Remarks in Honor of Jerry Brubaker

I am honored to be able to say a few words today about Jerry Brubaker.

Without any exaggeration, I can say that Jerry was one of the most committed, consistent and effective leaders in America’s attempt to stop the spread of the bomb. I say “leader” because Jerry was always an example and an inspiration to others. He certainly was to me.

I met Jerry almost twenty years ago, when our country was still trying to absorb the news that India had tested a nuclear weapon. Jerry was still working in Congress, and anyone could see that he was deeply worried about what the spread of the bomb would mean.

Jerry and I became friends very quickly, probably because we were both from small towns in the Midwest. We recognized immediately that this made us morally superior to most other people.

Jerry was worried that nuclear weapon material might find its way into the channels of civilian commerce, so he opposed the extraction of plutonium from spent nuclear reactor fuel. He also opposed the construction of the Clinch River breeder reactor, which would have used such plutonium as fuel. Because of Jerry and his allies, the United States decided not to put plutonium into commerce, and not to build the Clinch River reactor. Those were disasters we were lucky to miss. Unfortunately, the misguided Clinton administration revived this plutonium notion, so we may have to fight this battle again.

Jerry was also influential in controlling exports. Jerry realized that the United States cannot rely on high-technology for its military security and at the same time export that technology to its rivals. He fought countless battles to prevent sensitive American technology from falling into the wrong hands. He worked especially hard on supercomputers. This caused him to go head to head with powerful corporations who had lots of political influence. I am proud to say that I was able to provide some modest assistance to Jerry in these endeavors.

Jerry had a little motto that he used to repeat about proliferation. If I don’t get it right, I’m sure that several people here today could correct me. He used to say that our policy on proliferation should consist of three principles: we don’t assist it, we don’t pay for it, and we don’t lie about it. I’m sure many of us can still hear Jerry saying those words. These are sounds principles today and they will be sound tomorrow.

I would like to end with a comment about public service. Jerry always put the public first and the career second. Why is this important? Because every day we witness a miracle in Washington. Despite the discouragement, the frustration, the low pay and the pettiness of small people in big jobs, the government goes on. The public’s business gets done. The good is stronger than the evil.

Why is that true? Because a certain number of persons in public service really care about the ends they are trying to achieve. They are trying to do good in the world, even at the cost, sometimes, of their own personal advancement. There aren’t a lot of them, but there are enough to make the common enterprise succeed.

Jerry was one of those persons, and we need to keep that in mind at his passing.