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. Bob was a man of sweeping, ambitious ideas, but personal modesty and quiet competence. He had the rare talent of asking the right questions at the right time, and gently nudging discussions toward the “eureka” moment. Every conversation with Bob left you with a perspective you hadn’t considered before.
Bob and I had known each other since his days at the University of Chicago. In 1972, I lured away my friend from his position as dean of St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland to join me at NATO, where I served as U.S. ambassador. Two years later, I was called back to Washington to help the newly sworn-in President Gerald Ford, and one of the first people I recruited to the White House staff was Bob. Bob led seminars for President Ford in the White House solarium, bringing in some of the finest minds in America, not least his own, to discuss the toughest issues of the time.
Bob Goldwin was the Ford administration’s one-man think tank, its intellectual compass, and bridge to a new conservatism—a conservatism that was unashamed to be conservative. He helped provide the intellectual underpinning that convinced many Republicans that they didn’t have to apologize when they stood for lower taxes or suggested that our strategy against the Soviet Union ought not be placation.
The ideas he corralled and the causes he championed—from opposing the creation of a new international bureaucracy with the Law of the Seas Treaty in 1982 to offering wise counsel on a new Iraqi constitution as recently as 2003—were without match. Bob was a valuable counselor and a dear friend.
I considered myself one of his many students, and I know I will miss him. So too will America, but perhaps without fully realizing what is being missed.
Donald Rumsfeld is the former secretary of Defense.