Jewish World Review Dec. 11, 2003 / 16 Kislev, 5764
Long live Bob Bartley
My friend Bob Bartley, editor emeritus of the Wall Street Journal, died at 9:35 Wednesday morning, December 10. I knew him for over three decades. During that time he grew from being a quiet slightly enigmatic Midwestern reporter in the Journal's Chicago bureau to being the most powerful editor of the most powerful editorial page in the country powerful, that is, if ideas change the world, and his did.
In the 1970s Bob, once something of a liberal, became a Cold Warrior and foresightedly opposed arms control and Mutual Assured Destruction. By the 1980s he was a member of the small band formulating and promoting Supply-Side Economics. In the 1990s he led an even smaller band of journalists who recognized the Clintons as reckless abusers of power and serious threats to the rule of law. By the turn of the century the Cold War had ended peacefully with the Soviet Union in history's dustbin, Reaganite prosperity was flourishing, and President Bill Clinton had been impeached.
Bob's ideas of a strong military and a vigilant foreign policy had replaced accommodation. His ideas of tax reduction and economic growth had replaced statist economics. And the Clinton Administration was increasingly seen in lurid hues, the Democrats' equivalent of the Harding Administration though without the innocent consequences. Bob had moved on to champion the Bush Doctrine, which he with his keen sense of history recognized as a demarche as significant as 1947's policy of containment.
In his weekly Wall Street Journal column, written in a fluent style employing lucid English spiced with an occasional dash of folksiness, he ranged widely across problems recognized by the nation or not yet recognized by it. Only those who have worked with him and the historians who will eventually chronicle his times can appreciate Bob's genius for seeing history's challenges coming across the horizon. He usually saw them before the rest of us had a hint of what was coming. Usually he recognized the requisite policy for dealing with them. By the end of the first half of the current Bush Administration Bob was speculating that the Forty-Third President was ushering in a New Establishment to replace the jejune and rancorous liberal establishment. That is the challenge he leaves for all thoughtful libertarian conservatives to take up.
Then came the cancer, which he fought gamely and treated matter-of-factly. Retiring the editorship of the Journal in 2002, he found himself busier than ever, doing television which he relished, his weekly column, speaking widely, and planning long-term intellectual projects to keep the nation's intellectual debates on course. That was not enough. He encouraged me to revitalize The American Spectator. Despite illness and all his other obligations he presided over the magazine's redesign, encouraged new emphases appropriate to the changing times, and took a look at the business side. His long-time friend, the investment banker Ed Yeo, believed that along with all Bob's other talents this student of economics and commerce also had a stupendous aptitude for business.
He did. Watching him attend to the myriad details of journalism was an illuminating experience that I know I shall never experience again. Bob's knowledge was incomparable. He knew how the world works. How he knew all this is a mystery; genius is a mystery.
To the last there was a twinkle in his eye, at times a mischievous twinkle. He was a quiet man, punctuating conversation whether social or editorial, with long pauses, which doubtless puzzled some people, but his friends understood: Bob was thinking about the topic at hand. And he often broke his silence with another unforgettable mannerism. He would roll his head left and right while uttering a particularly emphatic judgment in his flat slightly nasal voice intoning the unaccented idiom of the Midwest, his native region in which he took immense pride.
Bob had a beatific smile, and I never heard him express anger against anyone. Some of his critics in the Clinton years lumped him in with what they called the Clinton-haters. His judgments were too coolly arrived at for hate. Moreover he was deeply, yet quietly, religious. At the revitalization of The American Spectator he prevailed on me to set our record straight on the great iconoclast, H.L. Mencken. Mencken's angers are not what we admire in a thinking person. Bob favored the values of a gentleman. He was confident of the rightness of the positions he arrived at, and understandably. For over thirty years he was rarely wrong. And one other point: he is that rare public intellectual who arrived at his eminence not by self-promotion but by the quality of his work.
The recognition came over the years, for the evidence is inescapable.
Communism is gone. Markets are recognized. Integrity, the rule of law, and limited government are admired, at least, in America. Bob Bartley was a great man. When the White House got word that his life was in peril the Presidential Medal of Freedom for which he had been nominated was immediately announced after the President gave Bob a call. He was glad for that call, and when a few days later he died he did so knowing that he, an old officer of artillery, had left formations in the field. The Wall Street Journal advancing Bob's vision is as formidable as ever. And he has left The American Spectator and the New York Sun, founded by Bob's pal Seth Lipsky. All have their guns trained on the enemy. Who are the enemy? Any force endangering the heart of Bob's philosophy of "free men and free markets."
Bob left that philosophy ascendant.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington
and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
JWR contributor Bob Tyrrell is editor in chief of The American Spectator. Comment by clicking here.
12/04/03: "Hit 'em when they're down!"
12/01/03: The Wright Stuff
11/13/03: How wrong the naysayers and the utopians have been
11/06/03: Will I be banned from America's campuses?
10/30/03: They don't care about restraint
10/24/03: "The Reagans" and the evidence of a historic life
10/17/03: The Moron Vote
10/09/03: The politics of groping and the groping of politics
10/03/03: Is there a witch doctor in the house?
09/26/03: Funny Girly-Boy
09/18/03: Send Arafat to Paris!
09/15/03: The soi-disant party of Latinos comes down hard on a successful Latino
09/05/03: Placating the carpers
08/29/03: A melange of one-issue enthusiasts will win?
08/07/03: Angry partisans
07/31/03: Why no holy cities in America?
07/25/03: They underestimate not only the president, but the American people
07/18/03: The irascible, bigoted Harry Truman was a product of his times
07/11/03: A grand affair of hot colors and surprisingly sedate audience participation
07/04/03: In search of anti-Americanism and the perfect bullfight
06/26/03: Calling on London
06/20/03: Too upsetting for the evening news?
06/12/03: Rain(es)ing Clintoon myths
06/05/03: Hillary-ous is pathetic
05/22/03: End of the last great persecution of the 20th century?
05/15/03 :Grey turns to grim at Times
05/08/03: The only intellectual force in Western history to gain moral superiority by being wrong
05/01/03: Dinning with Tom Wolfe: More lessons in nusual aspects of American life, hitherto ignored
04/28/03: Ambuscade at scholarly frontier
04/21/03: Stars in search of a galaxy
04/10/03: Baghdad Bob and Tom Daschle
03/31/03: When the media itself becomes the story
03/20/03: Revealed! Estrada is a gifted linguist -- a Japanese-American fluent in Spanish
03/14/03: Genuinely in charge
03/10/03: Stalin and Saddam
03/05/03: They just cannot stomach a protracted alliance with the Bushies
02/25/03: Identity gridlock
02/18/03: People calling Dean a fruitcake are underestimating his political savvy
02/13/03: The new political establishment
01/30/03: The time is now
01/27/03: Witnessing self-love by people completely incapable of self-criticism
01/21/03: Of course our kiddies are depressed
01/13/03: Why is it that Official Washington still believes that a tax reduction means a revenue reduction?
01/02/03: Missing Moi
12/27/02: The grizzled and menacing-looking senator in Confederate drag is … a Dem
12/24/02: Uprooting Christianity in the Holy Land
12/20/02: Under fire, Lott showed an ignobleness that is embarrassing
11/26/02: Bartley's enemies have been routed
11/14/02: Clarence Thomas and the segregationist Mississippi sheriff
11/07/02: I muffed up
10/31/02: Is the American university turning its back on change, on progress?
10/24/02: So why aren't the Dems buoyant?
10/17/02: Mourning the loss of the "yellow-belly"
10/10/02: American politics at its most ignominious
10/03/02: A man above the law, a bully
09/26/02: Is Bob Greene a victim of an anti-Clinton backlash?
09/19/02: I knew Mafiosi and …
09/12/02: Chickens and poseurs
09/05/02: Sympathizing with the Europols
08/29/02: 9-11 did not change us forever
08/22/02: Public persons frivoling with serious matters
08/15/02: Beachcombing among the fat of the land
08/08/02: They pave the way for corruption, not personal responsibility
08/01/02: Believing the unbelievable
07/25/02: The congressional posse comitatus
07/18/02: Cosmopolitan Arab fashion
07/11/02: What the prez actually knows
07/04/02: The vindication of a truly original thinker
06/27/02: The perfect book for Hillary
06/20/02: To say that they were ordinary is not to slight them
06/13/02: Daschle must begin to act like an adult
06/06/02: Lack of "intelligence" --- and sheer stupidity
05/30/02: Revealing a carefully guarded media secret
05/23/02: In these times, thank Heaven for Clinton!
05/16/02: Fast Times at the Church of the Nativity
05/09/02: "Name the Prettiest Suicide Bomber"
05/02/02: Vindication for the Boy Scouts
04/25/02: A topic almost no other columnist will touch
04/18/02: 'Conventional Wisdom' --- and those who defy it
04/11/02: Let the Sun shine in
04/05/02: Hooded men of color in sheets
04/01/02: A McCain-Feingold Act for Hollywood
03/21/02: Yakkin' on Yates
03/15/02: No role for Paul Volcker in Enron: the movie
03/07/02: My membership in the Communist Party U.S.A.
02/27/02: This award is bestowed by 'contrarians'
02/21/02: Mike Tyson: Made for Washington?
02/14/02: Enron as underdog?
02/07/02: Freed from the presence of money -- hard or soft -- most politicians would be just as bad
01/31/02: Needed: Bush to make a preemptive strike against his enemies …. Ones who'd like to see him fail even during war
01/24/02: Hucksters will move on to make their next marks
01/17/02: Debonair prez should begin to do the High Life
01/10/02: Move over Twinkies --- "the acne medicine made him do it!"
01/03/02: Leaving the Nazis looking comparatively humane
12/27/01: A "self-made journalist"
12/20/01: Calamities and unanticipated benefits
12/13/01: America's grief ought not to give comfort to those who caused it
12/06/01: Leahy, the strict civil libertarian!? A short-term exploiter of the Constitution is more like it
11/29/01: Welcome to Afghan, Maryland?
11/26/01: So, why don't more folks hate us?
11/15/01: America's quagmire and other certainties
11/09/01: No longer the smug statists, the prodigal Keynesians?
11/01/01: The New Seriousness
10/25/01: Bright lights and the Taliban
10/18/01: Is bin-Laden propaganda from Western intelligence?
10/12/01: No yellow ribbons
10/05/01: Bubba's back --- again!
09/28/01: Exposing peacetime's frauds
09/21/01: So protected, we're vulnerable
09/14/01: At Barbara Olson's home
09/11/01: Duh! All conservatives are racists
08/31/01: Arafat's terrorists have created their own hell
08/24/01: Time for some political prophecy
08/16/01: They claim to be doing so much good
08/10/01: Visiting the source of the White House braintrust
08/03/01: Morality and reality
07/31/01: Blinded by success?
07/24/01: The latest Kennedy capitulation in Massachusetts
07/13/01: Talk about tawdry
07/06/01: Delighting in the Dictator
06/29/01: The G-dphobes
06/21/01: Fashionable Washington is sempiternally in a stew
06/15/01: The limits of hypocrisy
06/08/01: Flagging our general apathy
© 2001, Creators Syndicate