Author Peter Collier’s new biography of Jeane Kirkpatrick, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President Ronald Reagan and an iconic figure in the neoconservative movement, touches on the political and the personal.
“Political Woman: The Big Little Life of Jeane Kirkpatrick” breaks down the tough exterior walls that Kirkpatrick built around her private life to tell the story of a groundbreaking woman in American politics who helped bring down the Soviet Union while at the same time fighting a sad story at home, with an alcoholic son and two other children who did not share her fervor for academia and learning.
Roll Call spoke with Collier about the biography and his friendship with Kirkpatrick, who died in 2006.
Q: Why did you decide to write this book?
A:Jeane had been a friend of mine, and I admired her. And I had always thought ... that she had a remarkable story to tell. The story first of centrist Democrats leaving the Democratic Party, and her chief among them, building a sort of land bridge to Ronald Reagan. And then the second part of the story was really Jeane leading the charge inside the Reagan administration on behalf ... of those centrist Democrats as much as of the conservative vision of Ronald Reagan, and leading the charge to fight the Cold War to victory. And ... the fact that I simply liked her and thought that somebody ought to do something to keep her memory green for a while.
Q: You’re best known for your books on subjects well-known to every American with a basic knowledge of civics — the Rockefellers, the Kennedys, the Roosevelts — about whom much has been written and scrutinized. What was it like to write a biography of an important, though lesser-known, political figure?
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.