Unlike Jonah and other colleagues on the Corner, I can’t pretend to have known Andrew Breitbart very well. I suppose I met him on about four occasions. The first was the Hollywood conservative party to which I was taken by Matt Scully and Rob Long from a Reagan Library conference a few years ago. He immediately struck me, as he apparently struck everyone, as distilled energy — permanently fizzing and always on the lookout for the Next Big Thing or the Next Big Story. But he was also welcoming, friendly, knowledgeable about NR and the earlier days of the conservative movement but keen to know more, and generally full of fun and hospitable. If he had done nothing else, getting Hollywood conservatives to meet, exchange experiences, and give each other civil courage would have been a real service to the cause. Of course, he did a great deal more.
The second occasion when we met was on a lively NR cruise. We had several long conversations: I was fascinated by the rise of his new-media empire, he was very curious about the work of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. We agreed he should visit the Radios in Prague — as writers from P. J. O’Rourke to Rick Herzberg to Rob Long have done in recent years — to see the ways in which we get around the various jamming and blocking devices that authoritarian governments employ to keep our accurate news and honest commentary. I am sad that visit will not now take place. He would have enjoyed meeting a group of journalists from 20 countries, speaking 28 languages, who have some of the same piratical spirit as Andrew himself — and they would have benefited enormously from his genius at exploiting the new and social media in fresh ways.
Andrew was a media entrepreneur of genius, in the same league as Hearst, Pulitzer, and Murdoch, and if he had lived, one who would have had comparable achievements. He was also a brave and resourceful warrior — I will never forget the brilliant comedy of his walking into a crowd of union protesters and simply asking them what they were protesting about. None of them could give an account. His simple question explained more than a 5,000-word article in the New Yorker could have done.
By chance I happen to be on a cruise at present — a Hillsdale college cruise — along with colleagues such as Steve Hayward and Bing West. All cruises tend to have a guest list of a certain age. Hillsdale’s party is a little younger than the average, but it is not drawn from the Tweeting Generation. Yet when the news of Andrew’s untimely death reached us, a pall at once fell on our discussions. His enterprise and bravery had spread his fame far and wide among conservatives. They admired his unique ability to barge uninvited into the liberal media party — literally so on such occasions as Representative Weiner’s press conference — and steer it away from their control in a conservative direction.
His death is a huge loss.
Rest In Peace does not, however, seem the correct salutation for a free spirit like Andrew. I have to think he will carry on fizzing in a world of still brighter possibilities.