Ex-N.H. Sen. Warren B. Rudman dies

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CONCORD, N.H. -- Colleagues knew former Sen. Warren B. Rudman for his abrupt manner, but they trusted his expertise. On one matter in particular, though, he wished people would have listened to him: that the U.S. was vulnerable to a major terrorist attack.

Rudman left the Senate in the early 1990s but later led a commission that predicted the danger of terrorism on American soil just months before the attacks of Sept. 11 and called for the creation of a Department of Homeland Security.

"No one seemed to take it seriously, and no one in the media seemed to care," Rudman said in 2007. "The report went into a dustbin in the White House."

Rudman, who also co-authored a groundbreaking budget balancing law and championed ethics, died at age 82 just before midnight Monday at a Washington, D.C., hospital of complications from lymphoma, said Bob Stevenson, a longtime friend and spokesman.

Rep. Charlie Bass of New Hampshire didn't serve with him, but looked up to Rudman, who died Monday.

"He'd say, 'Vote the tough way,' and he'd say, 'Don't let people push you around,' " Bass recalled. "'If you know what's right, vote the way that's right, and if you're forceful and persuasive and sure of yourself, people will support you even if they don't agree with you."'

President Barack Obama pointed to Rudman's early advocacy for fiscal responsibility in mourning the passing of "one of our country's great public servants."

Stevenson acknowledged Rudman could be abrupt, but said his peers respected him because he did his homework and was true to his word. "He was a bulldog in the Senate. He set the standard for independence," he said.

The feisty New Hampshire Republican went to the Senate in 1981 with a reputation as a tough prosecutor, and was called on by Senate leaders and presidents of both parties to tackle tough assignments.

He is perhaps best known from his Senate years as co-sponsor of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings budget-cutting law. He left the Senate in 1993, saying the law never reached its potential because Congress and presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush played politics instead of insisting on spending cuts.

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"People are willing to risk their lives for their country in times of war," he said at the time. "They ought to be able to risk an election in a time of economic trouble." Rudman "always had the national good in mind," said former Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings.

"He wasn't extreme one way or the other, except for the good of the country," said Hollings from his South Carolina office. "He was balanced. That's what we need."

In 2001, before the 9/11 attacks, he co-authored a report on national security with former Sen. Gary Hart of Colorado that said a major terrorist attack on American soil was likely within 25 years. It was revived after the Sept. 11 attacks, and one suggestion, forming Homeland Security, was adopted. Six years later, Rudman said the sprawling department wasn't functioning well and the country would be hit again.

"It is not a question, I'm sorry to tell you, of 'if.' It's a question of 'when,' " Rudman said.

A former New Hampshire attorney general, Rudman was named chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee in 1985. Rudman was cited for his work on the Defense Appropriations subcommittee, where he supported a strong national defense but opposed expensive, high-tech weaponry.

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