Caspar W. Weinberger, a conservative Republican and consummate Cold Warrior who served in the Cabinets of Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and got ensnared in the Iran-Contra scandal, died Tuesday at 88.
Weinberger had been hospitalized for about a week with a high fever and pneumonia brought on by old age, according to his son, Caspar Weinberger Jr. Weinberger's wife of 63 years, Jane, was by his side when he died in the northeast state of Maine, the son said.
"He gave everything to his country, to public office and to his family," Caspar Weinberger Jr. said.
As Richard Nixon's budget director, Weinberger was such a zealous economizer he earned the nickname "Cap the Knife" for his efforts to slash government spending, largely by cutting or curtailing many of President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society social programs.
Later, he became Ronald Reagan's secretary of defense and presided over $2 trillion (Ђ1.66 trillion) in military spending the biggest peacetime increase in U.S. history.
Former first lady Nancy Reagan said in a statement: "He devoted his life to this country and served with dedication in many capacities over the years. ... His legacy is a strong and free America, and for this and for a lifetime of selfless service, a grateful nation thanks him."
"It's a very sad day," said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Said former Secretary of State Colin Powell: "Cap Weinberger was an indefatigable fighter for peace through strength." Patrick Buchanan, an aide and speechwriter in the Nixon White House, called him "a good friend."
Weinberger was a lifelong Republican, who called himself a "fiscal Puritan" and believed that budgets should always be balanced, first demonstrated his budget-trimming talents in the late 1960s when he helped solve California's budget problems as then-Gov. Reagan's finance director.
His tireless pursuit of Reagan's fiscal policies drew the attention of the Nixon White House and in 1969 Weinberger was recruited to head the Federal Trade Commission, where as chairman he instituted several high-profile reforms. He then moved on to run the president's Office of Management and Budget in 1970.
He also served as Nixon's secretary of health, education and welfare before returning to San Francisco in 1975 as special counsel to the Bechtel Corp., the huge worldwide construction company.
Weinberger was recalled to public service from Bechtel by Reagan, reports AP.
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