- The Washington Times - Monday, May 24, 2004


Several months ago, former Democratic Party operative Bob Beckel told a dinner reception hosted by syndicated columnist Cal Thomas about his conversion to Christianity. Mr. Beckel, who employed the phrase “Where’s the beef?” for Walter Mondale’s 1984 presidential campaign, is a former deputy secretary of state for the Carter administration. He now teaches at George Washington University, writes a newspaper column and does commentary for Fox TV. Here is an excerpt of his remarks:

I started in a family of alcoholics that was rather abusive. My mother and my father were both alcoholics — alcoholics had gone back to the family for every generation we could count. When my old man was sober, he was fine. At night, he became a violent fellow. His idea of fun was busting me up outside the corner of my room. He would put my head in the shag carpet and hold it there. And I couldn’t breathe.

I learned then how to operate. I was an operator. I learned how to talk fast, I learned how to cut deals between my mother and father. I learned how to lie. I learned how to do a scam here, a scam there, anything to survive. I promised myself when I got out of there, I would never ever go back again, and the second thing I promised myself was that nobody — nobody — was ever going to control my life. If I was successful, it was my success. If I failed, it was my failure.

I never trusted … putting myself in the hands of anyone. It was the reason I didn’t get married until I was 40 years old. That lasted 10 years. I married a professional golfer. For those of you gentleman who may not understand fear, you do not know what a 5-iron looks like at 4 o’clock in the morning, coming at you from the hands of a professional golfer.

I had learned another thing growing up in an abusive family, and that is how to put masks on. I could put a mask on faster than you can imagine, depending on what the circumstances were. The problem was I didn’t know what was behind all that. I had no idea — no idea at all because my whole life had been living a stage of survival. And so, I had a sense, this empty, empty feeling in my stomach and also a fear that somebody is going to figure this scam out.

I got a number of breaks. I was the luckiest guy you will ever know and every time I turned around I hit gold. A fellow died in a special election in Prince George’s County. I got hired, we won. The next thing I know I get 20-some races — impossible House races for the National Committee for an Effective Congress, which is the oldest liberal PAC in America, and it was the Watergate year, Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon and I won 25 out of 26. What a lucky guy — and I did that. Ford helped a little.

About this time, I started to drink a lot. Not a little, a lot — a lot. Politics was the right game for me because I could keep moving, moving, moving. Another place, another state, another place to party and I thought I had everything. This survivor had made it. What I didn’t realize is that emptiness about who I was started to bother me a lot.

I made an awful lot of money — lots and lots of money, and then everything unraveled at one time. I lost my mother and my father, I was accused of trying to intimidate electors in Florida. It was not true, but it was so bad that I got death threats, which I get regularly, particularly on Fox. If you want to test your inner strength to see if the Lord is really with you, go on Fox and call George Bush a deserter and see what happens.

[My wife filed] for divorce and the next day I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with adult diabetes and was told that I was going to lose my left eye, maybe my right eye. Then the Internal Revenue Service came after me because I had owned a dude ranch in Montana and there was something wrong with that and that was a bunch of money. I happened to look at my checkbook and I remember that it wasn’t 15 months earlier that I was worth several million dollars and now I had $6.50 in my checkbook.

I walked in [to the Fox studio] and Cal [Thomas] looked at me and he said, “How are you doing?” Instead of saying, “Fine, nothing wrong with me,” I said, “I’m not doing too well, Cal.”

He said, “Why don’t we talk after the show?” He had enough sense not to shove religion down my throat, but he said, “Do you go to church?”

And I said, “No.” And he said, “Do you have any interest in the Lord and in the Bible?”

I said, “Right about now I don’t think there is anything that’s going to save me,” because I was falling fast.

I had shotguns in my ranch, at my farm. And I had always been an optimist, but leaving this earth was not such a bad alternative.

So Cal sent me a book called “Evidence That Demands a Verdict.” I read it and I said, “Wait a minute, this book has actually proven some of this stuff.”

Cal convinced me to go to Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda. Now, I didn’t know what a Presbyterian was and I still don’t. I am afraid to ask. A lot of these people, well, their politics are slightly different than mine, but that’s OK. And so I go into this church the first day and I sat next to Cal, and I must say, there was something, something just felt OK. All of a sudden, that big, empty thing inside of me felt like it was full and it wasn’t with booze then.

The world has changed for me. Somebody can cut me off and instead of one finger, it is five — like that. There is a certain peacefulness about life that is really remarkable. I have Jesus Christ and my God who cares about me. I love my son and my daughter with the deepest kind of love. It’s how God loves me. And I can’t tell you the relief.

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