Jeane Kirkpatrick, 1926-2006


Jeane Kirkpatrick, arguably the archetypal first-generation neoconservative, has died. She was a hawk on foreign policy and a social democrat in the domestic sphere—in other words, her views were pretty much the opposite of mine. But I have a peculiar personal connection to her, one of those six-degrees things that makes the world so unpredictable.

Her son Stuart, who later changed his name to Traktung Rinpoche, got involved in the Rajneesh movement and lived for a while in the Bhagwan's northwestern commune. He later moved to Ann Arbor and attracted a circle of followers, including one of my housemates. I met the younger Kirkpatrick a few times, though I didn't know him well; my housemate was and is a good friend, but I didn't share his religious outlook.

Still, it was through this connection that I learned that Berke Breathed, who had invoked Jeane Kirkpatrick in several funny Bloom County strips, had sent her the original art for the cartoons. Kirkpatrick, apparently unaware of the cultural cache that Bloom County enjoyed at the time, was set to throw them out until her son the guru intervened and explained that they were actually valuable.

For those of you who don't remember them, the strips featured Kirkpatrick in a steamy love affair with the perennial presidential contender Bill the Cat. I have no idea what she thought of the peculiar pop-culture status they gave her. But I'd like to think that one or two of them eventually found their way onto her wall.