Behind-the-scenes adviser knew the fun of politics
Fred Dutton, the all-around adviser and strategist for leading Democrats since the Kennedy era who passed away
last month at 82, was a rare breed. He walked comfortably and influentially among two customary adversaries –
politicians and the press.
Dutton combined a keen knowledge of the inside workings of Washington with an optimistic, jovial personality that made him a valued counselor to such varied figures as the Kennedy brothers and, in more recent years, Prince Bandar
bin Sultan, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States.
At the same time, Dutton had a wide circle of friends in the Washington press corps with whom he had an easy and
mutually beneficial relationship in exchanging information and analyses of the events of the day.
Parties at the home of Dutton and his lawyer-partner wife, Nancy, were eclectic affairs that brought ranking politicians and other Washington insiders together with reporters, editors and columnists, often yielding grist for the next day’s news and commentary in leading journals.
Dutton was one of those most valued sources to whom you could go with confidence, not only for information but also
for guidance on the dependability of stories floating about that could make you look good, if true, or leave you with
egg on your face, if false or inaccurate.
Dutton first gained political prominence as a campaign manager for Adlai Stevenson’s second presidential bid in
1956 in California, after which he ran Pat Brown’s successful campaign for governor and then served as his
chief of staff in Sacramento.
He worked for the election of President John Kennedy in 1960 and was brought to Washington by him, serving as his
Cabinet secretary and then assistant as secretary of state for congressional relations, a job he continued under
President Lyndon Johnson.
I first met Dutton when he was Senator Robert Kennedy’s closest political adviser in his brief and dramatic presidential bid of 1968. In that frenzied campaign that ended in tragedy in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles minutes after Kennedy had won the California Democratic primary, Dutton was constantly at his side, offering the candidate much more than political advice.
Kennedy aides in that campaign were always required to function as crowd controllers, as enthusiastic followers
endlessly sought to touch the candidate and grab articles of his clothing as souvenirs. On one California swing, Kennedy lost his shoes in the crush, and Dutton took off his own and gave them to the candidate. The mischievous
RFK, in acknowledging the support of the assembled politicians at the next stop, blurted out to the perplexed
crowd: “And I want to thank Fred Dutton for his shoes!”
Dutton was born in the small frontier town of Julesburg, Colorado, and during one whistle-stop swing, the train suddenly stopped there, although Kennedy wasn’t scheduled to speak. The candidate and entourage jumped off waving hand-made Dutton signs and held an impromptu rally for a grinning Fred, who did an imitation of RFK in a speech promising to “do better” and to “turn this country around.” Mirth was always a constant companion of the man from Julesburg.
Dutton also was a key adviser in Sen. George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign, after which he converted his
public-service role to more lucrative employment as an adviser to Mobil Oil. He helped to burnish its image with
sponsorship of a series of widely broadcast National Town Meeting forums at the Kennedy Center from 1974 to 1981.
In a city laden with men and women on the make for celebrity, Dutton chose to keep out of the limelight, functioning in the fashion of other highly influential Democratic figures such as the late Clark Clifford and Lloyd Cutler but usually with more of the merriment that was his trademark.
Dutton combined the political skills and winning manner that would have made him an ideal candidate for public office, but he never chose to seek it. Behind the scenes, he probably accomplished more than most politicians who in
their lifetimes did vie for public notoriety and acclaim, and he seemed always more content with that most constructive and joyful role.
Frederick Dutton Dies; Power Broker, Presidential Aide
Frederick Gary Dutton, 82, a Washington power broker who for 40 years was an adviser to the Kennedy family and the Saudi royal family, died June 25, 2005, at George Washington University Hospital of complications from a stroke.
Mr. Dutton had been the Washington liaison and consultant for Saudi Arabia since 1975 and was widely credited with engineering the come-from-behind congressional approval of two major arms sales to the kingdom — the 1978 sale of F-15 fighters and the 1981 sale of radar planes.
Dubbed a “master power broker” by the Wall Street Journal and a “keen student of politics” by a New York Times correspondent, Mr. Dutton had both political credibility from his years in Democratic politics and social credibility from years spent wooing the press.
Working for John F. Kennedy, Mr. Dutton had a knack for finding ways to exercise influence. He was Kennedy's secretary of the Cabinet and served later as assistant secretary of state for congressional relations under Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson. He was the de facto campaign manager for Sen. Robert F. Kennedy's presidential bid and was at the Ambassador Hotel in 1968 when the senator was fatally shot. Mr. Dutton muscled his way into the ambulance to ride to the hospital with the senator and Ethel Kennedy.
He worked on the presidential campaigns of Hubert H. Humphrey in 1968 and George McGovern in 1972. He was an adviser to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and an impresario of spin. As an adviser to Mobil Oil in the early 1970s, he suggested that the company buy an ad on newspaper op-ed pages to argue a single topic. Mobil vice president Herb Schmertz took the advice, and the corporate advertorial was born. Mr. Dutton had a brief career as a talking head, paired with John Sears on the old “MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour” on PBS.
A balding, pixie-ish, poker-playing rogue, Mr. Dutton was born in Julesburg, Colorado, and moved to California as a youth. During World War II, he served in the Army infantry and was wounded and taken prisoner during the Battle of the Bulge. He was later awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. He served in the Judge Advocate General's Corps during the Korean War, stationed in Japan.
Mr. Dutton graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and received a law degree from Stanford University in 1949. He was on the first editorial board of the Stanford Law Review with Warren M. Christopher, who became President Bill Clinton's secretary of state, and Shirley M. Hufstedler, President Jimmy Carter's secretary of education.
His political career began as Southern California campaign manager for Adlai Stevenson's 1956 presidential campaign. Afterwards, he signed on with Edmund G. “Pat” Brown's campaign for governor and later served as his chief of staff.
Mr. Dutton was a member of the California university system's board of regents from 1962 to 1978.
In 1962, as a presidential aide, he described himself as “Typhoid Mary, carrying germs of ideas and outlooks back and forth between the State Department and Congress.”
He was in charge of the platform committee at the 1964 Democratic National Convention, coordinator of the John F. Kennedy Library and founding director of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation and served on the Democratic National Committee's McGovern Commission from 1969 to 1972, which resulted in the reform of the delegate selection process. His role in increasing the number of female delegates led feminist Betty Friedan to call him the “Papa Bear of the women's liberation movement,” said Nancy Dutton, his wife and law firm partner.
Although he was once described as “Fred of Arabia,” his work as a lobbyist involved much behind-the-scenes work as a “force multiplier” who paved the way for others to take the stage. He brought media personalities into social contact with politicians at dinner parties that his wife insisted were simply gatherings of friends but that are as much a part of the capital city's unwritten rules of influence as the power lunch.
“I like to keep things on a social level,” Mr. Dutton said of one of his soirees.
When quoted in print, he played down the work of lobbying and observations that he was as much a political strategist as an aide to elected officials.
“When you get right down to it, we're just pimples on the process,” he told The Washington Post in 1983. “So much of lobbying is just blue smoke and mirrors. One of the phoniest parts of the whole business is the extent to which the Washington office exists simply to feed the corporate vice president back home a steady diet of the insider Washington gossip. You're a bigger man on Fifth Avenue or out on Main Street if you can make a grand processional into Washington.”
His marriage to June Kingborg ended in divorce.
Survivors include his wife, of Washington; three children from his first marriage, Christopher Dutton of San Anselmo, Calif., Lisa Dutton of Los Angeles and Eve Dutton of San Carlos, Calif.; two daughters from his second marriage, Stacy Dutton of Philadelphia and Christina Dutton of Washington; and seven grandchildren.
Frederick Dutton, Adviser to the Kennedys and the Saudis, Is Dead at 82
Jne 26, 2005 – Frederick G. Dutton, a Washington lawyer who spent the first half of his career as an adviser to the Kennedys and other Democratic politicians and the last half primarily as the lobbyist for Saudi Arabia, died here on Saturday. He was 82.
The cause was complications from a stroke, his family said.
Mr. Dutton worked on John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign in 1960, and after the election he came to Washington to be on the White House staff. After serving a year as a presidential assistant, he became assistant secretary of state for Congressional relations.
He was a deputy national chairman of Lyndon B. Johnson's presidential campaign in 1964, and he was effectively Robert F. Kennedy's campaign manager in the Democratic primaries in 1968.
Among the other Democratic politicians that he worked for were Adlai E. Stevenson, Hubert H. Humphrey and George McGovern. He remained close to the Kennedy family and helped to develop the John F. Kennedy Library and the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial, a foundation.
In the 1970's, he was hired by the Saudi royal family to be their Washington consultant and lobbyist. Filings with the Justice Department show that he earned millions of dollars from the Saudis over the years.
Mr. Dutton was instrumental in winning government support for the sale of fighter planes to the Saudis in 1978 and radar planes in 1981. In 2002, records show, he received more than $500,000 to help manage the Saudis' public response to the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Frederick Gary Dutton was born on June 16, 1923, in Julesburg, Colorado, the son of a doctor. In 1930, his family moved to the San Francisco area, and he graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, and the Stanford University Law School.
Mr. Dutton was in the infantry in World War II. He was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge and received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. He was recalled into the Army in the Korean War to serve in the Judge Advocate General's Corps.
Shortly after he left the Army, Mr. Dutton became involved in politics in California. He was special counsel to the State Senate Judiciary Committee, chief assistant attorney general and chief of staff for Gov. Edmund G. Brown Sr.
In the Kennedy White House, Mr. Dutton was secretary to the cabinet and coordinator of domestic policy.
He began a law practice in Washington in 1965. Thanks to a friend from the Kennedy campaigns who was an executive for the Mobil Corporation, that company became one of his main clients.
Mr. Dutton's first marriage, to June Klingborg, ended in divorce. His second wife, Nancy Hogan Dutton, also became his law partner. In addition to her, he is survived by three children from his first marriage, Christopher, of San Anselmo, Calif.; Lisa, of Los Angeles; and Eve, of San Carlos, Calif.; two daughters from his second marriage, Stacy, of Philadelphia and Christina, of Washington; and seven grandchildren.
In an interview in 1978, Mr. Dutton said he was hired by the Saudis after Senator J. W. Fulbright, then the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, told Rawleigh Warner Jr., the chief executive of Mobil, that the Saudis did not “handle themselves well” in Washington. Mr. Warner passed the message and Mr. Dutton's name to the Saudi government.
Many of Mr. Dutton's duties for the Saudis revolved around multibillion-dollar arms sales and development projects. But others were more personal, like negotiating the purchase of an apartment for the Saudi foreign minister on Park Avenue in New York City and finding orthopedic chairs for ailing Saudi royalty.
Fred Dutton Remembered
Fred Dutton, a Democratic power broker in both Washington and California who served as assistant to President John F. Kennedy and chief of staff for Gov. Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, has died. He was 82.
Dutton died Saturday at George Washington University Hospital in the nation's capital of complications from a stroke.
Dutton wrote two books on national politics: “Changing Sources of Power: American Politics in the 1970s,” published in 1971, and “Election Guide for 1972” in 1972.
He also contributed frequent Op-Ed articles to The Times and other newspapers and was paired for some months with Ronald Reagan's campaign chief John Sears on PBS' “MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.”
After campaigning for Kennedy, Dutton moved to Washington in 1961 as his assistant for interdepartmental and intergovernmental affairs and secretary of the Cabinet. He later transferred to the State Department as assistant secretary for congressional affairs.
“The relationship of government to the chief executive, whether it is the president or a governor, is somewhat similar,” he told The Times as he eased from state to national problem-solving more than four decades ago. But “the governor of California has more space — and it is more efficiently organized — than the president. I don't think anyone outside
knows how small the White House office is.”
When Kennedy was slain, Dutton was tapped as coordinator of the John F. Kennedy Library, where he organized the Kennedy Oral History Project. Loyal to the Democratic party as well as the Kennedy family, Dutton took charge of the platform committee for the 1964 convention and wrote speeches for Lyndon B. Johnson's campaign.
When Robert F. Kennedy ran for president in 1968, Dutton served as behind-the-scenes campaign manager. He was with the candidate when he was slain at Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel, and rode with Kennedy and his wife, Ethel, in the ambulance to the hospital. Later, Dutton served as founding director of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation.
He also served on the Democratic National Committee's McGovern Commission from 1969 to 1972 to revamp the convention delegate selection process. His effort to include more women prompted feminist Betty Friedan to dub
him “the Papa Bear of the women's liberation movement.”
Dutton also worked on the presidential campaigns of Hubert H. Humphrey in 1968 and George McGovern in 1972, but did so reluctantly.
“After Bobby was shot, the lights went out for me,” he told The Times in 1981. “I've never really been as involved in presidential politics again as I was then.”
The disillusionment helped explain to many why the unabashedly liberal Dutton, who established his Washington law firm in 1965, later agreed to represent the conservative Saudi Arabian government. He became so skillful at negotiating for and with the Saudi royals that one opposing Washington lobbyist dubbed him “Fred of Arabia,” alluding to Britain's Lawrence of Arabia.
Dutton's efforts to engineer the sale of defense equipment in 1981 even placed him on the same side as conservative President Reagan, little more than a decade after the two men had clashed when both sat on the UC Board
It was Dutton who coined the slogan “Reagan or Begin” — referring to then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel — to promote the sale of Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) planes to Saudi Arabia, a transaction that many American Jews saw as a slap at U.S. alliances with Israel.
“I enjoy the intellectual vicariousness of it. They are obviously paying me very well,” he told The Times in 1981, explaining his acceptance of the job requiring him to do such varied tasks as lobbying Congress to ship recliners to the Saudi king and defending Saudi students in auto accidents. “And I'm back in politics without it being at the personal
level. I'm not back with Bob Kennedy in the hallway of the Ambassador Hotel. I like the fight…. I think international policy is important.”
Long before Dutton became a player in national and international politics, he had ensconced himself in California's halls of power.
Born Frederick Gary Dutton on June 16, 1923, in Julesburg, Colorado, Dutton moved to San Mateo, California, with his parents when he was 7.
He served in the Army during World War II and became a prisoner of war after he was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge, earning a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.
After completing his bachelor's degree with honors at UC Berkeley, he earned a law degree at Stanford, where he was on the first editorial board of its law review, along with Warren M. Christopher, future secretary of State in the Clinton administration, and Shirley M. Hufstedler, who would serve as secretary of Education for President Carter.
Dutton began his private law practice in San Mateo, and after serving in the judge advocate general's corps during the Korean War, became chief counsel for what was then the South Counties Gas Co. in Los Angeles.
The energetic attorney cut his political teeth running the Southern California presidential campaign for Adlai Stevenson in 1956. That year he also linked up with Brown as the future governor's chief assistant in the state attorney general's office.
As Brown's campaign manager in 1958, Dutton succeeded in bringing the first Democrat to the governor's chair in the 20th century. A grateful Brown made him chief of staff, where Dutton helped push the landmark California Water Project through the Legislature.
The two men remained close even after Dutton left to join the Kennedy campaign in 1960, and Brown appointed him to the UC board, where he served from 1962 until resigning in 1976. As a regent, Dutton championed
student protesters in the free-speech movement at Berkeley's People's Park and anti-Vietnam War demonstrations.
Dutton clashed frequently with Reagan, who unlike other California governors took his automatic seat on the board seriously and attended meetings. Dutton and Reagan traded barbs over many issues, including Reagan's 1970 imposition of tuition, accusations that each politicized the board and Dutton's assertion that UC was a racist institution.
Reagan was so provoked at one 1970 regents meeting in San Francisco that he shook his finger at Dutton and called him a liar.
Dutton is survived by his wife and law partner, Nancy; their two children, Stacy Dutton of Philadelphia and Christina Dutton of Washington, D.C.; three children from his first marriage to June Kingborg, Christopher Dutton of San Anselmo, Calif., Lisa Dutton of Los Angeles and Eve Dutton of San Carlos, Calif.; and seven grandchildren.
Funeral services and burial with full military honors took place at Arlington National Cemetery on 30 September 2005.
DUTTON, FREDERICK GARY
1ST LT US ARMY
WORLD WAR II, KOREA
DATE OF BIRTH: 06/16/1923
DATE OF DEATH: 06/25/2005
BURIED AT: SECTION 32 SITE 250
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard