In my first job as a Washington reporter, John Gizzi pulled me into the office to impart wisdom about living and working in this town. One piece that stuck with me: "You can tell a person's character by how they treat a person from whom they don't believe they have anything to gain."
He may as well have been speaking about Kate O'Beirne.
As a 22-year-old clueless but strident reporter at Human Events, meeting O'Beirne was like meeting a rock star, except she didn't play the role. She didn't simply treat me with courtesy, she acted interested, she gave advice and she remembered my name when she had no reason to.
Ask around Washington, and you will find hundreds of people with the same story. She defined gracious, but was never prim. A New York Irish lass, she was fun and fierce in private settings and social occasions, but also on the job.
When Bob Novak was looking in the early 1990s for another panelist on CNN's "Capital Gang," he was looking for someone who could handle herself in a good dustup. One candidate was "dignified — perhaps too dignified for Capital Gang," as Novak wrote in his memoirs. So Novak kept looking.
Kate auditioned. "Tall, blond, New-Yorker feisty, and exceptionally well informed," Novak called her. "[A]ble to charm the socks off [liberal panelist Al] Hunt." She got the job, and spent a decade on the show, more than holding her own.
O'Beirne made a deep impression on Novak, too. When he entered the Catholic Church years later, Kate was his godmother. Because Novak later helped steer me towards fully entering the Church, Kate is something of a spiritual progenitor of mine.
Feisty, unapologetic about her beliefs, and perennially well informed, Kate was a role model to almost every conservative woman journalist of my generation.
She was also a role model to me. Professionally, yes, but personally more so. I got to know her better when I worked for Novak and later when I met my wife, who knew Kate growing up. But all her humor, fun, insight and kindness in those later years are a smaller thing than the impression she left on me when she had no reason to know me.
She showed me how to treat people as ends in themselves. She showed that same lesson to thousands of others. So it's not sentimentalism, it's nearly irrefutable, to say that Kate O'Beirne made Washington a better place to live.
Timothy P. Carney, the Washington Examiner's commentary editor, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears Tuesday nights on washingtonexaminer.com.