Kate O’Beirne, In Memoriam

Kate Walsh O’Beirne, conservative grande dame with tons of class and zero pretensions, died this past Sunday. Mutual friends who knew her up-close—Bill Kristol, Ramesh Ponnuru, Jonah Goldberg—have posted affectionate, moving tributes. But she inspired and will be missed by countless others who, like me, knew Kate only much more casually.

Eons ago, Grover Norquist introduced me to her: “Mike, meet my leetle yellow friend, Kato Beirne.” Thank you, Inspector Clouseau. There ensued the first of many thoroughly enjoyable exchanges about current affairs. Kate loved repartee, cigarettes, and snark, and she had no patience for claptrap. Conservatism’s version of Lauren Bacall, with a real seriousness not very far underneath.

In what I recall as our only encounter in a somewhat formal setting, Kate had graciously agreed to moderate a roundtable of law dorks, charged with explaining what’s wrong with the administrative state. My assignment was health and safety regulation; and so I explained how and why the stuff in your kitchen cabinet and under your bathroom sink has become criminal contraband (e.g., under the Chemical Weapons Treaty Implementation Act). Kate took careful notes, probably for some future op-ed or article idea. And then she says, forcefully and on the spot: “I want the government out of my bathroom and back into my bedroom, where it belongs.” Thus obviating any further blather about Chevron’s metaphysics.

We desperately need that spunk and that sensibility. This past Sunday we lost much, all too much of it.