- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Former Wall Street Journal editorial-page editor Robert L. Bartley, described by President Bush as one of the most influential journalists in the country, died of cancer in a New York hospital yesterday. He was 66.

Over the past 30 years, Mr. Bartley had shaped the Journal editorial pages into a daily, highly entertaining classroom for already educated readers.

He further advanced their knowledge of economics, domestic policy and world affairs through a writing style that made it seem as if he and his editorial staff were sitting down to chat, and even share a few laughs, with the reader over breakfast.

“Bob Bartley’s legacy will endure, because without him, there would have been no Reagan revolution,” said former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Jack Kemp, a longtime friend and admirer.

As the largely anonymous purveyor of clearly worded, often-biting opinion, Mr. Bartley advanced that revolution, the hallmark of which was sweeping cuts in individual and corporate tax rates that many think produced the longest economic growth in the country’s history.

In the 1970s, he used his newspaper’s editorial pages to explain the advantages of what came to be called “supply-side” economic theory, which held that lower tax rates yield higher tax revenues, as well as faster economic growth and more jobs.

President Reagan embraced the theory, as has Mr. Bush.

Last week, Mr. Bush called Mr. Bartlett “one of the most influential journalists in American history.”

“He helped shape the times in which we live,” said Mr. Bush in awarding Mr. Bartley the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the nation.

Elected politicians and those who served them read Mr. Bartley and didn’t mind acknowledging that their policies and actions often were influenced as a result.

“I doubt there is a thinking conservative under 60 whose understanding of conservatism, free markets and liberty has not been guided or shaped by Bartley’s writings over the decades,” said Tony Blankley, editorial-page editor of The Washington Times and former aide to Mr. Reagan and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

“Bob was a personal friend and professional colleague who helped conceptualize our Index of Economic Freedom,” said Heritage Foundation President Edwin J. Feulner. “His commitment to the free society was extraordinary, and the Heritage board of trustees unanimously recognized his contribution by awarding our Clare Boothe Luce medal to him next Monday. We mourn his passing.”

His views, while always emphasizing freedom, were not predictable. For example, he infuriated some fellow conservatives and gladdened others in 1984 by endorsing the idea of a constitutional amendment establishing “open borders” for the United States. For Mr. Bartley, the free flow of people across borders in response to market forces was as important as the free flow of ideas and products.

A strong supporter of Israel and a friend — and on some issues an ally — of prominent neo-conservatives such as Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz, he nonetheless abjured, as he put it, “the ‘national greatness’ crusade” of two editors of the Weekly Standard magazine.

In 1980, his editorials earned him the Pulitzer. He authored a book about the Reagan economic policy, “The Seven Fat Years: And How to Do It Again.”

When Paul Gigot succeeded him at the editorial-page helm in 2001, Mr. Bartley continued to write a weekly column, “Thinking Things Over.”


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