Kate O’Beirne, who cogently advanced the conservative agenda in the pages of National Review and unflinchingly defended it on the CNN program “The Capital Gang,” died on Sunday in McLean, Va. She was 67.
April Ponnuru, a friend, said the cause was lung cancer.
“If Irving Kristol was the ‘Godfather’ of neoconservatism, then Kate O’Beirne was the den mother of the modern American right,” Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review, wrote on its website.
Mrs. O’Beirne devoted her life to conservative causes. She served in the Department of Health and Human Services under President Ronald Reagan; was deputy director of domestic policy studies and vice president of government relations at the Heritage Foundation; and was Washington editor and wrote the “Bread and Circuses” column for National Review under its founding editor, William F. Buckley Jr.
For 11 years she sparred with Robert Novak, Albert Hunt, Mark Shields and Margaret Carlson on “The Capital Gang.” She was also a substitute host on “Crossfire” on CNN and a commentator on “NewsHour With Jim Lehrer” on PBS.
In 2005, after 10 years as National Review’s Washington editor, she became president of the National Review Institute, a research and advocacy organization, a post she held for six years.
“Both her ‘Bread and Circuses’ column for National Review and her television commentary were marked by a rare combination of a deep interest in conservative policy, psychological insight and common sense,” said another colleague at the magazine, Ramesh Ponnuru.
Kate Monica Walsh was born in Brooklyn on Sept. 23, 1949, to Matthew Walsh and the former Catharine Rice. Her father and his brother-in-law owned Jimmy Ryan’s, a jazz nightclub in Manhattan. She was raised in Manhasset.
She was steeped in conservatism from the start. Her father was a charter subscriber to National Review. (“Even though he was an Irish Catholic, he was always Republican in his sympathies because he was a small-business man,” Mrs. O’Beirne told the St. John’s University alumni magazine in 2002.)
Her only venture into electoral politics was a successful campaign for senior class president at St. Mary’s High School on Long Island. She studied at Good Counsel College in White Plains (later the College of White Plains, which merged with Pace University), where she earned a degree in English and journalism.
She worked in Washington for Senator James L. Buckley (a brother of William), who was elected from New York in 1970 on the Conservative Party line, then returned to New York to get a degree from St. John’s University School of Law.
In 1976 she married James O’Beirne, an Army officer who became a White House liaison with the Pentagon. He survives her, as do their two sons, Phil and John; her sisters, Mary Ann, Virginia and Rosemary; and several grandchildren.
In 1986, after traveling for a decade with her husband while he was in the Army, Mrs. O’Beirne moved to Washington with her family and became deputy assistant secretary for legislation at the Department of Health and Human Services.
“When you worked for Reagan, you just knew what to do,” she once said. “Nobody had to tell you what to do. You didn’t wait for orders. You got up in the morning, went to your job, and did what you knew Reagan wanted done because you were a conservative.”
She was the author of “Women Who Make the World Worse and How Their Radical Feminist Assault Is Ruining Our Schools, Families, Military and Sports” (2005), which cited Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem and Eleanor Smeal, the former president of the National Organization for Women, as among the worst offenders.
In addition to promoting the conservative cause, Mrs. O’Beirne was considered a mentor to fellow journalists. “I doubt I would have become editor of National Review or survived the daunting task of working for Bill Buckley at the helm of his beloved magazine if it hadn’t been for Kate’s friendship, counsel and wisdom,” the magazine’s current editor, Rich Lowry, wrote on the magazine’s website. “She was funny, warm, creative, generous, and might have been the most persuasive person I’ve ever known.”
She once said that she agreed with the adage that “New York is a tough town, but Washington is a mean town,” yet contended that she had a home edge.
“We New Yorkers have some advantage because we can say a lot in a sound bite,” she said. “We can talk fast.”