A newspaper interview about his next book turned political when best-selling author John Grisham termed the Bush administration “bad people with evil intent” and the war in Iraq an “immoral abomination.”
Grisham‘s 20th book, Playing for Pizza, a fictional account of an American football player seeking to revive a career in Italy, is scheduled for release today. On Thursday Grisham talked with the Des Moines Register both about the book and his entry into the 2008 presidential race by hosting a Sunday campaign event in Charlottesville, Va., for Sen. Hillary Clinton.
A former trial lawyer, Grisham served in the Mississippi House of Representatives as a Democrat from 1983 to 1990. He has a track record for support of Democratic candidates, but he said Sunday’s “Conversation Between Hillary Clinton and John Grisham” is his highest-profile engagement to date.
“This is definitely the most visible thing I’ve done,” he said in the newspaper interview.
Grisham said he first met the Clintons 15 years ago, when he was invited to the White House for a screening of “The Pelican Brief.”
Grisham said he is convinced the Democrats will win the election, and he believes Clinton is the best candidate. He said his wife, Renee, who met the senator two years ago at a fund raiser, “was always on board,” but for him “it was more gradual.”
Grisham said he doesn’t know Clinton well but likes her and thinks she has the best chance of winning the nomination.
“I’m hopeful the Democrats can reclaim the White House,” he said. “I think it’s going to be very hard for the Republicans, after this administration, to hang on.”
Raised by devout Southern Baptist parents, Grisham describes himself as a “moderate Baptist.” His current church, University Baptist Church in Charlottesville, Va., is affiliated with the Baptist General Association of Virginia and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. His pastor, Tom Leland, is a past board member of the Baptist Center for Ethics.
A new BCE-produced DVD, “Golden Rule Politics,” explores the proper relationship between faith and politics. It counters arguments by the Christian Right that GOP stands for “God’s Only Party” with a correction that neither political party is completely moral or immoral.
Grisham differed with voices from Christian Right that claim the war in Iraq meets ethical standards for a just war.
“The war is an immoral abomination that we’ll pay for for decades to come,” Grisham reportedly said near the end of the 40-minute telephone interview. “We’re paying for it now at the rate of 100 kids a month, while Bush plays politics with it.”
Grisham said his negative view of the current administration dates back to the beginning of its run for the White House.
“I’ve always thought that they were bad people with evil intent–and all that, it’s playing out now,” he said. “You can’t hardly look at any aspect of the government in the seven years so far that’s been run properly.”
“I can’t stand those people,” he said of the current White House, “and their incompetence is astounding.”
“I always thought you could at least depend on the Republican Party to maintain some semblance of fiscal responsibility,” he continued. “But they run up record deficits–taking care of billionaires that they want to take care of. Don’t get me started on politics. I could go for a long time.”
Declared the best-selling author of the 1990s by Publishers Weekly, Grisham has said he doesn’t preach through his novels, but his faith informs his writing. His church mission trips to Brazil inspired The Testament, a 1999 novel that features a pure-hearted missionary character in a plot line that includes presenting the gospel and leading another character in a “sinner’s prayer” to accept Christ as savior. Another mission project, a freezing night in a homeless shelter, inspired The Street Lawyer.
Grisham told a Baylor University audience seven years ago that research on The Chamber changed his position on the death penalty, after a guard he got to know at the Mississippi State Penitentiary asked him if he thought Jesus would approve of what they were doing there.
“No,” Grisham said. “I don’t think that’s what Jesus taught.”
“Well then, who do you believe in,” the prison guard followed up, “Jesus or the State of Mississippi?”
In addition to his church, Grisham devotes time to other charities. His Rebuild the Coast Fund raised $8.8 million in grants for victims of Hurricane Katrina. A passionate baseball fan, he built six ball fields on his property, which have been used by more than 350 kids on 26 Little League teams.
According to Virginia Public Access Project, Grisham and his wife have contributed $357,000 to Democratic candidates since 1996.
Tickets for yesterday’s sold-out Clinton fund raiser ranged from $50 to $2,300, with tickets for students discounted to $25.
In the Des Moines Register interview, Grisham said he made a few campaign stops for President Bill Clinton in 1992 in Mississippi but joked about his potential influence in politics.
“In 2004, I campaigned a little bit for John Kerry in South Carolina, which … he lost,” he said. “I guess that’s why he didn’t call me back.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.