“As well as anyone in his generation, he understood the subtle interplay of national interests, fundamental values and personal dynamics that drive diplomacy,” she said in a statement from Paris.
James A. Baker, who was a rival of Christopher’s during the 2000 Florida recount battle, said he admired him as a thoughtful diplomat and man of integrity.
“Regardless of whether he was an adversary or an ally, Warren Christopher always exhibited utmost integrity, sincere courtliness and a noble nature,” Baker said. “His character was special and exemplary in the dog-eat-dog world of politics.”
In private life, Christopher also served. Among many other things, he chaired a commission that proposed reforms of the Los Angeles Police Department in the aftermath of the videotaped beating by police of motorist Rodney King in 1991. When four officers arrested for beating King were acquitted of most charges the following year Los Angeles erupted in days of deadly rioting.
In examining years of police records following the riots, the Christopher Commission found “a significant number of officers” routinely used excessive force.
“The department not only failed to deal with the problem group of officers but it often rewarded them with positive evaluations and promotions,” according to the report.
Numerous reforms were eventually put in place, including limiting the police chief to two five-year terms and having the chief appointed and supervised by a civilian commission.
Christopher’s calm intervention amid political turmoil prompted the Republicans to turn to an elder statesman of their own, James A. Baker III, to represent Bush in the election dispute.
As Clinton considered a successor, Christopher offered the criteria he would apply if the choice was up to him.
“It would be somebody who has the capacity to provide forceful leadership, someone who has great tenacity, someone who has endurance and a lot of stamina,” he said.
His travels became the stuff of diplomatic legend.
In the skies over Africa and approaching his 71st birthday in October 1996, Christopher set a new mark for miles traveled by a secretary of state over four years, the normal length of a presidential term: 704,487.
The crew on his Air Force jet presented him with a congratulatory cake.
Christopher overcame sleep deprivation, difficult negotiations with the likes of the late Syrian President Hafez Assad and nagging ulcers to keep his eye on American interests.