When I came to National Review in 1998, Kate O’Beirne welcomed me like that friendly mom who looks out for the nervous new kid on the block. I rarely went into the DC office back in those days, in large part because I knew if I did, I’d get sucked into an endless – and endlessly entertaining – conversation with her. Kate loved to talk, to gossip and to plot. In a 20 minute conversation you could get five column ideas that no one else had written.
If Irving Kristol was the “Godfather” of neoconservatism then Kate O’Beirne was the den mother of the modern American right, or at least my corner of it. She looked out for people, she groomed them, told them what – and who – to watch out for (her B.S. detector was sensitive on a parts per billion scale).
Kate wouldn’t object to such a “gendered” description either, at least I don’t think she would. She despised modern feminism, but was no demure wallflower. She was what an earlier generation might have called a “terrific Dame,” of the sort one might find in a Frank Capra movie. And she shared, along with her husband Jim, a Capraesque love for her country and its best self. She was a career woman and a devoted mom, a fierce ideological warrior and loving wife, a sincere and passionate Catholic who could laugh at – or tell – a ribald joke over drinks at the bar. She understood philosophically that life involves compromise, but she always made it look like such rules didn’t apply to her.
The comparison to Irving Kristol is apt for another reason. There are lots of famous conservatives – and she was one — but only a handful whose most important work is done away from the page or the screen. She mentored a generation of young writers, policymakers and politicians — particularly young women who simultaneously believed in “traditional values” but also sought to make a mark in the world in their own right. She modeled that balance in her own life with joy and wisdom and she helped countless others follow in her footsteps.
She was simply one of the most remarkable women I have ever known. Rest in peace.