I recently had a chance to chat with Peter Flaherty, Governor Mitt Romney’s Deputy Campaign Manager. We talked about John McCain, Amazing Grace, Family, and Faith. Here’s the interview …
ML: Thanks for joining us. In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that we know one another a bit. In fact, the last time I heard you speak, you opened your remarks by saying some kind words about the other candidates running for president. I thought this was both savvy and refreshing. Along those lines, I wanted to offer you the opportunity to begin the same way here. So say something nice about John McCain …
PF: Senator McCain is an experienced hand in the U.S. Senate. I look forward to the day my three sons are old enough to learn Senator McCain’s family story of patriotism being passed from father to son for three generations.
ML: Speaking of your sons, tell us a bit about background and your family.
PF: My father is a lawyer and my mother is a registered nurse. This September they will be celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary. Their devotion to each other and to my brothers and me has taught us the platinum standard of how a husband should treat his wife and how parents should adore their children unconditionally. My wife Jen and I have three sons Peter, William, and Matthew whose main concern at this point in their lives is what time I’m coming home from work.
ML: Your father-in-law is a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist. How has he impacted your life?
PF: David Mugar has taught me how important it is to contribute in every way you can to the community around you. The philanthropic gestures for which he is known are but a tiny fraction of all that he does to help people every day. In being able to witness his generous heart, I am reminded of Winston Churchill’s quote, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
ML: So how did a Massachusetts guy get wired into the national conservative movement?
PF: I’ve always had an interest in the issues that conservatives care about, and as an advisor to Governor Romney on issues like marriage and bioethics, I’m blessed to have been able to meet and continue to learn from the brightest people in the country who focus on these areas. For example, I remember calling constitutional scholar Matthew Spalding at the Heritage Foundation the day after the Goodridge decision in Massachusetts in 2003.
ML: In political campaigns, the average person ends up knowing only a few things about each candidate. What’s the one thing you want Townhall’s readers to know about Mitt Romney?
PF: He is a man of impeccable character with an unparalleled ability to solve complex problems.
ML: Governor Romney has been proactive in reaching out to the new media. For example, he recently utilized YouTube to respond to a criticism. Does he read blogs, and if so, how does he feel about Townhall.com?
PF: Governor Romney reads blogs and has an appreciation for the 24 hour dedication that bloggers bring to the political landscape. I know he enjoys TownHall.com and the treasure trove of thoughtful and insightful columnists and bloggers that shape and inform the daily debate.
ML: Speaking of new media, most people probably don’t realize that your brother, Michael Flaherty, was very involved in producing the new movie, Amazing Grace. I recently saw it, and can attest that it is a great movie. Can you tell us what it’s like to have a brother in the movie industry, and are you also a big William Wilberforce fan?
PF: I constantly get asked by people if I can convince Mike to put them or their children in a movie. I love following the great work that my brothers Mike and Chip are doing at Walden Media, and seeing the positive influence they are having on the schoolchildren of America. I greatly admire Wilberforce for his selfless and steadfast determination to put his conscience into action to make the world a better place.
ML: So what was Michael like as a kid?
PF: In his fourth grade play Mike was cast as Willy Wonka, and I don’t think he has slipped out of character since.
ML: (Laughter). That’s great. How did it come to be that so many Flaherty’s were involved in Walden Media?
PF: Michael is the youngest of the three brothers, and he founded the company. My brother Chip and I joined him because we believed in the mission, and we have always liked doing things together.
ML: Okay, I can’t escape asking this question; obviously, you’re a devout Catholic and Governor Romney is LDS. Did religion enter into your mind at all when you decided to work for the Governor?
ML: So how will he answer the religious question? Will he have a JFK moment where he goes before Protestant Pastors to reassure them?
PF: Governor Romney will continue to talk about shared values as opposed to doctrinal differences. I know his faith informs the way he lives his life and has served as a solid foundation upon which he and his wife Ann have raised such a fine family. As for a potential speech on the subject, I think you’ll have to stay tuned.
ML: How has your faith prepared you for the challenges of working in the rough-and-tumble world of political campaigns?
PF: I have Philippians 4 taped to my office wall which reminds me to dismiss all anxiety from my mind and pray about everything. That is how I approach each day.
ML: Peter Flaherty, thank you very much for taking the time to do this!
PF: My pleasure, Matt. Thank you.