By Joe Holley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 9, 2006
Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, 80, a Georgetown University political science professor who became the first woman to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and who was one of the chief architects of the muscular anti-Communist foreign policy that came to be known as the Reagan doctrine, died Dec. 7 at her home in Bethesda, where she was under hospice care.
Her assistant, Andrea Harrington, said she died in her sleep. The cause of death was not immediately known.
"She defended the cause of freedom at a pivotal time in world history," President Bush said yesterday. "Jeane's powerful intellect helped America win the Cold War."
Praising Kirkpatrick's "commitment to an effective United Nations," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said she was "always ardent and often provocative."
For many years a Cold War liberal, a Democrat in the tradition of senators Hubert H. Humphrey Jr. (Minn.) and Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson (Wash.), Kirkpatrick became a neoconservative in the 1970s and then a Republican Party stalwart. An academic and a public intellectual who never held elective office, she briefly considered seeking the Republican presidential nomination in 1988.
She came to Ronald Reagan's attention in 1979, when he read an article she had written for the neoconservative magazine Commentary, "Dictatorships and Double Standards." In the article, she accused the Carter administration of abiding totalitarian enemies on the left while holding authoritarian allies in Latin America and elsewhere to a higher standard.
It was difficult, she wrote, to "democratize governments, any time, anywhere, under any circumstances" although "right-wing autocracies do sometimes evolve into democracies" but communist societies never do.
"This is incredible. Who is this person?" Reagan is said to have exclaimed.
The columnist George Will introduced the two at a dinner party at his Georgetown home in 1980, and Kirkpatrick eventually decided to endorse Reagan for president and to campaign for him. When he named her U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, she became the first Democrat to fill a Cabinet-level post in the administration. She was unanimously confirmed by the Senate.
She warned that she would not be "a ventriloquist's dummy" at the United Nations, mouthing administration policy, and there were times when her willingness to speak her mind ruffled feelings not only at the United Nations but within the administration.
Although she arrived at the United Nations with no diplomatic experience, she quickly assumed a high-profile role. Her fellow envoys may have considered her arrogant and condescending, but they knew she had Reagan's ear.
An influential voice in the development of administration policies toward Central America, Kirkpatrick supported the military junta in El Salvador and was an ardent supporter of anti-Sandinista rebels fighting the leftist Sandinista government of Nicaragua. She helped develop the covert plan to provide $19 million in aid to the contras.
She also defended Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and the American invasion of Grenada in 1983.
Kirkpatrick, the only woman in President Reagan's National Security Council, told Time magazine in 1982 that her gender could have been the cause of her difficulties with Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig and other administration officials. The author of "Political Women" (1974), a major study of the role of women in modern politics, she acknowledged that a woman in high office is "intrinsically controversial."
"Many people think a woman shouldn't be in high office," she told Time. "Kissinger is described as 'professorial.' I am described as 'schoolmarmish.' Brzezinski is called 'Doctor.' I am called "Mrs.' I am depicted as a witch or a scold in editorial cartoons -- and the speed with which these stereotypes have been used shows how close these feelings are to the surface. It is much worse than I ever dreamed it would be. My feelings are hurt."
With her closely cropped gray hair, utilitarian clothes and blunt speaking style, the public JeaneKirkpatrick seemed humorless and austere. "Raised eyebrows give her an expression of sustained skepticism, as if she lives on the verge of some crucial debate the rest of us do not hear," James Conaway observed in a 1981 Washington Post Magazine article.
Friends of Kirkpatrick's told Conaway that she was much more charming in private; Peter Arnold, a former colleague at the American Enterprise Institute, said she had a "remarkable sense of humor." Her great passion, she once said, was listening to the pianist Glenn Gould play Bach.
In 1985, the Washington Post editorial page, describing Kirkpatrick as "a highly articulate and intellectual Democrat who cares deeply about ideas in politics," praised her for her plain speaking about the penchant of some Third World countries to blame Israel and the United States for everything.
She was born Jeane Duane Jordan in Duncan, Okla., the daughter of an oil field wildcatter who moved his family to a succession of small towns in Oklahoma and Illinois seeking the elusive big strike.
She received an associate's degree from Stephens College in Columbia, Mo., in 1946, and a bachelor's degree in 1950 from Barnard College, where she considered herself a socialist.
While working on a master's degree in political science from Columbia University, she became a resolute anti-Stalinist as a result of stories that had begun to emerge about the horrors of the Nazi and Soviet concentration camps.
After receiving a master's degree in 1950, Kirkpatrick worked briefly as a research analyst in the State Department and then did postgraduate work in 1952-53 at the Institut de Science Politique of the University of Paris.
She moved to Washington after marrying political scientist Evron Kirkpatrick, a deputy director of the State Department's Intelligence Research Bureau; worked on her dissertation; raised three boys and stayed involved in Democratic Party politics.
After the 1972 Democratic National Convention, she became one of the charter members of the Coalition for a Democratic Majority, a group that included senators Humphrey, Jackson and Daniel Patrick Moynihan (N.Y.), Commentary editor Norman Podhoretz and his wife, neoconservative author Midge Decter. The aim of the CDC was to reclaim the Democratic Party from the McGovernites.
In 1962, she became an assistant professor of political science at Trinity College in the District and in 1967 associate professor of political science at Georgetown University. After finishing her dissertation, "Peronist Politics in Argentina," she received a doctorate from Columbia University in 1968. She became a full professor at Georgetown in 1973.
In 1978, she joined the American Enterprise Institute, which had become an intellectual home for many of her fellow CDC neoconservatives. Kirkpatrick, the only female scholar in residence, was a forceful advocate of American hegemony in a dangerous world.
She finally changed parties in 1985, registering as a Republican in Montgomery County after stepping down as U.N. ambassador. A year earlier, she had energized delegates to the 1984 Republican National Convention with her attacks on "the San Francisco Democrats." As she led delegates in a chant of "they always blame America first," she could look out over the throng and see a number of "Kemp-Kirkpatrick" buttons.
She explained her party conversion by saying she was "tired of swimming against the current in my own party." Democrats, she contended, no longer stood for "growth at home, strength abroad." She did, however, remain true to her Democratic Party heritage on organized labor and most social issues.
She remained active in public life after leaving the United Nations, although she was reportedly disappointed that Reagan did not offer her another Cabinet-level position in his second term.
Back at Georgetown University and at the American Enterprise Institute, she wrote articles and a syndicated column for the Los Angeles Times, spoke regularly on politics and public policy and was a frequent foreign policy adviser to Republicans.
Last year, she was one of seven former U.N. ambassadors who wrote a letter urging lawmakers not to withhold dues as a way to force reform.
Kirkpatrick's husband died in 1995. A son, Douglas Kirkpatrick, died this year.
Survivors include two sons, Stuart Kirkpatrick, known as Traktung Rinpoche, a Buddhist minister in Ann Arbor, Mich., and John Kirkpatrick, a lawyer in Miami.