SHRUM: Valor always visible
Tony Blankley was a convinced and convincing conservative. He knew he couldn’t convince me, but he relished the debate. In that, he was like Bill Buckley - fierce, erudite, irreverent. Tony could quote Churchill perfectly and from memory, invoke Cicero in almost any context and, at any moment, sculpt a razor-sharp response to the latest issue. The day-to-day back and forth, he knew, was largely sky-writing, but from Tony it was writ large - and lasted longer.
What will last now is his contribution to the conservative movement - from the era of Ronald Reagan to the culminating contest of these years about the size of government and the character of society. The Newt Gingrich revolution of the 1990s was also the Blankley revolution. As a progressive, how often I wished that Tony, with all his gifts, was on our side.
Of course, we were on opposite sides, in battle after battle and at times in front of the camera. It was always fun because Tony had the quality described by my old boss, Ted Kennedy: He understands that we should “take issues seriously, but never take ourselves too seriously.” And so he also lived and fought in the spirit of his old boss, Reagan: At the end of the day, Americans who were opponents were not enemies and could even be friends. Tony and I were, and it was a friendship, formed in recent years, that I prized. He would critique Barack Obama’s newest policy and then, with more kindness, address the matter of my newest suit, observing that this was not a compliment to me but to the good taste of my wife, Marylouise.
He was brave and indomitable in his illness. At our last dinner, where he could only sip a little wine and taste a half-cup of soup at Equinox, he insisted that I have the splendid meal he had ordered so regularly in the past. Reagan said that you could see an opponent’s valor once the battlefield was clear. Tony’s valor was visible all along. The nation will miss him on the battlefield - and we will miss him in our lives.
Bob Shrum was a strategist in the Al Gore and John F. Kerry presidential campaigns and is a senior fellow at New York University.
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