The man in the picture is Lawrence Eagleburger and he died on Tuesday. That gruff expression on his face is how most of the American people saw him for years. If you don't recognize him or his name, it is not surprising. Lawrence Eagleburger never hid from the cameras but he never sought them out either, but when he did have a chance to share his opinion he let them have it right between the eyes.
Lawrence Eagleburger was a career diplomat and served as Secretary of State for George H.W. Bush. He led the State Department during the first Gulf War. Then, after 9-11, he criticized Bush's son for getting us into a war in Iraq without a solid exit strategy. That's when I had the chance to interview Eagleburger. I was working for MSNBC, and Eagleburger was regularly booked as an expert guest to talk about Iraq and Afghanistan. When we found out that Secretary Eagleburger was going to be on during our shift, we would always wonder what state we would find him this time. He was a brilliant man, but by his own admission, he was not the dashing image of a foreign diplomat. He was overweight. His shirts always looked as it they had been worn for three days and his suits were covered with the remnants of the handfuls of peanuts he shoveled into his mouth right up to the moment he went on “live” TV. We would see him in the preview monitor eating peanuts and I could hear the producer, forcefully, say “Mr. Eagleburger we are 20 second away!” That was his cue to take two more bites, roll his tongue around his mouth and then, brilliantly share his expertise, swallowing the peanuts in mid-sentence. I was honored to interview him. He served under President Nixon in the Kissinger State Department. He was ambassador the Yugoslavia under President Jimmy Carter and stayed on during the Reagan administration.
With Weinergate and Libya and Syria and dozens of other headlines this week, you might have missed the death announcement of Lawrence Eagleburger. That would be a shame. He cared about the nation, not his image. He had a sense of humor. He had three sons and named them all Lawrence Eagleburger with different middle names. When asked about it he smiled and said, “It was ego. And secondly, I wanted to screw up the Social Security system.” He was not your normal Washington bureaucrat. He was a character.