By Douglass K. Daniel
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Bob Strauss could work with anybody — Democrats and Republicans, Americans and Soviets, Israelis and Arabs. Playing the game and making the deal made his day.
Of Strauss’ many accomplishments — earning a fortune in postwar investments, co-founding an international law firm, leading the Democratic Party, running one successful presidential campaign and surviving the loss of another — being welcome on either side of the political street might have been the achievement he most treasured.
A Strauss specialty was what he called “the art of making things happen instead of just tilting at windmills.” A little sign he had kept on his desk put it succinctly: “It CAN be done.”
He is absolutely the most amazing politician,” former first lady Barbara Bush wrote of the prominent Democratic powerbroker who died Wednesday at his home in Washington at 95. “He is everybody’s friend and, if he chooses, could sell you the paper off your own wall.”
President Ronald Reagan sought Strauss’ advice when his administration was embroiled in the Iran-Contra affair.
President George H.W. Bush turned to him when he needed an ambassador to the Soviet Union to represent American interests as the communist country fell apart — and when the Russian Federation took its place.
Years earlier, President Jimmy Carter had relied on Strauss, the son of an immigrant German Jew, as his personal representative during Israeli-Arab peace talks. When Carter’s re-election bid drew opposition even among Democrats, the president brought Strauss home to make the peace in the Democratic Party.
If anyone could calm an intraparty storm, it was the quick-witted and gregarious Washington insider with a soft Texas drawl who seemed to know everyone who mattered.
“Bob was one of the greatest leaders the Democratic Party ever had,” President Barack Obama said in a statement Wednesday night, “yet presidents of both parties relied on his advice, his instincts and his passion for public service — not to mention his well-honed sense of humor.”