Robert Strauss

Evan Smith on Robert Strauss.

“Anyone who says I’m dead, you say the so-and-so is a liar.” Well, Robert Strauss was never one to mince words. And, indeed, at 82, the former Democratic party chair and consummate Beltway insider sounds very much alive and well—especially on the first day of a month-long vacation with his wife of sixty years, Helen. (“You know how you stay married that long? This morning I brought her breakfast in bed.”) We last heard from the Lockhart native in late 1991, when President George H. W. Bush, an old friend and combatant on the political playing field, dispatched him to Moscow as the U.S. ambassador to the disintegrating Soviet Union. He returned to the States at the end of 1992 after the election of Bill Clinton, whose youthful aides had little use for an aging wise man. “There was a big generation gap,” explains Strauss. “I was never close to the last administration.” Not so this time: On George W. Bush’s first day in office, Strauss reports, the president was “nice enough” to ask him over for coffee. Such power-schmoozing is part of Strauss’s continuing responsibilities as a managing partner working out of the Washington, D.C., office of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer, and Feld, but there’s more to his job than that. For instance, he recently agreed to chair the law firm’s new global services division, which handles everything from PR to legal affairs for domestic and foreign clients. A tall order for someone getting along in years, no? “Well, I don’t work Sundays anymore,” he says, “and I’ll cut down to five days a week soon. I think if I gave it up, like lots of other older men, I’d start talking about the past instead of the future.”

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