Bob Beckel says “I Should Be Dead”
CBN News Jennifer Wishon
WASHINGTON — Bob Beckel is well known in Washington political circles and from his commentary on Fox News and CNN.
He’s had his hands in Washington politics for more than four decades and has been on the top of his game. But as he explains in his new book, if not for the grace of God, Beckel would be dead.
“I really should be, yeah. I’ve been shot and stabbed and in a couple car wrecks where people died – everybody died except for me – and uh, God knows how many overdoses of drugs I’ve taken,” Beckel told CBN News.
In his new book, I Should Be Dead, Beckel explains how he survived politics, TV, and addiction.
He took his last drink and drug on January 19, 2001, the night before George W. Bush’s first presidential inauguration. Beckel was mad that it was Bush, not Gore, who was heading to the White House.
“I went down to a biker bar in Southern Maryland, and I was at the bar trying to pick this woman up,” he recalled. “She was very attractive, and I felt something behind me and I turned around – her husband was there with a .45 caliber right in my face.”
“He pulled the trigger and it didn’t go off. He hadn’t chambered the bullet,” Beckel continued. “Somebody grabbed him from behind and it blew a three-foot hole in the ceiling.”
“And so they threw me out in the parking lot, and just before I passed out I remember saying, ‘God, I really don’t believe, but if you really do exist that’s the last drink I’ll ever have,'” Beckel remembered.
He woke up in the VIP room of a Washington psychiatric ward. A suicide watch nurse sat in the corner. To add insult to injury, he could hear Bush’s inaugural parade while lying in his bed.
The story of Beckel’s self-destruction to that point is extraordinary. One of only two photos in his new book includes his father, a brilliant man who was also a drunk.
“I came from a dysfunctional family, very dysfunctional. And my father used to find great humor in throwing me down the stairs,” he said. “And you know back then you went to school and you were all beat up and nobody said anything.”
Beckel’s passion for politics started as a young boy, first in 1960 watching his father support John F. Kennedy and later with his dad’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.
Ironically, it was the beatings from the hand of his dad that taught him to thrive in Washington.
“As a survivor you learn how to talk fast, cut deals, lie when you have to – perfect training to be a politician, you know?” Beckel said. So when I got out I did very well in the business and Capitol Hill is full of survivors.”
“The problem is, if you don’t turn and face your demons, it’s going to catch up with you,” he added. “And you’re going to become addicted to something, most likely alcohol.”
Beckel arrived in Washington on his birthday in 1972 with very little money and absolutely no job prospects. Five years later he was sitting in the Oval Office briefing President Jimmy Carter.
“Life is a series of chapters and one leads to another to another to another and God knows what it is,” Beckel told CBN News.
“I mean He set that out early, but then, because I didn’t have faith I couldn’t figure it out. I kept waiting every day for the Secret Service to come into our office and say, ‘Okay, you fraud, get out,'” he said with a chuckle.
Throughout his storybook career advising congressional campaigns across the country and even managing Walter Mondale’s race for president in 1984, Beckel made millions, money that ended up financing vacation homes for his drug dealers.
“I used to wake up and look out my window and the front of my car to make sure there was no blood on it, that I hadn’t hit anybody,” he recalled.
He eventually lost his business, his marriage, and his once flush bank account.
There, at his lowest point, sitting on a rock in the middle of a field in Maryland, Beckel called out to God.
“‘God, I don’t know if you exist and this is probably the worst thing to ask you the first time out, if you could help me with some money, but I need money really badly,'” he prayed.
“And this was out a mile back on a dirt road and the next day I went out to the mailbox and it was always junk mail, nobody ever sent me anything,” he said.
“I opened it up and there was a letter addressed to me and there was a check inside for $20,000 bucks from a guy who owed me that for 15 years. So I hurried down to the bank and said, ‘Is this any good?’ and they said, ‘Fine, we’ll put it right in,'” he recalled.
“Now, people can say that’s just coincidence,” he continued. “And I don’t think God is necessarily in the business of dolling out $20,000 bucks. But I think that, you know, He gives you freewill and included in freewill is the ability to seek faith in Him through Jesus Christ and if you do that, you will be rewarded for it. I believe that.”
Conservative columnist and friend Cal Thomas helped lead Beckel to Christ, and reading the Bible made him rethink some of his positions.
“When I came to faith I was on pro-choice boards and I dropped off of those because you couldn’t read the Bible and be pro-choice,” he said.
But Beckel still considers himself a liberal Democrat.
“I still believe that tonight, some place in this city a child is going to be born to a crack addict and some place tonight in this city in the rich suburbs a white kid is going to be born to wealthy parents and I just don’t believe they have an equal shot at life,” he explained.
“And until I’m confident that everyone has an equal shot at the American dream then I’m going to remain a liberal in the sense that I do believe that the government has a responsibility, along with charities and others, to help those children until they’re 18 years old,” he said.
Now he works with addicts, leading interventions to get people into rehab.
“And it’s important for me because it keeps it green of what it was like,” he said. “Too many people get sober and then disappear from being around alcoholics, other alcoholics, where I think you need to do that.
Helping addicts has become his ministry.
“You know, there’s no greater reward, I think, then taking somebody who is terminally ill, but holding their hands and walking them over the Jordan and handing them off, you know, to a better place,” he said.
Digging up his past was hard, but Beckel says unburdening himself is liberating. Now more than ever, he’s reveling in a life that’s joyous, happy, and free.
“There was a huge hole in my stomach that I kept filling with drugs and alcohol, and now I fill it with God and it’s a much better way to go and He won’t make you sick, you know,” he said with a smile.
Before joining CBN News Jennifer Wishon worked as Richmond Bureau Chief and Capitol Correspondent for WDBJ7, the CBS affiliate in Roanoke, Va. In Richmond she covered state government and politics full time. Her assignments included the 2008 presidential race, the administrations of Gov. Mark Warner and Gov. Tim Kaine and the shootings at Virginia Tech.
Jennifer graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in Communications Studies and is a proud Hokie! She’s also a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma Fraternity. Jennifer and her husband Todd live on a farm in Virginia.
Bob Beckel says “I Should Be Dead”