William P. Clark, one of President Reagan most trusted advisors died last Saturday. He was 81. Clark was a Justice of the California Supreme Court before serving various roles in the Reagan administration, including National Security Advisor and Secretary of the Interior. Steven Hayward, reviewing Paul Kengor and Patricia Doerner’s The Judge, William P. Clark: Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand, highlighted Clark’s accomplishments in the Reagan administration:
Clark was a true Cincinnatus, entering public service reluctantly and without personal ambition, and longing always to return to the plough. As they did Reagan, the media and his opponents consistently underestimated and ridiculed him, though he was supremely able. In some respects Clark could be considered Ronald Reagan without the Hollywood personality, and indeed the judge stands out as the one person with whom the president was personally close—the exception to Reagan’s well-known personal distance. (Clark is the person who originated the famous slogan, “let Reagan be Reagan.”)
With access to Clark’s private papers and other previously restricted sources, Kengor and Doerner detail for the first time many of Clark’s exploits, especially his crucial role as national security advisor in 1982 and 1983, when Reagan’s Soviet strategy took definite shape. His role in the president’s March 1983 speech announcing the Strategic Defense Initiative was decisive. Virtually everyone in the upper reaches of the administration was against the speech, except for Clark. It is hard to imagine Reagan going through with it without the judge’s back-up.
He was also, writes Hayward, “the only senior member of the president’s inner circle who never wrote a memoir of his time with Reagan.” [Powerline, August 10]