God And Dick Scaife

scaife

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in The American Spectator.

I was saddened to wake up the morning of July 4 and learn that Richard Mellon Scaife, Pittsburgh billionaire, conservative philanthropist extraordinaire, and spearhead of Hillary Clinton’s ominous “vast right-wing conspiracy,” died at age 82. How appropriate that this patriot bid goodbye on July 4. It’s fitting, too, that his death comes within a year of the deaths of his two principal lieutenants at his foundation, Dan McMichael and Dick Larry. Together, these three men established numerous conservative programs, institutions, and even individuals. They made a huge impact.

I got to know Dick Scaife pretty well. About three or four years ago, he read my book Dupes. It’s a lengthy account of how the communist movement has long hoodwinked and exploited American leftists—many of whom Dick Scaife had battled and loathed. Scaife loved it. It was the last full book that he read. I learned that he was recommending the book to his friends. Soon enough, I learned he wanted to meet with me.

We met at his nice but modest home in the Shadyside section of Pittsburgh. I was taken aback to encounter a sick, weakened man who seemed to be on his deathbed even then. He had trouble with his voice, his breathing, his hearing. I had to speak loud. Nonetheless, we got along. Both of us were lifelong Pittsburghers, born at the same hospital just down the road in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh. The big difference, we laughed, was that Scaife’s relations funded the hospital. His relationships and experiences with our common places were always a little different. We both vacationed in Nantucket, for instance, though he had a big house there with a cook and his own private air transportation.

For whatever reason, Dick Scaife liked me. He lived the history and names that I researched and was writing about. He enjoyed reminiscing and sharing information on them. At the end of that first meeting, this supposedly calloused man that many detested asked me in a gentle, sweet way if I would please continue to visit him. I did. These were often long meetings, and it was never easy to leave. He wanted to keep talking. The conversations were usually enlightening, enjoyable, entertaining. We’d talk about his upbringing, his wild youth, his drinking days, his parents, a scandalous remembrance here or there, his encounters with Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy Jr. (who he thought was a tremendous young man of great potential), and even the Clintons—who he actually personally liked, though he certainly rejected their politics. Like other close older friends of mine who recently died, he was very concerned and dispirited by the direction of the country he loved, and seriously disappointed in Americans for twice electing Barack Obama. He didn’t think Americans would ever vote for a president so far to the left.

Here are a few remembrances worth highlighting:

Dick Scaife was deeply proud of his family. He adored his mother and father. Dick became so interested in politics, and especially the Cold War, because of his father’s work for the OSS confronting communists during World War II. That brought Dick Scaife into politics. He gave money to the likes of the Heritage Foundation and Hoover Institution precisely because of this battle.

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