I'm writing this column with a very heavy heart at the passing on the night of Dec. 7 of one of America's greatest and most brilliant diplomats, my colleague and friend, former Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick. Indeed Monday of this week was a memorial service at our Presbyterian church in which I was privileged to give a eulogy.
By the way, this is my first column after a 2 1/2 month hiatus as I recover from radical knee replacement surgery.
Jeane Kirkpatrick was a neighbor, co-founder - along with former Rep. Vin Weber, Secretary Bill Bennett and Michael Novak - of "our think tank," Empower America (though Jeane was a one person "think tank"). Empower America sought to combine Jeane's foreign policy and pro-defense ideas with our pro-growth, low-tax and free-trade ideas, all of which were championed by President Ronald Reagan so successfully in the '80s.
Jeane was not a traditional "conservative Republican", actually she was a "liberal Democrat," in the 18th century definition of the word. She was a Harry Truman, Hubert H. Humphrey, "Scoop" Jackson Democrat, and authored one of the most controversial but influential articles of the late '70s titled, "Dictatorship and Double Standards" for Commentary Magazine.
Ronald Reagan, candidate for president, read Jeane's article and reached out to her through journalist George Will. When elected, Ronald Reagan made Jeane the first woman ambassador to the United Nations in history and one of Reagan's proudest and most successful appointments.
She and Reagan were of the view that history was not some Hegelian, dialectical, inevitability, but a living, human course of events that could be influenced, shaped and moved by men and women of conviction, courage and determination.
Jeane saw the old Soviet Union not just as an evil empire but as an inhumane experiment in totalitarianism that would - given western economic, military and moral strength - wither away and die out. Indeed, she helped inspire President Reagan to say at Notre Dame in 1981 that, "the west would not contain communism, but transcend it. We would not denounce it but dismiss it as a sad and bizarre chapter of history whose last pages are now being written." How very true!
Her influence on others and me in the Congress on both sides of the aisle in the late '70s and early '80s was huge. She was not content to play defense on the world stage, but believed America should be on the offense by expanding freedom, democracy, trade and open markets as the answer to state ownership and control of communist and socialist countries.