Q: Because this is the first book on her life and much of what you wrote was unknown to the general public, did you feel any sort of added pressure to make sure everything was correct?
A: I think that you do have that sort of a duty, particularly when youíre establishing what will become the criteria for understanding [Jeaneís] life publicly for readers and political scientists who will be interested in this book to some degree. So you have to get it right. And I did try to get it right. I did a lot of crosschecking. ... I did want to get it right not only for the sake of truth with a capital ďT,Ē but because I also felt Jeane looking over my shoulder, and she could be a severe critic of people who took shortcuts and who were lazy in any respect. I think it was born out of a sense of wanting to honor her exacting standards, [rather] than some abstract idea that what I was doing was establishing her record.
Q: Was it a different experience to be writing a biography of someone you knew personally?
A:It is in a way. I was close to her personally, but in a way no more and probably less than quite a number of people. She had a wide circle of friends, and her friends are incredibly loyal to her, which I guess has to be said as the first sign that somebody was a good person. Just really fanatically loyal to her and protective of her. ... Iíve always specialized in family biographies and trying to understand the dynamics of the difference between generations, particularly as the DNA spindles down through history. Here it was a narrower focus. It was a life that had antecedents and had children and all of that. But it was mainly a political life. So it was different from anything I had ever done. And I think writing about a single individual as opposed to writing about different people inside a family ... it is more Jamesian of a pursuit and less Balzacian.
Q: In researching and writing the book, what was the most surprising thing you learned, either about Kirkpatrick or the politics that she found herself surrounded by?
A: On the whole, I think of it as an attempt of an homage to this extraordinary woman who should have been seen by other women as ... a groundbreaker. But because she chose to be involved in the Reagan administration, she was scorned by other women, particularly feminists. She should have been seen as a feminist avatar, but she was seen as an enemy by feminists, and that was really a tragedy. She was bitter about it. Even though, on the other hand, she attacked the radical feminists for being rude and narcissistic. But nevertheless this was a woman who was one of the first to get a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia, one of the first tenured political scientists at Georgetown, the first woman U.N. ambassador to have Cabinet rank, and to have people like Gloria Steinem call her a female impersonator, which is what Jeane claims she did, or Naomi Wolf, who at that time had no children, to have said, according to Jeane, that [Jeane] was a woman without a uterus when Jeane had three children, these were gratuitous slurs that show a kind of tunnel vision because this woman did something for all women. And thatís one of the biggest takeaways ó and itís a very minor one in a funny sort of way given the big themes of her life involving the Cold War, driving a stake through the heart of the Soviet Union ó but it is true that Jeane was a pioneering woman, but because of the animosity toward her by the ... feminists, she will never get the recognition she deserves.
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