Richard S. Williamson was not a household name, but for decades he was a tireless public servant and resolute defender of America’s national security. He passed away suddenly this weekend; he was 64. A release from the McCain Institute recounts, “He was involved in a wide variety of civic organizations, including serving as a nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, as senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and as a trustee of Freedom House. Williamson was also Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs in the Reagan White House, Ambassador to the United Nations Offices in Vienna (including the International Atomic Energy Agency), Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, member of the President’s General Advisory Committee on Arms Control, Ambassador to the United Nations for Special Political Affairs, Ambassador to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, the Republican Party’s nominee for U.S. Senate in 1993.” While he lost that Senate race to Carol Moseley Braun, he was an accomplished lawyer, author and speaker.
I came to know Richard in his capacity as a senior foreign policy adviser to Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008 and Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign. He was a staunch advocate for his candidates, and beyond that for the principle that foreign policy is the most critical aspect of any presidency and therefore must be a topic of debate in presidential elections. When other policy advisers pleaded to downplay foreign policy, Richard insisted it deserved a full airing. Many of the positions he helped his candidates articulate — the danger of Russian aggression, the Obama administration’s duplicity in Libya, the rise of the Iran-Syria axis, the need for adequate national security spending and the need to speak boldly on behalf of human rights — have proved entirely accurate. The country would have been greatly served had he returned to public office.
In the hurly-burly of a presidential campaign Richard was unflappable, honest and gracious — treasured qualities in a public servant. In the best sense of the phrase, he was an old-school gentleman.
Elliott Abrams, a former deputy national security adviser who knew Richard well, e-mails: “Rich Williamson was a happy warrior. He was an unflappable soldier of freedom, serving several Republican presidents in the Cold War and then the war against terror, and always, always, in the peaceful but often very rough battle against the Democrats. His ready smile, his sharp political instincts, and his dedication to public service will be long remembered.” He adds, “In politics there’s a lot of ego and self promotion, but Rich was there to help the party and serve the nation. In the next Republican administration he would have had a very senior foreign policy position, and when that day comes we will miss his counsel, his calm, and his unchanging good humor. He was a wonderful man.”
His passing reminds us how essential a strong foreign policy is to the country’s well-being. He stood up for a strong America, one that leads the Free World. In addition to conservative groups, including the RNC, which have remarked on his passing, I would hope in the near future our current U.N. ambassador and others in the elite foreign policy establishment who knew him well will honor his achievements. He, as they know, was never one to put partisanship above country. He will be missed.