Former Secretary of Defense and a central figure in both the build-up of defenses during the Reagan Administration, and of the Iran-Contra Scandal, has died.
As head of the Pentagon, Weinberger strongly opposed concessions to Moscow in arms control negotiations and pushed hard for increased defense spending, such as Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, a program to develop a land-and space-based missile shield commonly known as "Star Wars."
"He should be remembered as a world statesman, a great American patriot," the son said. "What he did with Reagan really brought down the Soviet Union. They stuck to their plan and simply outspent the Soviets despite all sorts of doubts here."
Weinberger became caught up in the Iran-Contra scandal that bedeviled the Reagan administration. He resigned the defense secretary job in 1987 and afterward was indicted on felony counts of lying to the independent counsel investigating the administration's program for selling missiles to Iran and giving the proceeds to the right-wing Contra forces fighting Nicaragua's socialist Sandinista government.
His son is quoted as saying, "He was just a worn-out guy." I can't imagine. I had a youth dislike of Weinberger, seeing him as at once reckless and controlling. He was for me a proxy for my animus towards Reagan. In a fashion close to what is thrown about today, I considered Weinberger to be "Reagan's Brain." That was absurd, of course. Yet, history will show that Weinberger was perhaps the central figure, other than the man himself, of the Reagan Administration.
He was pardoned by the first President Bush just days before he was to go on trial in the Iran-Contra case. We can't really say whether or not he wold have been convicted, but it seemed to me at the time an ignominious twist of fortune for one of the architects of Reagan's Cold War strategy.
So we have a complicated man, one who achieved great things who was perhaps driven too far by ideology and hubris, but who nonetheless left a permanent mark on the history of his country.
Cap Weinberger was 88.