WASHINGTON -- Now again the civilized world has witnessed the true nature of barbarism; not the Hollywood presentation, but the reality.
Civilization has witnessed it before: the Nazis stomping the unarmed, the Communists pillaging the bourgeoisie, Middle Eastern terrorists slaughtering unarmed Jews and Christians, and in 1993 Americans in their first atrocities at the World Trade Center. And we are witnessing the true nature of the civilized -- first grief, then resolve to extirpate the barbarians.
At the home of the solicitor general of the United States the night of Sept. 11 they grieved with one of the civilized's most noble, Theodore B. Olson, the husband of that other noble soul, Barbara Olson, the author and political commentator who perished with all the other innocents when American Airlines flight 77 plowed into the Pentagon.
The Olsons' friends drifted out to their home unbidden to shoulder his grief. Opening the front door into the vaulted foyer of a country house decorated in Barbara's exquisite taste, we pass the silk flag of the Justice Department standing eight feet tall (Ted has served the department). To join the Olsons' friends in the sitting room beyond, we pass through the green lacquered library, full of the hundreds of books the Olsons read, some of which Barbara wrote.
What catches the eye is the framed picture of Barbara, beautiful, blond, and smiling the smile that delighted her friends and intimated to an adversary that, quite possibly, he had just been outsmarted. If eyes were not damp already, they became damp at that spot in the library. I felt a catch in my throat, and in the sitting room beyond, Ted's friends mingled in a sough of grief until they confronted Ted.
"No long faces here," the solicitor general quietly enjoins. I have never known Olson to utter a word that was not wise and prodigiously intelligent. He always strikes the right temperament. And so we try to smile.
Our wives have brought a tremendous mountain of food, and there is Ted's favorite drink, fine wine. We sip our wine. News is on the television sets. Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Ginny, beat most of us to the house and have assisted in setting the dignified tone.
They depart, but other judges, lawyers and writers, and Ted's' supremely competent son, Ken, stay on. Ted's eyes are framed in grief, but he is sharp with commentary on the days vile events, resourceful in counseling what should happen next, and witty. Ted is one of the great minds and great souls that have come to Washington to ensure that America remains the land of the free, governed by the rule of law.
He has distinguished himself in practically every legal and political battle of the past 30 years that really mattered. In the 1990s, his love was Barbara. Her laughter has been as dependable as her shrewd analysis of politics, society and the law. Ted's pride in her was only matched by hers in him. They gave each other boundless pleasure. To their friends, they gave sustenance when needed and inspiration, and served as models for being active citizens. This home has been the headquarters for much that has been politically salutary for the country and invigorating for conservatives.
It has been the home of two public citizens who were utterly untouched by self-importance, which is rare in Washington. But self-importance vitiates the fun of life, and the Olsons have had a knack for fun. They loved music -- deplorable rock but also much country and western and, in Barbara's case, opera. They loved reading. They danced -- Barbara on two great legs could really dance. The Olsons have style -- Barbara had an eye for elegance as well as a brain, and she had unflagging energy.
In Washington, she stopped in on every important gathering , particularly the conservative events. She lit up every room. She was a valiant defender of conservatism and a plucky adversary.
At a certain point in the evening, the conservative stalwarts Barbara Ledeen and Mary Ellen Bork call us to attention to recite the Lord's Prayer. Ken Starr leads us in the 23rd Psalm. He mixes dignity with kindliness. Moments later, we listen to the president's address to the nation. He too cites the 23rd Psalm. Larry King at some point pops up on the television screen and pays a tribute to Barbara for her many spirited appearances on his show. Ted is sitting with his son, and his good strong arm reaches down to fluff the flossy coat of one of the Olsons' two Australian shepherds, either Maggie (for Lady Thatcher) or Reagan, for you know who. The 40th president has been one of Ted's fortunate clients.
By now, the Borks and Ted's friend Bob McConnell have taken down a long list of concerned friends calling in their condolences. Amid all his grim labors, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has called. Both he and Barbara have been federal prosecutors, and like so many of the country's officials, he has been
a friend of Ted.
It is getting late. And all those gathered have got to get some rest, for already they are planning their contributions to the defeat of the barbarians. Were she alive, Barbara Olson would be planning, too. In her last act on earth, she was defying the knife-wielding savages and from the back of the plane telephoning Ted at the Justice Department, informing him of conditions on the flight and asking what she and the plane's captain should do (Ted's advice is always the best) -- for Barbara Olson was one of freedom's warriors.
A Texan who believed in the endless fight for liberty, she always waged it fair and square, and good and hard. If she had to go, it was fitting that she died at the Pentagon, with all the rest of freedom's warriors.