- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2008


Finally, justice has been done to one of the most important, yet heretofore truly unsung, heroes of our time: William P. Clark. In “The Judge: Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand,” Paul Kengor and Patricia Clark Doerner provide the back story to the making and the success of the Reagan presidency — and the indispensable role played in both by an individual universally known simply as “the Judge.”

This telling of Judge Clark’s remarkable story is like the man himself — and perhaps as unique in the history of Washington as is its subject: Unfailingly honest, unpretentious, self-effacing, scrupulously fair and plain-spoken. Unlike most Washington memoirs or biographies, this book is not about settling scores. Rather, it is about laying out the facts. In so doing, it makes a compelling case that — despite the modesty that has caused him throughout his life to eschew the limelight and to give credit to others, Bill Clark was one of the most consequential public servants in our nation’s history.

To be sure, many people deserve credit for Ronald Reagan becoming president and for his extraordinary service and accomplishments in that capacity. As “The Judge” makes clear, however, it is fair to say that, without Bill Clark’s role as Gov. Reagan’s chief of staff at a critical time in Sacramento, it is unlikely Mr. Reagan would have had a record on which to run successfully for higher office. And certainly, without Judge Clark’s leadership for nearly two pivotal years as President Reagan’s national security adviser, the Reagan presidency would not be remembered for having won the Cold War.

The latter is of particular relevance, not just as an historical insight but as a factor in contemporary public policy. During his tenure at the National Security Council from January 1982 to October 1983, the Judge assembled arguably the finest team of security policy practitioners since that institution’s founding. Bill Clark’s quiet competence, his skill as an effective administrator and the absolute confidence of his boss allowed the national security adviser to lead that team in developing, articulating and executing the strategy for destroying the Soviet Union.

This strategy was formalized and implemented in many of the 100 National Security Decision Directives promulgated under Judge Clark. They are remarkable both for their clarity about the repressive and threatening nature of Soviet totalitarianism and for the confident portrayal of the opportunity and the necessity for freedom to triumph over what President Reagan correctly called “the Evil Empire.”

The bad news is that Judge Clark’s time as national security adviser was cut short due to divisions within the Reagan team — largely (but not entirely) drawn along the lines of those who had been with the governor in California and who were politically aligned with his principled conservatism, on the one hand, and, on the other, those professional Washington insiders who opportunistically insinuated themselves into the administration once Mr. Reagan came to power.

A stunning example of the intensity of this division — and the disloyalty by the latter group to the president the Judge served so faithfully — can be found in Mr. Kengor and Miss Doerner’s revelation that then-White House Chief of Staff James Baker and his subordinates “began many inner-staff meetings by asking ‘How can we roll Clark today?’ ”

The good news is that, while Bill Clark resigned his post in late 1983 (accepting at Mr. Reagan’s insistence the position of interior secretary), the effect of the policies he promoted — aimed at restoring American strength as the most reliable instrument to promote peace, protecting U.S. sovereignty and interests around the world and taking down the Soviet Union — persisted, despite concerted efforts by his detractors to counteract them. The rest, as they say, is history.

Interestingly, however, the disagreements between the true Reaganauts and those who worked against them from within the Reagan administration persist to this day.

In recent months, Jim Baker and Reagan Secretary of State George Shultz wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal brandishing their credentials with the former president to argue for ratification of the controversial Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST).

Bill Clark and the only other surviving senior California Reagan aide, Ed Meese, took it upon themselves to author a response (also published in the Journal explaining why Mr. Reagan rejected that defective accord in 1982 — and why he would continue to find it unacceptable today.

For this and all his many previous, inestimably important contributions to the national security, Bill Clark has earned a distinction this column confers each year: the “Horatius at the Bridge” Award. Like the Roman hero who legend has it singlehandedly staved off an enemy army bent on sacking his beloved city, Judge Clark was indispensable to sparing his nation — and many millions of other, freedom-loving peoples — the yoke of communist totalitarianism. Thanks to the efforts of Mr. Kengor and Miss Doerner, he will be remembered for a lifetime of extraordinary service to God and country, which happily continues to this day despite his affliction by debilitating illness.

Today, a new generation of would-be presidents is clamoring for the support of the American people. Whoever wins will face another form of totalitarian ideology — Islamofascism. We can only pray that, in so doing, they will be able to find and rely upon so steady a top hand as Ronald Reagan had in the Judge.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy, a columnist for The Washington Times and privileged to be able to call Judge William P. Clark a friend.



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