The piece is about Senator John McCain's visit yesterday with the Reverend Billy Graham and his son and successor, the Reverend Franklin Graham. The elder Graham, who is 89, has been in poor health but sat with McCain for about an hour. (Franklin met with Senator Barack Obama last week.) It's a testament to the power and strength of the evangelical vote that both candidates have made the pilgrimage to the Grahams' North Carolina home.
The Times's headline is meant to hit McCain (a shocker, I know.) They are implying that McCain sought an endorsement from the Grahams but failed to get it.
I'm sure that both McCain and Obama would move heaven and earth to score that endorsement, but both know (as does The New York Times) that the Grahams have never endorsed a presidential candidate. That practice began with a conversation Billy Graham had with Richard Nixon in 1960.
Graham has always leaned conservative, and he was close to President Eisenhower and to Vice President Nixon. The 1960 race between Nixon and John Kennedy was as tight as a tick. Graham visited with Nixon and offered to endorse him publicly.
Nixon knew Graham's endorsement might be enough to put him over the top. He knew Graham campaigning by his side could win him the election. He knew that Kennedy couldn't compete with that.
And yet, Nixon declined the endorsement. He told Graham to stick with his regular gig: "I'm in the business of changing government," he told him, "and you are in the business of changing souls." Nixon told him that if Graham got involved in politics, it would dilute his ability to guide people's faith.
Graham took Nixon's counsel and did not endorse him. Nixon, of course, lost the election in a squeaker in which the Democrats' orchestrated massive vote fraud in Chicago, Texas, and West Virginia. In all likelihood, Graham's endorsement would have made the difference and Nixon would have been president in 1960.
But Nixon's selfless act set a precedent Graham has followed ever since. He has ministered to subsequent Presidents, Republican and Democrat, and done so in a way untainted by the messiness of politics.
The New York Times can try to make McCain look as if he sought the endorsement and didn't get it, but they know the truth: Obama didn't get it either. And neither man will.
The Grahams, after all, are in the business of changing souls.