Prague, April 4 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown
died, as he lived, on the wing. The airplane that crashed near
Dubrovnik, Croatia, was carrying him on a mission seeking both
profits and peace. Press commentary examines his career and its
The New York Times says today in an editorial: "The plane
crash that... claimed the lives of Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and
his traveling companions occurred as Brown led a mission of faith and
hope. This journey into dangerous and disputed territory reflected
the highest tradition of American public service. Brown was carrying
the vital message that the United States would not duck the challenge
of promoting stability and prosperity in a place racked by four years
Jurek Martin writes today in Britain's Financial Times:
"Washington is a town where egos come in larger-than-life sizes. But
few of its long line of illustrious insiders have combined
self-confidence and political skills as well as Ron Brown. (He)
brought exrtraordinary style to all he did.... And, whatever his
ethical shortcomings, Ron Brown has always produced on the bottom
In the United States, the current issue of Emerge Magazine carries a
profile on Brown writen by Michael K. Frisby. Frisby, a Wall Street
Journal White House correspondent writes: "Brown's own strength was a
key to his success and survival, but so too was his relationship with
Clinton, one that often gave him roles beyond his cabinet duties. It
was an alliance in which at times they were adversaries, but each
always maintained respect for the other.... Brown liked the challenge
of breaking down old barriers. After Clinton's victory in '92, he was
offered other posts, such as U.S. trade representative or U.S.
ambassador to the United Nations. But Brown said he wanted a job that
both mandated a cabinet post and broke a new threshold."
Chicago Tribune writer William Neikirk writes in the newspaper today: "Ron Brown spent much of his life selling. He sold himself
and his country with a flair and bravado that inspired respect but
also a certain distrust of the resourceful attorney raised in Harlem.
His last trade mission to Bosnia and Croatia was typical. With top
corporate executives at his side, the 54-year-old Commerce Department
secretary hoped to interest his companions in investing in Balkan
reconstruction, building bridges for peace -- and making money, too."
In The Washington Post today, William Drozdiak writes: "On
the evening before the Balkans trip..., Brown was pumped up,
displaying the charismatic blend of energy, ideas and enthusiasm that
made him a tireless advocate of American commercial interests
abroad.... Brown said he was convinced that trade and not aid was the
key to ensuring political and economic stability in a region that has
known so much death and destruction for the past four years....
Brown's target on his Balkans trip was business growing from (5,000
million dollars) pledged to reconstruction by a World Bank-organized
Blaine Harden writes in today's Washington Post: "Reports of Brown's
death immediately plunged much of official and political Washington
into shock. He had a number of close friends at the White House...,
and was known by virtually every major figure in the Clinton
administration.... Brown was a key administration strategist in this
year's presidential campaign."
"Bringing peace and prosperity to war-torn Bosnia was (for Brown) a
challenge like any other -- it would require charm, determination,
and a knack for promoting American knowhow overseas," Melissa Healy
and Robert A. Rosenblatt say in today's Los Angeles Times. They
write: "A suave bridge-builder with a gold-plated resume, (he) carried
plenty of each when he left Washington for war-torn
Bosnia-Herzegovina with a contingent of American corporate
executives. In a moving tribute..., President Clinton remembered
Brown as a man who 'walked and ran and flew through life, and he was
a magnificent life force.' "
In the Los Angeles Times today, Jonathan Peterson comments: "In
his... mission to Bosnia, (he) sought a bounty far more elusive than
rich contracts for U.S. companies, the usual aim of such overseas
ventures. This time, a primary goal was to promote peace -- through a
massive rebuilding effort in the war-torn region. The U.S.
entourage... represented a wealth of American know-how in building
bridges, fixing roads, sanitizing water, recovering farmland and a
host of other skills needed to restore normal life to Bosnia and
Croatia and cement the fledgling peace process."
Glenn Kessler writes today in the U.S. newspaper Newsday: "Brown
rose from Harlem roots to the pinnacle of influence as a Washington
insider, presidential confidant and commerce secretary by taking
impossible jobs and succeeding beyond expectations.... Brown... won
the Clinton administration the sorts of raves from the business
community normally reserved for Republicans."
"Brown's infectious enthusiasm and self-confidence were at the
heart of an extraordinary life that ended (yesterday) in a remote
corner of the world," Dan Balz and Sharon Walsh write in a profile in
today's Washington Post. They continue: "It was a life rooted in
politics and public service that bridged black and white America and
brought him success as a Washington lawyer, Democratic Party leader
and central figure in the Clinton administration."
In the Dallas Morning News in the United States, Jim Landers
comments: "Ron Brown's friends and colleagues hailed him (yesterday)
as the best commerce secretary in the nation's history. The warmth
and heartbreak of such praise recognized a skill practiced even
in the last moments of his life: Ron Brown was the consummate
rainmaker. (He) made it rain as commerce secretary, as Democratic
Party chairman and as a lawyer-lobbyist in one of Washington's most
powerful firms, they said. He was an avid overseas salesman for
American corporations, penning contracts worth more than $17 billion
on trade missions he led to China, India, Brazil, South Africa and
several other countries. Brown was on such a mission... in Croatia."