As of now, I am in control here, in the White House

A Key Figure in American History Died Saturday

Were you aware of that? Many of you probably know who I mean.

Perhaps the best comment I’ve seen on the life of William Clark, former judge and advisor to Ronald Reagan, was made by another ex-Reagan aide, Faith Whittlesey, via The Washington Times:

Bill Clark was Ronald Reagan’s best friend and was the great unsung hero of the Cold War. He faithfully and effectively carried out Ronald Reagan’s policies within the government in the face of constant opposition inside the White House, in the agencies, and in the Washington establishment.

Bill Clark championed two issues above all others: the defeat of Marxism-Leninism and the sanctity of human life. He was a man of great faith, unfailing courtesy, and high intellect. Ronald Reagan loved and deeply respected Bill Clark with good reason.

One of the policies on which Clark prevailed over the opposition of many within the administration – let alone outside it – was the Strategic Defense Initiative, the anti-missile program that helped bring the Soviet Union down. Without Clark, it’s possible Reagan would never have given his March 1983 speech announcing the policy.

William ClarkThe Soviets did everything they could to demonize the program and get Reagan to drop it, and for good reason. They knew they couldn’t compete with it, both because they were behind on the technology and lacked the financial resources to keep pace.

SDI and Reagan’s massive defense buildup forced the Soviets to spend more of their increasingly scarce resources on the military, helping lead to collapse of the USSR. Clark, as deputy Secretary of State and then as National Security advisor during Reagan’s first term, was the leading shaper of Reagan’s Cold War policy.

So if you think Reagan was a major figure in American history, then you think Clark was too.

Clark’s unique relationship with Reagan was the greatest source of his influence.

Former Reagan White House officials I’ve spoken with over the years all give the same familiar assessment of Reagan: He was personable, but he remained ultimately aloof and enigmatic. But they also said what you can read in some of the obituaries appearing over the past few days: that Bill Clark was the one man Reagan was personally close to, someone he trusted over everyone else.

Clark’s style – quiet, thoughtful, and willing to let others take credit – was the other source of his effectiveness.

Clark did things that are unimaginable for President Obama and his coterie: He consulted with former presidents and with experts who had served in previous administrations, putting aside pettiness in the interest of U.S. national security. One person he was particularly close to was Henry Kissinger.

In the end, Clark’s unwillingness to engage in the usual Washington intrigue helped undo him. He resigned as National Security Advisor in 1983 because he was tired of all the anger being generated among others by his hardline polices and his closeness to Reagan.

Judge William P. Clark, RIP. And thank you.

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11 Responses to A Key Figure in American History Died Saturday

  1. A long-time family friend with great loyalty to Ventura County, respectful of his friends and never one to draw attention to himself.

  2. Tks Keith, I didn’t hear or even read of his passing. ANYWHERE. Very kind words you wrote about him. Someone who worked behind the scenes for the common good. A rare quality in this day and age.

  3. President Reagan and William Clark crafted the brilliant ‘Star Wars’ strategy that ultimately led to the demise of the Soviet Union. History underscores the incredible insight of both men who were completely committed to “Peace Through Strength” which is the hallmark of President Reagan’s leadership mantra.

    Thank-you for your insightful article about the Honorable Judge William P. Clark. Like President Reagan, his life-story is most inspirational! jb

  4. Thank you for your beautiful tribute to one of our unsung heroes, Keith. The ‘city on a shining hill’ has lost so much of its lustre since the passing of Ronald Reagan…and now, his ‘alter ego’. RIP, Judge Clark.

  5. I lived in the US during the Reagan years and that picture brought back sweet memories. Oh, that White House, that president…….
    Thank you for a beautiful tribute to William Clark, a gentleman in the political world.