Warren Rudman: The Death of a Bipartisan Public Servant

This Thanksgiving holiday marks the passing of a remarkable public servant devoted to the principles of patriotism, independent thinking, a commitment to the public good, and a leader in finding bi-partisan solutions in solving the most pressing problems facing our nation.

Former U.S. Senator Warren Rudman, an honorary Brookings trustee and a dear personal friend, died Monday evening from complications of lymphoma. He represented New Hampshire in the Senate from 1980 to 1993 as a fierce advocate for fiscal responsibility and government accountability, and is especially remembered for the groundbreaking Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Balanced Budget Act of 1985. The act was a tremendous, bipartisan achievement of the kind that is only too rare today.

To the senator’s dismay, Congress continually delayed implementing the budget controls authorized by the act, and never achieved a balanced budget during his tenure. Unwilling to surrender, Rudman joined the late former Senator Paul Tsongas (D-Mass.) and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Peter Peterson in creating the Concord Coalition to educate citizens and advocate for responsible fiscal policy. Their bipartisan alliance has added depth and rigor to the budget debate ever since. His independent streak was always one of his most important values. Perhaps there was no greater American in our time who lived up to New Hampshire’s motto: Live Free or Die.

Senator Rudman also helped convince President George H.W. Bush to nominate David Souter to the Supreme Court. Justice Souter had been Senator Rudman’s successor as New Hampshire Attorney General. At President Bush’s request, it was my pleasure and honor to serve as Justice Souter’s sherpa in that confirmation process.

A former combat platoon leader during the Korean War and attorney general of New Hampshire, Senator Rudman was a patriot of the first order. He was a proud co-chair of the Partnership for a Secure America.

He continued his career as a public servant on the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board during the Clinton administration, and in 2001, Rudman was awarded the Presidential Citizen’s Medal—the second highest civilian honor in the United States. He had just completed co-chairing the U.S. Commission on National Security with former Senator Gary Hart, which—nine months before 9/11—anticipated a terrorist attack against the homeland, and called for greater national defenses.

As a new Congress prepares to convene in January, we can hope the members will take a lesson from Senator Rudman’s tireless devotion to this country and to the ideal of working together in bipartisan good faith for the common good. May he rest in peace.