The Magazine

Anne Brunsdale, 1923-2006

Feb 13, 2006, Vol. 11, No. 21 • By CLAUDIA ANDERSON
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BACK IN THE STONE AGE, before the vast right-wing conspiracy and even the Reagan Revolution, there was a conservative Washington (just barely), and one of its fixtures was a handsome, smiling, slightly angular blonde woman named Anne Brunsdale.

Anne, who died recently at 82 at a nursing home in Colorado, was a Minnesotan of Norwegian descent. She studied political science and Far Eastern area studies at the University of Minnesota, then took a second master's degree in comparative government at Yale. In 1950, she moved to Washington to work for the young CIA and stayed six years. During that phase, she was married briefly to the conservative luminary Willmoore Kendall.

Her real Washington career, though, began a decade later, after a detour back in Minneapolis with an investment firm. By 1970, Anne was heading up the publications department for the then-unheard-of American Enterprise Institute, a wonderfully nonbureaucratic, unstuffy collection of scholars and public-policy intellectuals. Anne trained a cadre of young editors (including me) to an exacting standard, before moving on in 1977 to become founding editor of AEI's Regulation magazine.

In the Carter and early Reagan years, conservatives were forcing a shift in the conversation about government. The response to any given public problem was no longer automatically a top-down federal program designed in Washington and paid for out of taxes. Concepts like deregulation, privatization, public-private partnerships, and cost-benefit analysis were being advanced--nowhere more rigorously and creatively than in Regulation.

One measure of the magazine's standing is the promotions that accrued to its masthead after 1980. President Reagan chose its two university-based editors, Antonin Scalia and Murray Weidenbaum, for the Supreme Court and the chairmanship of the Council of Economic Advisers, respectively, while he named Anne, a passionate and principled free-trader, to a seat on the International Trade Commission.

There, she made heroic efforts to improve the quality of data and analysis available to commissioners, seeing to it that economists were added to the staff for the first time. She served as vice chairman, acting chairman, and chairman of the ITC before retiring in 1994.

Anne was a lifelong Republican (not counting the normal youthful flirtation with the far left), but she always had close friends in both political camps, and they tended to be people who enjoyed good food and drink and conversation. Their engagement with politics and ideas was as intense as it was civilized. Despite challenges in her personal life, Anne was personally and politically without rancor.

Family was her mainstay. She was one of four elegant sisters, just one of whom survives. Their progeny, on whom Anne doted--blondes all, and several of them Nordic giants--include nine nieces and nephews, seventeen great-nieces and nephews, and five great-great-nieces and nephews. When family members faced difficulties, Anne stood by them and repeatedly was able to help in significant ways.

An unconflicted fan of the free market, Anne was also a true lover of nature. She was never happier than when tending the camellias in the garden of her Capitol Hill townhouse, hiking the trails at her cabin in Encampment Forest on Lake Superior, or, in one of her last adventures, rafting through the Grand Canyon. At the end of the idyllic week I spent with her at the cabin in the early 1990s, she insisted on digging up a foot-tall pine sapling from the woods for me to take home on the plane and plant in my yard in Virginia.

Many of Anne's Washington contemporaries have preceded her in death; the group of friends who back in the 1960s started educating themselves with do-it-yourself wine-tastings at Chuck Lichenstein's or the Kirkpatricks' or the Pennimans' or the Cernys' or the Boltens' or the Crutchers'--or Anne's--has been decimated with time. And those who are left, along with Anne's many other surviving friends, experienced the loss of her nearly a decade ago when Alzheimer's clouded her mind.

What we retain is an altogether unclouded sense of an immaculately groomed woman, unfailingly cheerful and rational, intolerant of cant, without vanity, warm of heart, and utterly reliable.

-Claudia Anderson