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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.Published in