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Politics & Policy

‘Pistol Pete’

Pete du Pont in 2011 (Public domain via Wikimedia)

No, he wasn’t called that. But I thought of him that way. I’ll get to Pete du Pont in a moment.

My Impromptus today leads with Caitlyn Jenner and California. A reality-TV star, and tabloid celebrity, can make a big splash in American politics. (“Manifestly,” I can hear WFB saying.) But is it good for us? I also write on Anthony Gonzalez, Liz Cheney, Alexei Navalny, Hugo Wolf, and more.

Pete du Pont was one of my favorite people in all of politics. (He died on Saturday, at 86.) I was a big fan when he ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988. He ran on what he called “damn-right ideas” – ideas that make you say, “Damn right.”

I met him for the first time in 1992. I said I was an admirer. He said, “Better not stand too close, then. I’m better from afar.” He was modest, bright, and charming.

More than once, I remarked that he was an unusual scion of wealth. Usually, they lean toward big government – governmental paternalism, noblesse oblige. But Pete du Pont was a free-market man. In this, he was like Steve Forbes – two scions of wealth, both of them strong for free markets, and hostile to socialism, etc.

Once, I asked du Pont about this. He said that, when he was in Congress (1971 to 1977), he was fairly friendly to big government. But when he became a governor (the governor of Delaware, from 1977 to 1985), he really learned. The experience changed him a lot, he said.

He also told me about the first du Ponts to emigrate from France. Wonderful stories. Wish I could remember them, with precision. I never got du Pont on tape, which I regret.

I always wanted him, in a Republican administration, to be named Treasury secretary or Fed chairman. Never happened.

And I thought of him as “Pistol Pete,” yes. The name comes Pete Maravich, the basketball phenom. I was enthusiastic about both Petes – both Pistol Petes. May we have more like du Pont (and like Maravich).


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