Warren Christopher, Clinton-Era Secretary of State, Dies at Age 85

Warren Christopher, who served as secretary of state under Bill Clinton and deputy secretary of state under Jimmy Carter, has died of complications from cancer at age 85. Sometimes called the "stealth" secretary of state or even "dull" because of his under-the-radar style, Christopher was nevertheless involved in some major negotiations for the U.S., including the Iran hostage situation and the 1990s crisis in the Balkans.

James Fallows of The Atlantic remembers Christopher fondly:

During the last two years of the LBJ Administration, when 39-year-old Ramsey Clark became Attorney General, Warren Christopher, just slightly older, was his Deputy. That was the era when the Justice Department was still generally seen as a "progressive" force in domestic affairs, as the enforcement arm of desegregation and civil-rights rulings. I always understood that Warren Christopher played a large part in that effort. Shortly before LBJ left office, Christopher came to speak at Harvard and also met with mainly suspicious and hostile staffers on the student newspaper, including me. In those days anyone from the Administration could expect to be shouted down about Vietnam policy, and Christopher was. But then he patiently made the case for the historic importance of LBJ's efforts to address poverty and racial injustices. It was an illustration of how his temperament, sometimes criticized in his SecState years as phlegmatic or dull, could also be seen as unflappable and determined.

The Washington Post on Christopher's personality:

Writers and commentators characterized him as dour, attentive to detail, patient, steady and poised, but rarely, if ever, charismatic. Clinton once joked that Mr. Christopher was “the only man ever to eat presidential M&Ms with a knife and fork.” No one was surprised when, on an official stopover in Ireland, he ordered Irish coffee, decaffeinated and without alcohol....

Rarely did Mr. Christopher display emotion in public. But on Jan. 20, 1981, as Carter was yielding the presidency to Reagan in Washington, Mr. Christopher was in Algiers to greet the planeload of freed hostages on the first leg of their journey home to the United States. It was a moving occasion, even for the usually stoic and reserved Mr. Christopher.

Christopher returned to the national stage as part of Al Gore's legal team during the 2000 Florida recount.

AlterNet / By Lauren Kelley

Posted at March 19, 2011, 5:51am

Sign Up!
Get AlterNet's Daily Newsletter in Your Inbox
+ sign up for additional lists
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Election 2018
Today's Top Stories