- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 12, 2012

When Newt Gingrich was House speaker and Tony was his press secretary, he brought warmth, humor and intelligence into the policy discussions on Capitol Hill. He was the speaker’s spokesman, but much more than that. He helped to fashion the projects and policies that he later would go to the podium to explain. When he argued his viewpoint, he was clear and firm. Yet, he did it as a true gentleman, always aware that the battles of today had to lead to solutions tomorrow.

He had no trouble at all telling truth to those in power. My favorite memory of Tony goes back to the troubled days in 1995 when House Republicans had shut down the government and there was much discomfort in Washington. Newt had flown on Air Force One to Israel for a state funeral. When he returned he went to address a policy breakfast. Tony knew Newt was complaining about President Clinton’s unwillingness to negotiate with Newt and Bob Dole on the plane over the fiscal issues that were behind the shutdown. Tony warned Newt not to get into that discussion with the reporters. But Newt did, as it turned out, with disastrous results. When Newt approached Tony at the end of the event, he said, “Well, I guess I made your job more difficult today.” Tony replied, “No, you didn’t. I don’t intend to defend you.”

That was so Tony. He understood at the outset what could be problematic, he issued a warning about the consequences and when his advice was not followed, he preserved his own integrity.

Tony was a naturalized American citizen. Because he had chosen this country, he took particular pride in its traditions and its institutions. Yet he maintained ties to his British homeland. His love of Winston Churchill was legendary and he regaled his friends with wonderful Churchill stories and quotes. He traveled to London on regular occasions to visit his tailor and come home with the latest in British sartorial splendor.

When Tony left government service, he became an important conservative voice through his television commentary and his newspaper columns. You could always trust Tony to provide a well-reasoned point of view. He was compelling on television and he wrote with the kind of conviction that could not help but inspire his readers.

The essence of his life could be seen in the way he loved his wife Lynda and his children. He attained in his life a large measure of fame befitting the contributions he made. But his real pride was in Lynda’s achievements. He made her central to all he did and all he accomplished. It is to her that I offer my deepest condolences and my special thanks for sharing Tony. His friends and his adopted country are so much richer for having had him with us.

Robert Walker is a former congressman from Pennsylvania.

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