FredDutton.com

 

Delivered by Pat Tyler at the Cosmos Club, Washington, DC July 14, 2005

 

I wish I could say that I am one of Fred Dutton's oldest friends, but I am a relative new comer. I have only known him for 25 years.

That puts me near the end of a very long line of friends and fellow travelers who have admired Fred through a life of public service, politics and, for the last three decades, a ceaseless quest to persuade Peter O'Toole to play his part in a new epic film about Arabia.

I missed Fred's years with Adlai and with Pat Brown; I missed his years in Jack Kennedy's State Department and I missed his years with Bobby. And Linda and I were not there in the heady days when Nancy sailed into his life. And when tragedy struck the campaign. But that is the extraordinary thing about Fred, there were just so many chapters. His was such a big life.

I hope someone will tell one of his war stories between now and September when we gather at Arlington Cemetery. I was surprised in reading his obituary in The Post that he had been wounded and taken prisoner during the Battle of the Bulge. My Dad was somewhere on that battlefield in Europe, a half track driver in Patton's Army. I wish that they had met. I can imagine a photo of Fred, with his trademark grin, leaning against a tank Ė although I must confess it would be strange to think of Fred, at any age, armed with a gun.

Thatís the funny thing about the span of life. It is Fredís gentle spirit that stands out as the dominant feature. Churchill said, "You will make all kinds of mistakes, but as long as you are generous and true, and also fierce, you cannot hurt the world or even seriously distress her. She was made to be wooed and won by youth."

We should remember Fred's youth, too, when Fred answered herald of country and president. We in the generations that followed should never forget that we are all the progeny of great sacrifice by those who stood against the existential threats of the last century. As a foot soldier, as a prisoner, Fred evinced that same uncommon valor -- of which Nimitz spoke -- as a common virtue.

[[[[ Still, it is strange to think of Fred with a gun. ]]]]

I am not sure I can pin point when I met Fred Dutton. Linda and I had only been in Washington a couple of years when, I have a memory of asking Ben Bradlee who Fred Dutton was:

Dutton? Ben says, why he is the guy who gets a half mill a year to read the paper every morning to the Saudi Ambassador.

I took this literally, of course. I have never lost the mental image that Ben planted in my mind.

Though I can't recall our first meeting, I can remember the time very well: Dutton & Dutton was on Connecticut Avenue, near the apex of power between Duke Ziebart's and Camille's. Those were the days when Anatoly Dobrynin still worked around the corner at the Soviet Embassy and the FBI tried to eavesdrop on him from the University Club. Fred was associated somehow with Herb Schmertz and Mobil Oil Corp., whose president was suing me and The Post for $50 million over an article. We wanted Fred to help us bring Mobil to its senses. He tried his best.

As I got to know Fred, in the years after he had tutored Prince Bandar in the ways of American politics, after they had done battle in Congress over the F15 and AWACS sales to Saudi Arabia, there was still so little of Fred Dutton that conformed to the stereotype of a Washington power broker.

Nancy can probably answer this better than anyone, but Dutton didn't take Washington as seriously as the rest of us. He had a Trumanesque view of the follies of politics, perhaps because he had practiced it so assiduously as a younger man. He loved that line that if you want a friend in Washington, buy a dog.

Someone said, "Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result," and Fred exemplified a life of getting shot at without much result -- whether it was Congress, AIPAC the White House or just someone throwing a grenade during the silly season. Fred could laugh it off, because his suits were never tailored to accommodate a dorsel fin. I will never lose the sound of the Dutton cackle, or giggle. Sometimes you thought you had been trapped with a Maccaw. And when you heard it, you just knew that after all he had seen in life, nothing in this town could get to him anymore. If he were here now, he'd say: "C'mon Pat, keep it short." And then the Dutton giggle.

Churchill said that politics are almost as exciting as war, and quite as dangerous. In war, you can only be killed once, but in politics, many times. Churchill never lost his lust for the stage, but Fred made a timely exit from political life and never seemed to look back. But I never felt that Fred left his idealism in the '60s, he just seemed to have turned the chapter, and channeled his idealism into dispensing good advice, whether personal or professional, with a generous spirit. I always thought he felt surprised that he was getting paid for it.

When I was based in China, he came out to Hong Kong with a big book bag; he was reading in on the next superpower; on how it would affect America, how it might compete for Arab oil. Fred's intellectualism was oriented toward the strategic. He also never lost that essential element of discovery Ė curiosity. Truman said, "The only thing new in the world is the history you donít know," and Fred never lost his interest in where we had been because it was so connected to where we are going.

When I met him, he was a man deeply contented with being out of the arena, and he exuded a sense that life that dealt him a pretty good hand for the home stretch: a job mentoring an extraordinary client in the ways of Washington; passing on a half-century of wisdom about how to understand American political life; then he would leave the office -- and eventually he just moved the office home -- to a house filled with the beauty and laughter of daughters and a wife / partner who could finish his sentences and guard the boundaries of his contentment.

In the last few years, Fred stuck to old habits he loved: a good cigar and lunch at the Prime Rib. In London, he and his closest friends, the amigos who traveled with Bandar, were a fixture at the Dorchester on Hyde Park, where I saw him last. I looked last night for a line of poetry that described the feeling I had and found it in Frost, who shared Fredís love of dog metaphors.

"The old dog barks backward without getting up.

I can remember when he was a pup."