Joseph Shattan, 1950-2014
3:45 PM, Jun 8, 2014 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
I'm sorry to report that Joe Shattan—talented writer, dedicated anti-Communist, and above all a truly fine and decent man—has died after a courageous struggle with cancer at the age of 63.
Joe came to Washington to serve as a foot-soldier in the Reagan Revolution. His unusual skill as a wordsmith and thinker meant that he was always in demand as a speechwriter, and he wrote in the 1980s and early 1990s for figures ranging from Jeane Kirkpatrick to Elliott Abrams to Bill Bennett to Dan Quayle to Phil Gramm. He ultimately returned to the White House in the George W. Bush administration to pitch in once again in the struggle against the new threats that had emerged to the liberty he cherished and the country he loved.
Joe and I worked closely together at the Education Department and Office of the Vice President. Everyone realized that as a speechwriter he was a rare talent. They also came to see quickly that Joe was a rare human being—combining kindness and decency with a dry wit and a wry outlook on life. I've been struck, ever since word got around earlier this week that Joe was very ill, by the number of emails and phone calls from people, some of whom had moved away and hadn't seen him for years, who went out of their way to recall Joe's splendid character.
One problem with being a speechwriter is you don't get credit for your work—and of course your work is also subject to revisions by other hands, so it's hard for later observers to know exactly what your contribution was. Fortunately, Joe left writings in his own name that we can appreciate—a fine book published in 1999, Architects of Victory: Six Heroes of the Cold War, and articles in various journals, especially in recent years in the American Spectator, where many are available online.
One article that seems to me to capture Joe's wit and self-deprecating personality appeared in the American Spectator in April 2009, on the occasion of Joe's retirement from the federal government at the end of the Bush administration.
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