Toward the end of April 1989, my tenure as the head of OLC would draw to a close. I relinquished the front office to William Barr upon his confirmation and wrapped up incomplete matters over the next several weeks. I watched the work of this largely unseen, but tremendously important, constitutional law firm continue unimpeded under the direction of an able successor.
Robin Ross called one afternoon and said Dick Thornburgh would like an opportunity to chat before I left. How unusual, I thought. "Of course," I said. On that final day, my family was with me, saying goodbye to colleagues I will always hold dear. My wife, Carol, took charge of our older children and Kolleen and Kloe, our twin daughters, then six months old, as I entered the Attorney General's office. In the company of one of the Pennsylvanians, Thornburgh greeted me warmly, although it was the type of polished warmth extended by a public figure. Innocuous banter about baseball ensued, until Thornburgh, with some relish, said, "We hope you'll tell us if there is any way we can improve our management operations here." I hesitated, not knowing if he was serious, or seriously disingenuous--that is turning the knife a bit on my departure. "You have my every wish for success," I said. We stepped outside his office, took the obligatory photograph, and parted.
As I write this in my Notre Dame office, Dick Thornburgh is spending his last day in the Department, having announced his candidacy for a U.S. Senate seat from Pennsylvania. I don't know how history will assess his stewardship at Justice. He has had some rocky times. At one point, William Safire wrote of Thornburgh, "[n]obody in the Cabinet has fallen farther faster."1 In my judgment, he had the capacity to be an excellent