and the Republican Party lost one of our great all round foreign policy players
this week. Ambassador Richard (Rich) Williamson was one of our smartest, most
politically canny and effective foreign policy/national security professionals.
Given the fact he would have had a large role in a future Republican administration
it is particularly bitter.
was a committed American internationalist. He believed deeply in American exceptionalism.
He had a moral sense about the world that came from his faith in God. He was
always working for the good but also knew that there was evil in the
world and that America had a special moral responsibility to stand up to evil. In
other words, he believed there were times when we need to back up our diplomacy
and our development actions with military action. He believed in using the full
spectrum of American power to shape a world that was more prosperous and more
free. He believed in partnering with our allies and making common cause for a
globalized world led by America.
had a deep understanding and appreciation of the capacities, promise and
frustrations of the multilateral system. He had served as Assistant Secretary
of State for "IO" (International Organizations) at the end of Reagan
and beginning of Bush 41, he had held a number of Ambassadorial jobs
representing the U.S. in the broader UN system and then had served as President
George W. Bush's last special envoy to Sudan where he brought to bear his
understanding of the international system, his clear views of right and wrong
and his capacity to see through baloney in ways that helped stop atrocities and
helped midwife the birth of Africa's 54th country: South Sudan.
had been a Republican activist as well--an asset that many foreign policy types
"misunderestimate." He ran for the Senate in 1992, was the chairman
of the GOP in Illinois and was a Committeeman for the party when he died. I
quickly learned that Rich had a very well honed "BS" detector that he
used on several occasions during the Romney campaign. He was direct and sincere
but also could tell if someone was not being completely straight. I am sure
working in Illinois politics equipped him with those skills.
combined his two passions in foreign policy and the Republican Party through
his leadership of the International Republican Institute-- one of 4 National
Endowment for Democracy institutions launched by President Reagan. IRI promotes
democracy, good governance and human rights around the world. He was the vice chair
of the board when he died.
willing to work across the aisle, he most recently partnered with Former
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on the "Responsibility to
Protect"--a concept that revolves around when countries can step
in and stop atrocities with military force.
met Rich Williamson through the Romney campaign. We struck up a fast
friendship. In the spring of 2012, he called me in my capacity as co-chair
of the Romney international assistance working group because he was
sending a food security group my way. We also agreed to meet for dinner the
following week. At dinner, we talked about politics, the campaign, foreign
policy and our families. We compared notes on Team Romney issues. He had a
great sense of fun. We collaborated a number of times in the campaign and
spoke often afterwards.
was clear during the Romney campaign that Rich's foreign policy and national
security expertise and, critically, his deep domestic U.S. political experience
made him a very useful surrogate and adviser. He had been been Reagan's
Assistant to the President for Inter-governmental Affairs (the job where you
work with Mayors and Governors, etc) -- a job that gave him direct access to
President Reagan. At a dinner last September, he shared a wonderful story about
a conversation he had with Reagan about a particular conservative activist who
was not appointed to something in the Reagan administration. Knowing some of
the shortcomings of the particular appointee candidate, Rich pointedly asked
Reagan why this person had not been appointed to some role in the administration.
Reagan told Rich in a deadpan voice, "Rich, it's because [so and so] is
crazy." It was a very funny story and Rich told it well.
had a keen mind. He wrote at least 8 books and over 200 articles. I loved the
title of the book he gave me which was a compilation of speeches and articles
he gave me "America's Mission in the World." The title says it
was not a "household name" because he made a decision after Reagan to
move back to Chicago for family reasons but worked hard to make important
contributions in the DC policy and political communities through
his advice, his time and his networks and his willingness to take on
challenging public service roles. I imagine he was Global Services on United
from all of his flying time.
the day after the election, Rich called me and left a very thoughtful and kind
voicemail about how great it was to work with me. He did not have to do it but
I really appreciated it as it was not a happy time for any of us on Team
Romney. It was one of those thoughtful things that I will always remember. For
those of us that worked with Rich, the best way we can remember him is to take
up where he left off and keep building the world he envisioned with America in
family has asked that in lieu of flowers that people make donations to the
International Republican Institute (iri.org).
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