Jeane Kirkpatrick led a harder life, professionally and personally, than her admirers ever imagined. In fact, her reputation as an American version of Britain’s “Iron Lady,” Margaret Thatcher, was a reflection of her ability to concentrate on philosophical and policy objectives while keeping her travails carefully compartmentalized. Given the often hostile reception she received because of her tenacious advocacy of U.S. national security, it is understandable that Kirkpatrick sought to conceal the chinks in her armor that might give her enemies satisfaction. But such efforts at concealment will have their price, even when they succeed in keeping political adversaries, the media, and busybodies at bay.
Indeed, the story of how Peter Collier’s new biography, Political Woman, came into being offers a glimpse of how Kirkpatrick managed her highly compartmentalized existence. During his tenure as founding editor of Encounter Books, Collier, the author (and co-author) of bestselling biographies of the Ford, Kennedy, Rockefeller, and Roosevelt families, pressed Kirkpatrick to resume an autobiography she had first attempted to write immediately after stepping down as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in 1985. That effort, on which she worked in fits and starts for years, was clearly something Kirkpatrick was not comfortable pursuing, since it would have meant parting the curtain either on her own past or her Reagan administration service.
About the Author
John R. Bolton is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Like Jeane Kirkpatrick, he served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.