” in action.  Not just a word but an idea.  And now it is happening in both political parties.

If it is new for the Democrats, well, it is sort of new for the Republicans too, who under two Bush presidents and Reagan, usually only got one single token “evangelical liaison” while all other positions were guarded.  Only “invisible” evangelicals could sneak through the appointments process, although a number did just that under President George W. Bush.

McCain now has a gaggle of evangelical activists, including Iowa, pro-lifer, Marlys Popma, former Gary Bauer political director, Robert Heckman, and a Liberty University debate coach named Brett O’Donnell.

But the recent appointment of Pam Pryor as senior advisor to the RNC’s Deputy Chairman, Frank Donatelli over at the Republican National Convention has the evangelical leadership positively smiling.  Pryor, the little firecracker who served for years as Administrative Assistant to former congressman  J. C. Watts and later helped Dave Donaldson move Faith Based Initiatives through the Clinton congress, (yeah, you heard me right, Clinton, not Bush, although it was called Charitable Choice,) is no outsider to the rough and tumble of Washington politics. Pryor, an evangelical who attends McLean Bible Church in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. is smart and effective and knows how to play the game.  A reputation for absolute loyalty to her boss, she is not the token evangelical that adorns most presidential campaigns.  She can think, act and work the Washington scene well and her connections in evangelicaland are truly extensive.

This is the signal to many evangelical leaders that the McCain team is sincerely planning to reach out to its Republican base.  After Carter, Reagan and Bush they grew skeptical of religious testimony and promises of legislation.  They demanded appointments, wisely concluding that “people are policy.”  It was partly why Herbert Walker was not re-elected in 1992, many evangelical leaders decided he had failed to deliver on promised appointments.

Pryor joins the Popma sisterhood and along with Heckman will give the McCainnannites the sort of experience they need if they want to find a way out of the long dark pit into which they have fallen.

Evangelical leaders can watch the fate of these four staffers and know all they need to known about the success or failure of John McCain’s ongoing outreach to evangelicals.  And the more savvy of that vast, religiously illiterate media, can shortcut their workload a bit and do the same thing, for as the McCain evangelical four go, so goes Senator John McCain’s chances as president.

McCain camp did not talk to Franklin Graham either!

June 10, 2008

Well, it just gets richer and richer. 

Now, it appears that no one on the McCain team actually talked with Franklin Graham, let alone, sent him a letter.  Apparently they left him a message on his answering machine.  And it was months ago!   According to the Graham people it was during the primaries and it was never followed up by either McCain or Graham.  And it had nothing to do with meeting Dr. Billy Graham anyway.  In fact, it had nothing to do with a private meeting with Franklin.  It was an invitation to Franklin to come to a McCain meeting with other evangelicals.  Franklin never responded to the voicemail message.

All of this out from the Graham people.

Wow! “Oh what a web we weave.”

Now, if you are not caught up on all of this go to my last blog and it will take you step by step, documenting every inglorious minute.  It is a nice vignette into what the late Vince Foster sadly called “a bloodsport.”  And it will be a primer for you Obama folks, so get ready.  Your turn is coming.

(Ron Paul’s forces have been the subjects of this bullying for months now, because of their impertinent efforts at State GOP Conventions.  In spite of their message, some of them keep operating under the illusion that this is still a constitutional Republic.)

Meanwhile, square the above revelation from the Graham team, that the only contact from the McCain people was that they left a phone message, with what the McCain people were saying yesterday.

CBN reporter David Brody: “The McCain campaign tells me that they have been reaching out to Billy Graham through his son, Franklin Graham. While no formal meeting has been set up, it is something they are working on. They told me that of course they want to meet with Billy Graham and hopefully that will get done soon.”


Brody adds this, “They tell me the Graham family has been very receptive to their overtures.” 

Chuckle, chuckle.  The McCain spokesman must have felt like he had hit pay dirt, a real sucker on the line who would believe anything he had to say, so you can’t blame him for pouring it on a little thick.

According to Brody, Tucker Bounds, a McCain spokesman said the following on the phone:

“The piece in Newsmax is false. Our campaign has been working directly with Reverend Franklin Graham’s office to facilitate an important meeting between John McCain and the Reverend Billy Graham. The report’s implication that we have ‘declined to meet with Billy Graham’ is blatantly false, because our campaign has already been working directly with Franklin Graham’s office and politely declined Mr. Jacobs’ offer to help facilitate a meeting.”

But the fact is that they did turn down the Jacobs offer and put it in writing. And at a time when they had nothing going with Franklin Graham.


In any case, we are pleased to learn that the McCain team recognizes that evangelicals cannot be ignored and that they are willing to meet with Billy Graham.  Case Closed.  Who knows, they may yet come down off their high horse and meet with James Dobson too.  Perhaps I should make a big deal about that.


This is all so ridiculous.  They should have done this work two years ago.  But they better get it done now.  And they better execute a little better too.  Being honest with religious people would be a good first step. 


They need more than Billy Graham, having him is just a no brainer.  They also need Richard Land and Judge Paul Pressler and Paige Patterson and many other Southern Baptists out front.  And they need Pentecostals and Charismatics too, especially since they now don’t seem to have any and have repudiated the ones they had.  Who knows, maybe US forces will capture Osama Bin Laden and public opinion will turn on a dime and John McCain will have a chance this November?  We all hope so.  Just in case, they need to be doing the right things now.


Coming Tomorrow: Ron Paul’s Great Minnesota Adventure: What will happen at the RNC?

John McCain and Billy Graham

June 9, 2008

Inside the McCain Campaign’s Big Foul Up.

Oops, apparently I hit a nerve. 

My NEWSMAX article on the McCain Campaign turning down a meeting between Billy Graham and Senator McCain prompted outrage from the Senator’s staff.  And then desperate calls from John McCain staffers to the Graham Association prompted clarifications from their side too.

But inconsistencies abounded.  The two couldn’t get their stories straight.  As our daddy’s explain to us when we are young, “always tell the truth and then you won’t have to remember what you said.”

If you don’t know the story, start with this link and then come back and I’ll catch you up.

Now, to get the McCain response go to the Brody File at CBN, Pat Robertson’s network, where the senior correspondent David Brody explains that “There’s a story out there that the McCain campaign has rejected a meeting with the Rev. Billy Graham.  I have just spoken with the McCain campaign and they tell me the story is ‘BOGUS. TOTALLY NOT TRUE.” .

Oh that hurt.  I’ve always liked Brody.  Now read the letter sent to Brian Jacobs, a longtime friend of the Billy Graham Organization, who just put Will Graham, Billy Graham’s grandson on the plane yesterday, to send him back to Montreat, N. C. where he runs the Cove, the Billy Graham home ministry.

Hmmm.  What did you think?  “TOTALLY NOT TRUE?”  Maybe a little more humility is in order, don’t ya think?  At the very least the letter was a mistake.

It gets better, Brody says, “The McCain campaign tells me that they have been reaching out to Billy Graham through his son, Franklin Graham. While no formal meeting has been set up, it is something they are working on. They told me that of course they want to meet with Billy Graham and hopefully that will get done soon.”


Ha.  Very interesting. 


Now, compare that to long time Graham PR guru and personal friend, Larry Ross, who issued a statement today to Mother Jones, among others, saying, “There has been no contact between the McCain campaign and his office.  In fact, Mr. Graham has not met or been in contact with any candidates during the current primary process. ”


I would think that Ross is right on this one.  It is consistent.  Hillary Clinton was apparently in Charlotte, N.C. a while back and had tried to set something up with Graham and had been turned down.


Meanwhile, Brody says of the McCain campaign, “They tell me the Graham family has been very receptive to their overtures.”

This not only contradicts Larry Ross, it is news to other senior staffers at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.  Brian Jacobs just spent two weeks with the senior staff at BGEA, including its CEO and staffers reporting directly to Franklin, as well as Billy Graham’s preacher grandson, Will Graham.  Jacobs told them that he had written the McCain team, to try to set something up for Senator McCain as he had done for Graham and George W. Bush in 2000.  “Has the Graham Association heard anything from McCain about a meeting?”


According to Jacobs, they answered, “Not a word.”  


Of course, the McCain campaign could have ended this discussion immediately.  They only needed to post their ongoing correspondence with Franklin Graham, or at least the letter where they asked for a meeting.  We had posted their letter where they said they didn’t want a meeting.  I showed you mine, you show me yours? Somehow I suspected that was not going to happen.

Usually, the big boys get their act together and give the same story.  There are certainly good reasons for both the Graham and McCain camps to be cooperating now, just as Graham would be cooperating with the Obama team. Who knows, McCain just could be president.  But then again, it could be Obama.  And Graham is the one evangelical that even the Christo-phobic John McCain can afford to be seen with.

But this time the story hit too quickly and caught everybody off guard.  The McCain team saying one thing and the Graham team, well unfortunately for McCain, telling the truth. 

Frustrated that the story might turn against them, the McCain team included some hits at Jacobs.  Brody says, that “the McCain camp also tells me that Brian Jacobs is a Fort Worth, Texas, minister and not with the Billy Graham ministry in any sort of official capacity.”  According to reporters, off the record, Ross is saying the same thing.

This is one thing that McCain and company do well, slay their own unsuspecting supporters, like people who have just endorsed them or, in this case, someone who was trying to help them.

For the record, nowhere in our story do we claim that Brian Jacobs is an employee of BGEA but he has been a friend of the Graham ministry for years.  It will be difficult for McCain or Graham to make him look like he has no connection to BGEA but hey, they made John Hagee, of all people, look like an anti-Semite.

 The story of how Brian Jacobs helped arrange a meeting between Graham and Bush in Jacksonville, Florida, the last day of the campaign in 2000 is thoroughly documented in the award winning New York Times bestseller, The Preacher and the Politicians by Michael Duffy, Assistant Managing Editor of TIME and famous cover story correspondent Nancy Gibbs.

This past May 30-June 1 Jacobs served as the Executive Vice President and CEO of a Will Graham “celebration” in Ft. Worth, Texas.  The whole Billy Graham team came in for the event.  Jacobs was trusted enough to write all the checks on the $500,000 event.  And he is slated to head up the Franklin Graham visit later in the year.

According to Brody, Tucker Bounds, a McCain spokesman said the following on the phone:

“The piece in Newsmax is false. Our campaign has been working directly with Reverend Franklin Graham’s office to facilitate an important meeting between John McCain and Reverend Billy Graham. The report’s implication that we have ‘declined to meet with Billy Graham’ is blatantly false, because our campaign has already been working directly with Franklin Graham’s office and politely declined Mr. Jacobs’ offer to help facilitate a meeting.

But a little later in the day, shockingly, David Brody had to file this complete reversal…


After assuring us that the NEWSMAX piece was false, and his story, was setting the record straight, he was forced to add this “clarification.” 


Says Brody….


“So far, Billy Graham’s office has not been directly contacted about meeting with Sen. McCain.”

(Oops.  What?  Well, were they contacted indirectly?)

“Franklin Graham did receive a message from one of Sen. McCain’s staffers several months ago saying that they were reaching out to evangelical leaders and that if Franklin Graham would like to meet with McCain that would be welcomed. This was during the primaries and Franklin did not have any follow up to that call.

“But Franklin said he would now be willing to meet with Sen. McCain or Sen. Obama.” LOL.

Meanwhile, thanks to Franklin Graham’s honesty, our original NEWSMAX piece stands.  And it has needed no “clarifications,” in spite of powers weighing in with their demands to pull it down and the self righteous charges of “false stories” flying back and forth.  If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember what you said. 


None of this disqualifies John McCain.  We evangelicals may still all vote for him come November anyway.  We want to. But his staff and the lap dog evangelical ministries who parade as journalists and repeat without question his propaganda, certainly took a “strike one” this time at bat.

McCain Camp Says No to Billy Graham

June 9, 2008

Now, it turns out, that the John McCain campaign is so spooked by preachers that it doesn’t want to meet with Dr. Billy Graham.  Which sort of makes his rapprochement with the evangelicals a little difficult, wouldn’t you say?

Remember Brian Jacobs, the George W. Bush activist who helped me put together a meeting between Dr. Billy Graham and George W. Bush the last day of the 2000 election?   Well we tried it again with the McCain Campaign and look what happened?

Here is the letter he got back.  (He was hosting the Billy Graham Association in Ft. Worth when this came in.  He was hosting Will Graham, the evangelist’s grandson this week.)

Go to this link for the full account …. It is an amazing story.

Go to this link to see the actual letter.

Meanwhile, here is the evangelical vote.

The Evangelical Vote from 1976 – 2004.

                      1976     1980     1984      1988     1992     1996    2000    2004      

Republican      50       61          80           81       59        49         57        62          

Democrat        50       34          20           18        21        43        42        38          

Independent                                                       19


Could Joe Lieberman help McCain win evangelicals?

McCain and Able:  How the GOP lost the evangelicals in 2008