I had just returned from late dinner at our dining facility here at FOB Caldwell when I saw the email: Mitt was dropping out of the race, and he was announcing it at CPAC. I’ll be completely honest with you: I choked up a bit. I immediately thought back to the first real meetings of “Evangelicals for Mitt,” when a few dear friends put pen to paper planning how political amateurs could actually reach out to our fellow evangelicals in a way that could make a difference. I thought back to the frantic two months before the Memphis Southern Republican Leadership Conference, when Nancy and I moved from Philadelphia to Columbia, I started a new job, and began an intensive effort to impact the Memphis straw poll — without an ounce of help from political professionals. I thought back to the idea for this blog, born during our “victory dinner” after the Governor’s surprise second place showing.
When we started this blog, it grew in exactly the way we hoped. We hoped and prayed for readers, and we got them—first hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands. We hoped and prayed that Christian and conservative opinion leaders would read EFM and consider our arguments, and that happened. Not only did we solidify relationships with Christians and conservatives we already knew, we formed new friendships and — on more than one occasion — had a chance to impact the debate at the national level.
Over the last two years, we have gotten to know two wonderful people better than we ever thought we would. I have said this before, and I’ll say it again: all too often, as we get closer to people—even to friends—their flaws become more apparent, and there is more to forgive, more to overlook. With Mitt and Ann, the opposite is the case. The closer we have come to that wonderful family, the more we have seen their virtues—how a husband and wife raised five wonderful boys even as Mitt’s career grew ever more demanding and Ann was rocked by a horrible illness; how they respond to adversity—personal or professional—not by throwing their hands in the air in despair but by working optimistically to solve problems and restore hope; and how they just do things the right way, with dignity, grace, and good cheer.
And Mitt Romney did things the right way yesterday. The Governor was correct. A time of war is simply not the time to pursue a campaign that cannot be won. There was enough bitterness in the Republican coalition already, and a race all the way to the convention would only exacerbate that bitterness and create wounds that would not heal. As much as I disagree with John McCain politically, he is an American hero, and it says something good about my party and my country that his courage in the worst possible circumstances (courage I can scarcely comprehend) would earn him his chance to lead. There are worse things than being led by a hero.
But there is something else that happened as we blogged—something that was unexpected and wonderful. I truly believe that this little blog generated one of our nation’s few truly amicable, truly respectful ongoing Mormon-evangelical dialogues in the country. To our LDS readers, your letters, your patience with some of our misconceptions about your faith, and—ultimately—your friendship mean more than you can know. Just yesterday, I was down in the mail room of FOB Caldwell looking at packages arriving from across the country, many of which I knew came from my Mormon friends, and I was just overcome with feelings of gratitude. I think God has had a purpose in our conversations and our emerging friendships that go beyond this presidential campaign. I don’t know where this will all lead, but I’m thankful we started down this path.
As for EFM . . . I don’t know what’s next. I want Mitt to run again, and I do not yet know if I can support John McCain this November. I have grave differences with him on issues of real substance. But I have other, quite pressing things to attend to in my own life. Right now, God has called me to serve my country here in Iraq to the best of my ability. And when I return, I do know that the work of conservative Christians attorneys in defending the constitution will be more vital than ever, but beyond that . . . Who knows what the future holds?
But for now, I’m content to say thank you to Mitt and Ann Romney. Thank you for your love of our country. Thank you for standing for the principles that will cause our country to endure and prosper. Thank you for living lives of grace, integrity, and dignity.
Thank you for doing things the right way.
David A. French
Forward Operating Base Caldwell
Diyala Province, Iraq