My friend and colleague Dean Barnett died today, and the world is a much poorer place for it. As anyone who listened to him on my radio show or read his work at Soxblog, here or at the Weekly Standard knows, and as everyone who had the great, great pleasure of knowing Dean will attest, Dean’s combination of sparking intelligence and enormous good humor made him one fo the most memorable of friends. What too few people know, though, is what a kind, extraordinarily giving and compassionate man he was. Dean loved people and he loved this country and threw himself into every cause.
I last spoke at length with Dean on the night of the first presidential debate. I was driving from Ohio to Kentucky, and Dean and I spent close to an hour chatting about the presidential race and the country. Like me, Dean was a big supporter of Mitt Romney. Like me he had thrown himself into the effort to persuade folks that John McCain should win the general. But when he encountered those who disagreed with him, he never grew angry or bitter, only more determined to make good arguments about the good, which he did so well and with such obvious passion.
I was introduced to Dean through our mutual friend Jonathan Last, and not long thereafter suggested he join me as a blogger here, and then as a guest host on the radio program. Simply put, he had an accent for print, but his incredible intelligence turned him into one of the most sought after guest hosts for those of us unafraid of better minds than our own filling in for us while we are obliged to be away. But for his great love of golf Dean might have taken on full time radio work, but the combination of the opportunities allowed by new media and the regular guest hosting scratched his itch to participate in the great debates of our time. Had he had more time, he would have been one of the great influences on the GOP for as long as he lived, probably because he valued and used every minute he had.
Dean told me early in our friendship that his disease had forced him to deal with the possibility of living too short a life and that he thus threw himself into everything. This ferocious desire to live well and fully is what I will always tell people marked Dean Barnett. That and the love he had for his wonderful wife Kirstan and his family and friends. His extraordinary story is told in his short essay, The Smart Spunky Kid with the Fatal Disease, and his example will long be an example to others battling with Cystic Fibrosis. I hope we can report some day soon the news that a cure for CF is in hand, and on that day toast Dean for all he did to raise awareness of the disease. I will also toast him whenever I hear smart, persuasive arguments on behalf of common sense conservatism and fierce attachment to the opportunities liberty bestows.
He is already deeply missed, and will be always by my audience, by Duane, and of course by me.