Robert Strange McNamara -- Strange was his mother's maiden name -- died today at the age of 93, and all the good works he performed in his later years could not expunge the guilt or dishonor caked on his soul by the legacy that (dis)graced the lead of his obit: architect of the Vietnam War.
He was the brightest of the best and the brightest. JFK called McNamara the smartest man he ever met. LBJ wanted him to be his running mate in 1964.
But the ghosts of Vietnam never left, and the voices of the dead could not be quieted by "prime-time apology and stale tears, three decades late," as The New York Times wrote in 1995.
More from the Times obituary:
By then he wore the expression of a haunted man. He could be seen in the streets of Washington — stooped, his shirttail flapping in the wind — walking to and from his office a few blocks from the White House, wearing frayed running shoes and a thousand-yard stare.
Yet, after Kissinger and Rummy and Cheney, Robert Strange McNamara almost seems like Saint Bob, only because the architect of Vietnam went to his grave having learned the lessons of that awful war.