The Great and Good Angelo Codevilla
All of us in the Claremont Institute extended family were gutted this morning by the news of Angelo Codevilla’s death. He was on his way home yesterday to his beloved vineyard in Plymouth, California, when some kind of car accident occurred. The details remain thin, but the loss is deep.
We will honor and remember Angelo more fully in the coming weeks, but I wanted to share some thoughts and memories as we all grieve.
Angelo was a scholar, a veteran, a patriot, a gentleman, a farmer, and a beloved husband and father. He was a graduate school classmate of Michael Uhlmann’s, another Claremont Institute senior fellow who was taken from us too early. Both men were longtime fixtures in the Claremont Institute’s summer fellowship programs. Both are irreplaceable.
I visited Angelo at his vineyard in April to offer some help with mundane chores. He had his hands full—his wife, Ann, had declined—and Angelo was very gracious and thankful to a fault for the help. I weeded and drove into town to get a tire on his gator utility vehicle fixed; he compensated me with wine, good food, and conversation late into the night. Angelo was eager for his new well to be completed, as his newly planted Nebbiolo vines were showing thirsty green shoots. He sold most of his grapes to surrounding wineries but would make wine for friends and family with a small portion of the harvest every year. Touriga, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc… we were eager at the prospect of Nebbiolo before too long.
My wife and I had visited Angelo and Ann years ago and helped them bottle a barrel of Zinfandel. We were getting married seven months later and he sent us on our way with six cases, a gift for the wedding, where we served it happily. (I have, in fact, one bottle left from that day, four and a half years ago.) Though Angelo was a fierce debater and could be an unsparing polemicist, he was unfailingly generous to his friends.
It’s hard to convey the breadth and depth of Angelo’s scholarship and experience. He was fluent in (at least) French, Italian, and Spanish, in addition to English. He translated Machiavelli’s Prince. You would ask him how to understand foreign policy properly and he would tell you to read all of John Quincy Adams’s diaries and correspondence. He had the number of the “intelligence community” long before they foisted the Russia Collusion hoax on America, having served as the lead staffer for the Republicans on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence back when real oversight could still put the fear of God into bureaucrats—even those at the CIA. From that perch he was also instrumental in congressional support for the Strategic Defense Initiative. His books on how to think about international relations and foreign policy are indispensable, especially Informing Statecraft: Intelligence for a New Century, The Character of Nations, War: Ends and Means, To Make and Keep Peace Among Ourselves and with All Nations. For a wonderful short introduction to IR, see his ISI monograph, A Student’s Guide to International Relations.
As influential as he was on foreign policy thinking, many came to know him for his writing on our increasingly oligarchic American regime. He wrote an essay in 2010 for The American Spectator titled “America’s Ruling Class.” It caught Rush Limbaugh’s attention (like Mike Anton’s The Flight 93 Election would six years later) and would become a short book. Rooted in his deep love of America’s founding principles, Angelo has consistently and cogently warned against the accrual of power, wealth, and prestige to a class hostile to the American way of life and republican self-government. “Our Revolution’s Logic” remains one of the most-read pieces we’ve ever published at The American Mind.
We have lost a great and good man at a time when we are still very much in need of his wisdom and guidance. We will now have to settle for his voluminous writing over many decades. May we keep his memory alive so that future generations of students and statesmen seek him out, in dark and trying times, to the benefit of their country.