Dean Barnett began contributing to the online and print editions of THE WEEKLY STANDARD in early 2005. In less than four years, he became a favorite of our discerning readers--and of other writers. He wrote witty and penetrating essays and blog items on such diverse topics as presidential politics, the Republican party, the Red Sox, movie-going, HBO's The Wire, the Patriots, Andrew Jackson, life as a legal headhunter, golf, the Netroots, and ... the Red Sox.
In his all-too-brief time as contributor and staff writer for the magazine, Dean wrote 100 pieces for The Daily Standard and THE WEEKLY STANDARD, and published countless entries on The Blog. You can find all of Dean's articles here and his spectacular "Required Reading" contributions to The Blog here. All told, this amounted to hundreds of thousands of words. And all of his work exhibited the trademark tell-it-like-it-is prose, the special gift for a clever turn of phrase, that Dean's readers came to expect and admire.
Here's just one recent example, from the presidential race that of course engaged him mightily, and brought forth from him perceptive and astringent--and humorous--comments. Dean remarked about Barack Obama's military adviser, Maj. Gen. Scott Gration (Ret.): "Gration aims so high as to separate himself from reality. Newsweek quotes him as saying, 'I believe if you could get rid of all the nuclear weapons this would be a wonderful world.' True enough. And if unicorns could gather peacefully beneath a setting sun each night, the world would be a better place."
While Dean's witticisms always made him a joy to read, he was far more than a wit. In his WEEKLY STANDARD cover story on The 9/11 Generation, Dean told the story of the young men and women who answered the call to serve their country by fighting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq:
Regardless of their backgrounds, the soldiers I spoke with had a similar matter-of-fact style. Not only did all of them bristle at the notion of being labeled victims, they bristled at the idea of being labeled heroes. To a man, they were doing what they saw as their duty. Their self-assessments lacked the sense of superiority that politicians of a certain age who once served in the military often display. The soldiers I spoke with also refused to make disparaging comparisons between themselves and their generational cohorts who have taken a different path.
But that doesn't mean the soldiers were unaware of the importance of their undertaking. About a month ago, I attended the commissioning of a lieutenant in the Marine Corps. The day before his commissioning, he had graduated from Harvard. He didn't come from a military family, and it wasn't financial hardship that drove him into the Armed Forces. Don't tell John Kerry, but he studied hard in college. After his commissioning, this freshly minted United States Marine returned to his Harvard dorm room to clean it out.
As he entered the dorm in his full dress uniform, some of his classmates gave him a spontaneous round of applause. A campus police officer took him aside to shake his hand. His father observed, "It was like something out of a movie."
Dean of course suffered from Cystic Fibrosis--and fought it, with amazing courage and determination. In a moving piece of writing, Dean reflected upon this:
At one point during my interview, the questioner asked me if I expected to see a cure to CF in my lifetime. I answered no, but that it doesn't really matter. When you see death up close, a couple of things become clear. One is that we all die, and that death is just part of the deal. The other is that life is such a blessing, that's it just so great, even though you know the inevitable might be near you still want as many bites of the apple as possible.
None of us know what the future of the salt water treatment might be. My health will maintain its current state indefinitely in the truest sense of the term. The good times could continue for years, or it could all crash tomorrow.
But regardless, this treatment has given me time - time to spend with my wife and family and friends. Time to hit golf balls (usually sideways, but even that's alright). Time to chase my dogs around the house. Time that frankly I didn't expect to have. There could be no greater gift, and it's a miracle in so many ways.
None of us at THE WEEKLY STANDARD will forget--and we will always cherish--the time we were privileged to spend with our colleague and friend, Dean Barnett.