There is likely no more well-known U.S. secretary of state than Henry Kissinger, who died Wednesday at the age of 100. Longtime Wyoming U.S. Sen. Al Simpson remembers Kissinger as a dear friend and a valuable colleague.
“He’ll be deeply missed,” Simpson said.
Simpson said he met Kissinger’s wife, Nancy Kissinger, before he ever met Henry. But Kissinger was an exhaustive source of foreign affairs advice while Simpson served in the U.S. Senate from 1979-1997.
Kissinger also offered foreign affairs advice to former vice president and Wyoming resident Dick Cheney, who kept a relationship with Kissinger into his later years and offered him and former President George W. Bush advice during the Iraq War.
Some have said Kissinger’s overall foreign policy approach influenced Cheney in his roles as secretary of defense and vice president.
A Diplomat’s Diplomat
State Rep. Cyrus Western, R-Big Horn, posted to X on Wednesday that Kissinger was the “greatest diplomat in American history.”
Kissinger played a prominent role in United States foreign policy, pioneering improved relations with the Soviet Union, opening relations with China, diplomacy in the Middle East to end the Yom Kippur War, and negotiating the Paris Peace Accords, which ended American involvement in the Vietnam War.
After leaving the Senate, Simpson taught at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and later served as director of the Institute of Politics at the school.
One day, Simpson invited Kissinger to talk to some of his students at Harvard. Although he obliged, Kissinger made it clear he didn’t want to do it on the Harvard campus.
“He said, ‘Don’t ask me to come to Harvard, I don’t like that place,’” Simpson remembered, impersonating Kissinger in his monotone voice.
Kissinger had a bitter attitude toward Harvard as the school refused to give him tenure once he retired from Capitol Hill because of some of the political controversies that had surrounded him.
“That was very disappointing to him and that’s why he didn’t want to come to the campus,” Simpson said.
But the former secretary of state ended up engaging with Simpson’s students for hours at a different location, entertaining every question they posed and firmly standing behind every decision he made.
Simpson described him as someone who “never took an apology and was just one of the finest men I ever worked with.”
Simpson also said he attended Kissinger’s 95th birthday in Boston in 2018.
Kissinger has been a polarizing figure in American politics. Many people criticize his actions during the Vietnam War, and some go as far as calling him a war criminal. He served as the secretary of state under former presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and was one of the leading faces of the Vietnam War.
During a famous 1972 interview with an Italian journalist, Kissinger referred to himself as a cowboy in the independent way he led the Nixon administration.
“Americans like the cowboy who leads the wagon train by riding ahead alone on his horse, the cowboy who rides all alone into the town, the village, with his horse and nothing else,” Kissinger said.
This comment apparently enraged Nixon, who even considered firing Kissinger for his remarks.
Simpson brushes aside those who criticize Kissinger and believes that nearly anyone who is famous will either be reviled or beloved.
“He will live in the past history books with big letters,” Simpson said.
Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.