Brown "a star" in Clinton's government


MR RON BROWN was one of the less trumpeted successes of the Clinton administration. He was an assiduous promoter of US business abroad and a powerful behind the scenes counsellor in the affairs of the Democratic Party.

Of all the major agencies of US government, the Commerce Department is arguably the least understood, portrayed by its foes - not least among would be government down sizers in the Republican Party, who would simply abolish it - as a rambling, ineffectual bureaucracy that consumes taxpayer's dollars to no appreciable purpose.

But try telling that to the scores of chief executives of US corporations who accompanied Mr Brown, on trade missions to every corner of the earth, from Russia to China to the Middle East, and now to the former Yugoslavia, where several CEOs were believed to be aboard Mr Brown's Boeing 737 jet.

"As far as I am concerned, he is the star of this administration," Mr Edgar Woolard, chairman of DuPont, has said.

Mr Brown was born in Washington in 1941. He epitomised the capital insider, suave and discreet, a master of that intricate, incestuous world where politics, lobbying and business interlock - usually under the umbrella of high powered law firms like Patton, Boggs & Blow, where he was a partner for 11 years until 1992.

Above all, he was a negotiator and a conciliator. In the dark years spanning the late 1980s and the start of the 1990s, when the prospect of a Democrat ever recapturing the White House seemed remote, nobody did more to heal the party's internal wounds.

In 1988, as campaign manager of the Rev Jesse Jackson, he was an architect of the internal truce with Mr Michael Dukakis, the eventual Democratic nominee.

The following year he was named party chairman, and the party's recovery since is in fair measure his achievement.