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RIP Kate O’Beirne

Our friend Kate O’Beirne, longtime Washington editor of National Review, and a fixture of conservative politics for more than thirty years passed away yesterday.

Kate’s roots in the conservative movement ran deep. She worked in Senator Jim Buckley’s office, served as an Kate O'Beirneassistant secretary of Health and Human Services in the Reagan administration, and worked at the Heritage Foundation. She served as National Review’s Washington editor for eleven years and then became president of National Review Institute for six more.

She also spent a decade as a panelist on CNN’s “Capital Gang,” and it was probably through her television appearances that Kate O’Beirne gained her widest audience and most recognition outside the confines of movement conservatism.

As Ramesh Ponnuru said in his memorial piece posted on National Review soon after her death was announced, “She brought a witty and well-informed conservatism to a national television audience as well through weekly appearances on CNN’s marquee political talk show ‘Capital Gang.’ Conservatives were outnumbered there as on cable news generally at that time, but it never seemed that way as long as she was on.”

A great part of Kate O’Beirne’s appeal on screen and off was her deep devotion to her Catholic faith.

As John O’Sullivan put it in his remembrance of her for National Review:

Kate was a serious and devout Catholic, but she was also the kind of believer who shocks the puritan souls of non-believers by being able to joke about the faith and the faithful. I remember once that she mentioned that some NR cruisers in Rome were making a side-trip to see Padre Pio.

“He’s rumored to be able to see directly into your soul,” she said. “Are you going, John?”

“Er, well, I’ve got a very crowded program, Kate, and er . . . ”

“No, I’m not going either,” she said very firmly, before bursting out laughing.

CNN's Washington Bureau Chief and a longtime producer of "Capital Gang" Sam Feist remembers Kate this way:

Every Saturday on "Capital Gang," Kate would take on the likes of Robert Novak, Al Hunt, Mark Shields and Margaret Carlson. Sometimes she would take them all on at once. Their debates were often verbal knife fights that were as heated as they were illuminating.

Although the other members of the "Gang" were some of Kate's closest friends, their arguments on and off the air were intense and could get personal as they frequently turned into screaming matches. But that was Kate O'Beirne. What made her so effective was the strength of her convictions and her ability to craft a brilliant argument. She believed that a more conservative America was a better America for everyone. And it was impossible to persuade her otherwise.

National Review’s Jonah Goldberg, one of the DC conservatives with whom we love to joust, posted this remembrance of Kate O’Beirne that mirrors our experience with her wit and wisdom:

There are lots of famous conservatives – and she was one — but only a handful whose most important work is done away from the page or the screen. She mentored a generation of young writers, policymakers and politicians — particularly young women who simultaneously believed in “traditional values” but also sought to make a mark in the world in their own right. She modeled that balance in her own life with joy and wisdom and she helped countless others follow in her footsteps.

There will be many remembrances of Kate O’Beirne posted over the next few days, but we suggest that one of the best insights into Kate and her contribution to conservativism may be found in her now hard to find book Women Who Make the World Worse : and How Their Radical Feminist Assault Is Ruining Our Schools, Families, Military, and Sports. Find it on Amazon or in a bookstore if you can, and read it to understand how Kate O’Beirne’s fierce conservatism made America better, and the conservative movement more fun.

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