Life with Jeane
Dec 18, 2006, Vol. 12, No. 14 • By CLAUDIA ANDERSON
In 1982, Jeane Kirkpatrick brought out a collection of her essays under the title of the best known of them, "Dictatorships and Double Standards." The book is dedicated to "Douglas, John, Stuart, and Ricardo."
Douglas, John, and Stuart are the names of the Kirkpatricks' three sons. So who's Ricardo?
I used to wish the public knew, back during the Zoë Baird flap early in the Clinton administration. Baird was the nominee for attorney general whose prospects foundered over her employment of an illegal alien as her children's nanny. There ensued a spate of revelations and micro-scandals about prosperous, prominent two-career couples who hadn't paid Social Security taxes on domestic employees, or who employed illegals, or otherwise cut corners or exploited immigrants working for them as domestic servants.
The Kirkpatricks (who were close friends of my parents) had always been a two-career couple. Kirk, as Jeane's husband Evron was known, was executive director of the American Political Science Association. Jeane told me once that as a young woman she hadn't expected to marry, so dedicated was she to the life of the mind. As a little girl, she spent one of her first dollars on a thesaurus. "So what happened," I asked. "You fell in love?" She put it differently: "Kirk fell in love with me."
Love and marriage and three sons in short order didn't derail her graduate studies in political science, but did slow them down. Jeane took till she was 40 to finish her Ph.D. and always managed her teaching and writing load so as to remain a hands-on mother.
Still, household help was needed to keep all these pieces in the air, and soon a single mother moved in to work as the Kirkpatricks' housekeeper, bringing with her her young son, Ricardo. The little boy played with the Kirkpatrick boys. Before long he was calling Kirk Daddy, and Jeane, who spoke good Spanish, was interpreting at his teacher conferences at school.
Jeane had high regard for Ricardo's mother, and made it a personal project to see that she learned English, then that she took the necessary courses to get certified as a beautician so as to have the prospect of an independent home for herself and Ricardo. Over the years, this took a lot of encouragement, cajoling even, not to mention driving. But the scheme was successful. To Jeane, it was the obvious, normal thing for an American to do.
As for Jeane's public life, it was that 1979 essay "Dictatorships and Double Standards" that became the springboard for her hour upon the world stage, as Ronald Reagan's ambassador to the United Nations at the height of the Cold War. An anecdote she told me captures the magnitude of her achievement.
A few years after she left office, she went on a private trip to the Soviet Union with a group of prominent Americans, the likes of Henry Kissinger. They went to visit the eminent Soviet physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, who had recently been allowed to return to Moscow after his years of internal exile in Gorky. The group waited in the foyer of Sakharov's building.
When the great man appeared and approached, he asked, Where was "Kirkpatski"? Led to her, he took her hand and welcomed her and said, "I want you to know that your name is known in every cell in the gulag."
I visited Jeane only once in New York during her brilliant years at the U.N. We had lunch in her residence at the Waldorf, an omelette and fresh raspberries; then had a little time before the U.S. ambassador's annual Fourth of July reception. I realized I had forgotten a bag I had checked at the Metropolitan Museum earlier in the day and would have to go back to fetch it. Someone mentioned that the ambassador's car and driver were sitting downstairs. Perhaps they could go for the bag, or drive me? Jeane considered it for a second, then, no doubt imagining what her detractors in the press might make of such an injury to the public fisc, looked at me in a way that conveyed: It's not worth it. I took a cab.
Before my stay was over, Jeane showed me another of her perks of office: She was allowed to borrow paintings from the Metropolitan to hang in the official residence, and she took me into the bedroom to see her three gorgeous turquoise Dufys. We sat on the bed and talked, and I noticed something else: her dressing table, with some snapshots stuck into the mirror frame. They were pictures of Douglas, John, Stuart--and Ricardo.
The last time I saw Ricardo, married now, was a couple of months ago after Douglas's sudden death. At the funeral, Ricardo was a pallbearer, alongside Stuart and John. No doubt I'll see him again in coming days as we all gather once more, this time to honor Jeane.