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Richard Gordon "Dick" Darman

In office
1989 – 1993
Preceded by Joseph Robert Wright, Jr.
Succeeded by Leon Panetta

Born May 10, 1943(1943-05-10)
Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
Died January 25, 2008 (aged 64)
Washington, D.C.
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Kathleen Emmet Darman
Children Three sons, William Temple Emmet Darman, Jonathan Warren Emmet Darman, and Christopher Temple Emmet Darman
Occupation Economist; Businessman; Government administrator
Darman at a NSC meeting

Richard Gordon Darman (May 10, 1943 – January 25, 2008), known as Dick Darman, was an American economist and businessman who served under five U.S. presidents but is best remembered as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget during the administration of George H. W. Bush (1989-1993). Darman was regarded as provocative and intelligent by insiders in Washington, D.C., but he was criticized by some economists for being too focused on the budget deficit and was sometimes blamed for convincing Bush to renege on his promise of "Read my lips: No new taxes", which is widely believed to have contributed to Bush's defeat for a second term by Bill Clinton in the election of 1992. National Review the conservative magazine begun by William F. Buckley, Jr., called Darman's work at the time "the most catastrophic budget deal of all time," and Bush himself later said that the new taxes were the biggest mistake of his presidency. However, several nonpartisan analyses later determined that the 1990 budget accord, which Darman spearheaded, played a significant role in stimulating the economy and creating budget surpluses in the 1990s.

Prior to serving at OMB, Darman held other governmental positions under President Ronald Reagan, including: Assistant to the President of the United States (1981-1985); Deputy Secretary of the Treasury (1985-1987) to his close friend James A. Baker, III, of Houston; and Assistant Secretary of Commerce (1976-1977). He also was a member of the faculty of the Kennedy School of Government and Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on three different occasions between 1977 and 2002: as an Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy, a Lecturer in Public Policy, and a Public Service Professor.

Darman was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, and grew up in, first, Rhode Island, and then the exclusive Wellesley Hills neighborhood of Wellesley in southeastern Massachusetts. His father owned textile mills and marketed oil and gasoline. In 1960, Darman graduated at the age of seventeen from The Rivers School a college preparatory school in Weston in Middlesex County. He then finished with honors from Harvard in 1964 and from the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration in 1967.

Darman joined the administration of President Richard M. Nixon in 1970 and worked under Elliot L. Richardson of Massachusetts in a succession of Cabinet departments: (1) Health, Education and Welfare, (2) Defense, and (3) Justice. At the Justice Department, Darman helped to develop the plea bargain which brought about the resignation of Vice President of the United States Spiro T. Agnew from office.

When Richardson resigned as attorney general in refusing to follow Nixon's orders to dismiss Archibald Cox, also of Massachusetts, as the Watergate special prosecutor, Darman quit as well. He returned to government as an assistant secretary of commerce under Richardson during the Gerald Ford presidency and then under Richardson's successor, James A. Baker. At the Commerce Department, Darman worked on negotiations of the unratified Law of the Sea Treaty. He continued this work for several months into the Jimmy Carter administration, having hence served under five Presidents.

Darman consulted and taught until he was appointed executive director of Reagan's transition team in 1980. As "assistant to the President" under Reagan, Darman was called the "nerve center" of the administration by the presidential counselor Edwin A. Meese, III, who was later Reagan's attorney general. Darman became Reagan's principal legislative strategist and participated in foreign-policy decisions.

Darman's pragmatism, willingness to work with Democrats, and desire to make a career of government rankled movement conservatives. In Revolution: The Reagan Legacy, author Martin Anderson, a former Reagan aide, called Darman "easily the most disliked man in the White House." Darman helped to elect Reagan by coaching him for his debates in 1980 and 1984 campaigns. He reprised the role for the first Bush in 1988 and 1992, playing Democratic challengers Michael Dukakis and Bill Clinton in debate prep sessions.

From 1987-1988, Darman was also a contributing editor to the magazine U.S. News and World Report.

From 1993 until his death, Darman was a partner in the Carlyle Group, the private equity firm based in Washington. Since May 1, 2003, he also served as Chairman of the Board of AES Corporation, a global power company. At the time of his death, Darman resided with his family in McLean in Fairfax County, Virginia, outside Washington.

Darman was a trustee of the Loomis Sayles Funds, IXIS Funds, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He served as Chairman of the Board of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Some sources suggest that Darman was a member of the Trilateral Commission.

Darman died at the age of sixty-four of acute myelogenous leukemia]]. Survivors included his wife, the former Kathleen Emmet, a writer whom he married on September 1, 1967; three sons, Jonathan W.E. Darman of New York City, William T.E. Darman of Brooklyn, New York, and C.T. Emmet Darman of McLean; a granddaughter, Jane Darman; his mother, Eleanor Darman of Lincoln, Massachusetts; a sister Lynn Darman, of Washington, DC, and a brother, John Darman, of West Bridgewater, Massachusetts.

Baker described Darman as "absolutely brilliant at boiling down complex issues to their simplest forms. He always provided me with an unvarnished perspective." At the time of Darman's death, President George H.W. Bush said Darman was "wonderfully supportive of me through thick and thin -- a trusted ally and loyal friend."


  • Who's in Control? Polar Politics and the Sensible Center (1996; ISBN 0-684-81123-5)



Political offices
Preceded by
Joseph Robert Wright, Jr.
Director of the Office of Management and Budget
Succeeded by
Leon Panetta

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