Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The Last American Renaissance Man

 

I was only 24 years old when I became a speechwriter for President George W. Bush in 2007 — which was weird. Even weirder: I got the job despite the fact that I had no connections, no credentials, and only the most modest experience. The man who was responsible for all of that was Bruce Herschensohn, who passed away earlier this week at the age of 88. Bruce somehow crammed the work of five lifetimes into one: he was an Oscar-winning filmmaker, a White House aide to President Nixon, a beloved broadcaster in Los Angeles, a U.S. Senate nominee, and a graduate school professor (despite the fact that he only had a high school diploma). Everything that has happened in my professional life stems from one act of kindness from him — and yet my career is the least of what I owe him. I hope you’ll read my tribute to him at City Journal, if only to be reminded that great men can be good men too. A sample:

In the days when Southern California was a power center in Republican politics, it was often said that you could distinguish the Nixon men from the Reagan men at a glance. Each were said to follow the cues of their principal: the Nixonites cold, cynical, and calculating; the Reaganites sunny, positive, and idealistic. Bruce was a walking reprimand to that thesis (though, as a member of the Reagan transition team, he arguably had a foot in both camps). If your only examples of conservatism in the 1980s were Ronald Reagan and Bruce Herschensohn, you could be forgiven for believing that all Republicans had a low resting heart rate, a quick wit, great hair, and a voice that sounded like God after a glass of wine. Lots of people disagreed with Bruce Herschensohn; no one hated him.

Grief seems almost misplaced for a life so fully lived. I can’t imagine what more Bruce Herschensohn could have accomplished — but he would have found something. There is grief nonetheless, and I confess it may be entirely selfish: I’m just a little less interested in a world without Bruce in it.

Those who’ve lost someone dear always counsel you to tell people what they mean to you while they’re still alive. It’s good advice. But you know what? I told Bruce all the time. And I still wish I had done it more. So maybe if I tell the readers of City Journal or my friends here at Ricochet I can work off at least a little more of that debt. You’d have loved him too.

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  1. TBA Coolidge

    We are really getting low on this caliber of man. 

    • #1
    • December 4, 2020, at 9:53 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  2. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western ChauvinistJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Sorry for your (our) loss.

    I always enjoyed hearing him as a guest on Dennis Prager’s radio show. He was an extraordinary man, and he kind of did have the “voice” of God. You can imagine that voice coming from the Burning Bush. . . “Moses, Moses, take off your sandals.” 

    RIP

    • #2
    • December 4, 2020, at 10:25 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  3. Blondie Thatcher

    Nice tribute, Troy. Isn’t it funny how life works sometimes in the people we meet and how we meet them.

    • #3
    • December 4, 2020, at 12:08 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  4. Stad Coolidge

    Sorry you lost someone so meaningful in your life.

    Good to see you’ve posted, although the topic is rather somber . . .

    • #4
    • December 4, 2020, at 2:34 PM PST
    • 4 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  5. MISTER BITCOIN Member

    I remember him from ABC7 in Los Angeles.

    And he ran for US Senate California in 1986 or 92?

     

    • #5
    • December 4, 2020, at 7:07 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  6. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    I remember him from ABC7 in Los Angeles.

    And he ran for US Senate California in 1986 or 92?

     

    Bruce twice ran for the Senate, finishing second in a 13-candidate field in the 1986 Republican primary and earning the party’s nomination in 1992, when he came within five points of defeating Barbara Boxer for an open seat. He never tried for any other elected office, simply because none interested him. Single-mindedly focused on foreign policy—he was virulently anti-Communist—the Senate was the only station that he thought more powerful for those purposes than a media perch.

    • #6
    • December 5, 2020, at 4:21 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  7. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge

    Thanks Troy. Good stuff:

     

    This was, to put it mildly, absurd. I was 23 years old, unconnected, uncredentialed, and not ready for a mid-level writing job at Hallmark. Yet within a year, I was walking through the northwest gate of the White House, watching the sun rise over the West Wing, and awaiting a breakfast appointment in the White House Mess. Six weeks later, I was being shown to my desk in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, all because Bruce Herschensohn—who was nearly 75 at the time and had every right to be spending the rest of his life on a beach somewhere—felt duty-bound to remain in service to his country, even if it was only a matter of finding people who could follow, however inadequately, in his footsteps.

    • #7
    • December 5, 2020, at 4:23 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  8. Stad Coolidge

    Gazpacho Grande' (View Comment):

    Thanks Troy. Good stuff:

     

    This was, to put it mildly, absurd. I was 23 years old, unconnected, uncredentialed, and not ready for a mid-level writing job at Hallmark. Yet within a year, I was walking through the northwest gate of the White House, watching the sun rise over the West Wing, and awaiting a breakfast appointment in the White House Mess. Six weeks later, I was being shown to my desk in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, all because Bruce Herschensohn—who was nearly 75 at the time and had every right to be spending the rest of his life on a beach somewhere—felt duty-bound to remain in service to his country, even if it was only a matter of finding people who could follow, however inadequately, in his footsteps.

    Can you say, “Only in America”?

    • #8
    • December 5, 2020, at 6:24 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  9. Dave Carter Podcaster

    Beautiful post, Troy, and an amazing piece at City Journal. I’m embarrassed to say that I was unfamiliar with Mr. Herschensohn, but I’m delighted that’s no longer the case, thanks to you. Of course, the phrase, “… and a voice that sounded like God after a glass of wine,” was especially resonating. He sounds like a gentle soul with a powerful spirit. Thanks for bringing this remarkable man to our attention, and please accept my condolences on what I know is a deeply felt loss.

    • #9
    • December 5, 2020, at 7:11 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  10. Troy Senik Contributor
    Troy Senik

    If you want a taste of how different the US Senate would have been had Barbara Boxer lost in 1992, take a look at this debate she had with Bruce:

    https://www.c-span.org/video/?32607-1/california-senate-debate 

    • #10
    • December 5, 2020, at 8:52 AM PST
    • 4 likes