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Remembering Malcolm Wallop

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I would suspect that what happens in Big Horn, Wyoming stays there and is not likely to garner the attention of the rest of the nation. That was not true last week. On September 14, 2011, that little western town lost one of its finest residents, when my former colleague and friend, Senator Malcolm Wallop, passed away. Although he had been ill for a long period of time, his passing was much like the way he lived. Malcolm was quiet and unassuming, relished his privacy and took great comfort in being surrounded by his family and friends in that rugged western state that he loved so much.

Senator Wallop was a soft spoken westerner and a “gentleman,” but he was as rock solid as the mountains of Wyoming, when it came to his conservative credentials. It is not often that you find Yale graduates representing Western states in the Senate, but, if Ivy Leaguers are supposed to be liberal elitists, Malcolm smashed the mold with a vengeance. He was a man of tremendous intellect and a fierce advocate for freedom. He certainly inspired me and brought a great spirit and enthusiasm to every battle he fought. I can personally attest to the fact that he led the fight in most of the critical conservative causes of the Reagan Revolution. He staunchly defended states rights and helped write tax reform legislation during the Reagan years. He was a fierce opponent of arms control agreements that forced America to unilaterally draw down its stockpiles and trumpeted the “trust but verify” warning to his colleagues in every discussion. Wallop was THE Senate expert on national defense issues, especially strategic weapons. When President Reagan needed an ally for his Strategic Defense Initiative in the Senate, Malcolm’s intelligence enabled him to explain this program to skeptical colleagues and win their support. President Reagan’s success in bringing an end to the Cold War may very well be attributed to the steady efforts of Senator Malcolm Wallop against unilateral arms control in favor of SDI.

I came to the U.S. Senate from New Hampshire in 1990. Senator Wallop immediately sensed that, in me, he had a supporter on these critical conservative issues. He took the time to work with me and treated this new senator with respect and dignity. Like many of the other veterans in the Senate, he could have ignored me. Instead, we spent long hours together in his office talking about these issues. I will always be grateful to him for inspiring me to assume a seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee and specifically to chair the Strategic Forces Subcommittee. Our paths had other similarities as well. Both of us served as the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Ethics and we were in a very small minority of non-lawyer senators to have served on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

There is one memory I will never forget. Malcolm was the Chairman of the Steering Committee in the Senate. This is an ad hoc committee of conservative Republican senators, who meet once each week for lunch, to plan strategy for floor action on pending conservative issues. In May of 1993 I was participating in one of those meetings, when I received a phone call that my mother had passed away suddenly. Perhaps remembering his own mother, whom he had lost at the age of 10, or perhaps just out of genuine compassion, he stopped the discussion and led the group in a prayer for my mother.

Wyoming and America have lost a great warrior. If Malcolm Wallop had lived in 1776, you just know that he would have been right there with Washington, Jefferson and Adams leading the charge for liberty. He will always be remembered and respected as a great patriot. You made a difference my friend. America is a better place because of you. Rest in peace. You have earned it.