Tony Blankley, the celebrated commentator and writer who died Jan. 7 of stomach cancer, was a remarkable life force. His father had been Churchill’s accountant. After World War II the family moved to Hollywood where his dad worked in finance in the movie industry. Tony was a child actor and had a remarkable understanding of the movie industry. Tony grew up as a Reaganite and worked for the governor in Sacramento. He then came to Washington with President Reagan and worked in the Department of Education. He helped Secretary Terrell Bell publicize the landmark “A Nation at Risk” report.
Tony, who was 63 when he died, came to work with me when I was the House Republican Whip. He helped develop and communicate the Contract with America to the public. Tony introduced me to Frank Luntz, who played a decisive role in designing the positive Contract strategy and also to Mary Ourisman who has become a real force in Washington arts.
Tony was my press secretary during the exciting and intense period of the Speakership, the government shutdowns and the lengthy and demanding negotiations with President Clinton that culminated in welfare reform and the key steps toward a balanced budget.
After my speakership, Tony went into communications planning at Edelman public relations firm, became a TV commentator and wrote a very important book on the threat radical Islam poses to European civilization.
He was a wonderful friend, a sage adviser, and a man who loved life. His family’s pet llamas were legendary. He was deeply in love with wife Linda and his children. He took more pleasure in her professional achievements than his own.
Callista and I will miss him. Our hearts and our prayers go out to Linda and the family.
Photo credit: AP/Joe Marquette