The Corner

Politics & Policy

Kate Walsh O’Beirne R.I.P.

Kate O’Beirne was part of National Review’s world before she joined the staff. When she became the magazine’s Washington editor in 1995 her resume already included stints at Senator Jim Buckley’s office, the Reagan administration, and the Heritage Foundation. She served NR in that position for eleven years and then became president of National Review Institute for six more.

She brought a witty and well-informed conservatism to a national television audience as well through weekly appearances on CNN’s marquee political talk show “Capital Gang.” Conservatives were outnumbered there as on cable news generally at that time, but it never seemed that way as long as she was on.

Both her “Bread and Circuses” column for NR and her television commentary were marked by a rare combination of a deep interest in conservative policy, psychological insight, and common sense. Many of those same qualities put her advice — on politics, editorials, careers, and personal matters — in high demand.

It was advice she was happy to give, setting her listeners right while somehow also making them feel like geniuses. She enlivened every party, taking special care for the people who seemed shy or left out. This same impulse led her to take in young colleagues, or classmates of her children, who had nowhere to go for holidays.

And it made her one of the most beloved people of Washington, D.C.

You had to get to know her very well before you realized she was an introvert, one who was making a titanic effort to make sure everyone was happy.

Kate was a quiet apostle for the Catholic faith, taking great satisfaction in the people she had brought, or brought back, to it, and cooking for priests who would “eat me out of house and home.” Reverence was never a chore for her. Leaving last year’s National Catholic Prayer Breakfast — one of her final public outings — she saw a favorite priest tipping a bellman, she thought, inadequately. She gently corrected him: “Father, you took a vow of poverty, not him.”

Decades of chain-smoking caught up with her last year — vaping came too late for her — leading to an ordeal from which she shielded nearly everyone who loved her.

In her final days she clutched a rosary while surrounded by her devoted husband Jim, her adored sons Phil and John, her sisters Mary Ann, Virginia, and Rosemary, and many friends. Her great regret was that she would not be able to spend more time doting on her grandchildren. She died at noon on this Divine Mercy Sunday.

Phil noted that his mother had believed in the show-business adage, Leave them wanting more. She has done that. R I P.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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