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“I have no doubt that we needed … an active government role to break some of the barriers of segregation and discrimination — and we still do, somewhat,” she says.

She also sees a government role in dealing with disasters like Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the Gulf coast last year: “Some devastation is so terrible, so deep, that it requires major effort that government is more able to mount than individuals. I have never changed my views about these issues.”

The write stuff

Mrs. Kirkpatrick’s road to becoming the most visible Democrat in a conservative Republican administration began with a pair of articles by her that riveted the attention of two different audiences in the fall of 1979.

“Why we don’t become Republicans,” appeared in the Republican National Committee magazine Common Sense. In it, she said Democrats like her and her husband, Evron “Kirk” Kirkpatrick — adviser to liberal Minnesota Democrat Hubert H. Humphrey — were “chronically dismayed” by their party’s leftward foreign-policy drift since 1972 under the “new liberals.”

Yet, the GOP didn’t seem an acceptable alternative because it retained a “brand” image associated with country-club snobbery and an indifference to problems of race and poverty.

Her breakthrough 1979 foreign-policy article “Dictatorships and Double Standards” appeared in Commentary — which became famous as a “neo-conservative” journal under editor Norman Podhoretz.

Mrs. Kirkpatrick argued that America’s “posture of continuous self-abasement and apology vis-a-vis the Third World is neither morally necessary nor politically appropriate” and concluded that the McGovern-Carter crowd had confused “liberal idealism … with masochism.”

The Commentary article “changed my life, actually,” she says.

“Dictatorships and Double Standards” caught the eye of Richard Allen, who would become Mr. Reagan’s national security adviser. Mr. Allen gave a copy to Mr. Reagan, saying, “Here, read this — I promise you’ll like it.”

Later, she recalls, “I was sitting in my office minding my own business when I got a call from Bill Casey,” the Reagan campaign manager and future CIA director, as well as a call from another Reagan emissary. She agreed to meet with Mr. Reagan and his top advisers the next Friday.

“I hung up, and the phone rang again. The voice said, ‘This is the White House.’ It was Bernie Aronson, Jimmy Carter’s top adviser on Latin America.”

Mrs. Kirkpatrick had helped found the neo-conservative Coalition for a Democratic Majority, and Mr. Aronson said President Carter wanted the CDM’s perspective “adequately represented” at the Democratic Platform Hearings in Baltimore. The president had hoped to get Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan to testify, but that fell through, and now he wanted Mrs. Kirkpatrick.

“I said, ‘Bernie, thanks so much, but I think it’s too late,’” she recalls, adding that it “was one of the real turning points in my life. It was well known by then that neo-conservatives” — disaffected liberal Democrats in search of a party — “were growing, that I was one of them and that we were unhappy with our Democratic president and our Democratic candidate.”

Team Reagan

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