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Press Review: Ron Brown, Dead in Croatia, Remembered Everywhere

  • Don Hill

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 violent end.

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 of war."

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 line."

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 group."

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."