Tony Blankley, 1948-2012
9:37 AM, Jan 9, 2012 • By ARNOLD STEINBERG
Fast forward two years. I enlisted Tony as a volunteer in the campaign of Bobbi Fiedler. When she defeated 20-year incumbent Jim Corman, then chairman of thee Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in an epic and hugely expensive race in a "safe" Democratic district, I recommended that the Congresswoman-elect hire Tony as her chief legislative aide. It was an easy sell. Tony was conspicuously brilliant and intuitively strategic. His incisive logic was exceeded only by his incredible wit and great charm. It was fun to hear Tony laugh at his own jokes. It was inspiring to hear his lucid analysis.
When a mutual friend recommended that Newt Gingrich, then minority whip, hire Tony as his press secretary, I warned Tony that Newt was hard to get along with. Several people had come and gone in that job. Newt needed the slot filled immediately, and he hired Tony without the customary in-person interview. Tony was always straightforward with Newt, often telling him things he might not want to hear. Newt respected Tony and acquiesced to this condition—Newt would never disturb Tony's family life. No crisis could trump Tony's time at home.
Tony Blankley was kind and generous. He also was a powerful intellect who understood big ideas: an elegant man of great refinement and culture who argued with passion and conviction. Tony's long career in law and politics, journalism and television—and also in the business world—was ample proof that he was a renaissance man. I never understood when I met him at age 11 how he had a British accent. More than a half century later, I never figured out how he kept it.
Tony's sister Maggie told me that as recently as last week, Tony "was expecting a very good chance at prolonging his life, but he was greatly weakened by the complications" before he started chemotherapy last Friday. The treatment, she said, proved more than his system could handle.
Tony's life was way too short. He enjoyed every minute of it. So did all of us who knew him.
Arnold Steinberg is a political strategist and analyst.