Robert A. Goldwin, 87

Robert A. Goldwin, 87; political scientist, White House adviser

 Robert A. Goldwin, 53, working at his stand up desk at the White House.
Robert A. Goldwin, 53, working at his stand up desk at the White House. (United Press International)
Friday, January 22, 2010

Robert A. Goldwin, 87, a political scientist who served as an adviser to President Gerald R. Ford and Donald Rumsfeld before becoming a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research for more than 20 years, died Jan. 12 at Montgomery Hospice's Casey House in Rockville. He had pneumonia.

Mr. Goldwin, a specialist in constitutional studies and conservative political philosophy, was the dean of St. John's College in Annapolis from 1969 to 1973. He left academia for government and politics when Rumsfeld, then the U.S. ambassador to NATO, hired him as an adviser.

When Rumsfeld became Ford's chief of staff in 1974, Mr. Goldwin followed him to become what was loosely defined as White House intellectual-in-residence. He convened leading scholars of different ideological persuasions to discuss current issues with Ford, including crime, affirmative action and ethnicity in American life.

"Few individuals had as much influence on the thinking of conservative American policy makers and yet were as little known to the public as Bob Goldwin," wrote Rumsfeld in a recent tribute on the Web site of the American Enterprise Institute. He "was the Ford administration's one-man think tank, its intellectual compass, and bridge to a new conservatism."

Robert Allen Goldwin was born in New York City to two restaurateurs. He was an Army veteran of World War II, and he graduated from St. John's College in 1950. He received a master's degree in 1954 and a doctorate in 1963, both in political science, from the University of Chicago.

As a student at Chicago, he was influenced by professor and German-born political philosopher Leo Strauss, who argued against liberal relativism and for the idea that morals are grounded in nature. Strauss's ideas were adopted by a generation of conservative thinkers, including Irving Kristol.

Mr. Goldwin, who taught during the 1960s at the University of Chicago and at Kenyon College in Ohio, received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1966. He was the editor of more than 30 volumes on American politics and two books, including "From Parchment to Power: How James Madison Used the Bill of Rights to Save the Constitution" (1997).

His wife of 53 years, the former Daisy Josephine Lateiner, died in 1998.

Survivors include four children, Jane Bandler of Bethesda, Elizabeth Goldwin of Cedar Crest, N.M., Nancy Harvey of Jerusalem and Seth Goldwin of Zurich; a sister; and 10 grandchildren.

Despite his behind-the-scenes influence at the White House, Mr. Goldwin described himself, in a 1975 interview with the New York Times, as simply a teacher.

"I don't want to make it seem that the President is some kind of pupil, trying to overcome areas of ignorance," he said of the seminars he put together for Ford. "It's a search for the right question much more than it is a search for an answer."

-- Emma Brown

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