Andrew Breitbart: A White Plume Over the Battle
“You take everything-the rose and the laurel too. Take them and welcome. But, in spite of you, there is one thing that goes with me when tonight I enter my last lodging, sweeping the bright stars from the blue threshold with my salute. A thing unstained, unsullied by the brute broken nails of the world, by death, by doom…see it there a white plume over the battle-a diamond in the ash of the ultimate combustion-my panache.”
—Edmund Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac
When I first met Andrew Breitbart just a few years ago, it was in passing. We walked through the hallway of some swanky hotel where a small group of conservatives gathered. Everyone else was in his best suit for the occasion, except for me—I hate wearing ties, and never do, but this time I felt embarrassed and underdressed.
Then Andrew breezed in, wearing cut-off blue jeans, flip-flops, and a white button-down, and immediately I felt better. (I figured out later that he had a natural talent for letting awkward people know that they were welcome.) A friend introduced us and before long a group of learned, accomplished leaders in political and even spiritual causes had flocked around Andrew, and hung on his every word. This wasn't because he was famous (some of them were, too). It was because of who Andrew was, what he cared about, and the passion for human dignity that pervaded the work he did.
Andrew, at various times, worked at different points along the political spectrum—not because he lacked core principles or bent with the wind as an opportunist. No, as I came to know him, I realized that Andrew's life, public and private, was knit tightly together with an integrity that astounded me, and won him lifelong loyalty even from people whose ideas he no longer shared.
What made Andrew run? Andrew loved people, and so he loved justice, and so he hated bullies. That simple statement sums him up.
What got Andrew involved in media politics was watching the Clarence Thomas hearings—which he saw clearly as an unjust, cowardly ambush of an independent black American. And the spectacle made him sick. Andrew couldn't live with himself if he let a bully go unchallenged. If he saw someone using money, power, or information to hurt an innocent person—be it a conservative jurist, or a closeted gay actor being blackmailed—Andrew would show up in the victim's kitchen, reassuring him and showing him how to defend himself.
Andrew was everything modern liberals aspire to be (and some really are): passionate, funny, tolerant, brave, and a doer of justice. That was clear to all who knew him, and that is why top-notch journalists, famous pastors, senators and billionaires alike wanted to talk to Andrew, why even people who differed with him starkly knew he deserved their trust.
I'll embarrass myself a little now and say that meeting Andrew for the first time was like running into Bob Marley or Bruce Lee—the kind of moment you don't forget. When I got back to L.A. that day, I was running from room to room telling my staff that they had to meet Breitbart, though I couldn't exactly say why. I'd invited him to our office in Glendale for lunch, sure that he'd be too busy ever to take me up on it.
Then one day Andrew just stopped by and said, “Can I take you and your posse to lunch?” I don't remember a thing that we talked about that day, but instead the look on everybody's face. I have the mental picture burned in my brain: They all just beamed with joy. It's not because they were starstruck (we work in the movie business).
There was just “something about Andrew.” He loved people, and loved life, and you couldn't help loving both things just a little bit more in his presence. That is what I will miss, really miss, about Andrew.
I am part of a large, charmed circle of people who knew Andrew and loved him. Fatally busy as he always was, he always carved out time for his friends and his family. I remember he seemed to take on a special, distinctive tone of voice with each of his closest friends. When he mentioned his lovely wife Susie, I knew all I need to about their marriage from the tender way he said her name. His long-time business partner, Larry, was also his closest friend. A wise mentor of mine once warned me: “Never do business with a man who doesn’t have old friends.” Andrew had many, across every professional and ideological line.
Last year Andrew and I were invited to serve as extras in the movie adaptation of Ayn Rand's atheist opus, "Atlas Shrugged." I used to be an Objectivist myself and had dreamed since I was a teenager of appearing in such a film. So we spent the day surrounded by actors incarnating James and Dagny Taggert, Hank Rearden, and the rest. Andrew and I spoke not of the movie but of its theme: the dignity and worth of every individual man and woman. That was a point that Ayn Rand insisted on. But where did that dignity come from? How do we know we are more than brainy apes? At this point, Andrew and I began to talk not of John Galt but of God.
A couple of months ago Andrew called me and asked if I wanted to hang out, work from his home, and grab some lunch. When I got to his house, he was in the middle of a battle on Twitter with some nitwit. I went to the back lanai and set up shop. When Andrew came outside, he didn't want to talk about our work but about the land. He pointed toward the Military Cemetery behind his house. “My realtor said that the graveyard lowers my property value. He's dead wrong. It's what gives this house its value. The men who are buried there are the reason we have our freedoms. Right now, you and I are in the company of heroes.”
And right now, Andrew is.