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Ear to the Ground

William Safire Dead at 79

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Posted on Sep 27, 2009
William Safire
White House / Shealah Craighead

George W. Bush awarded Safire the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006.

The conservative New York Times columnist, Nixon speechwriter and college dropout lost a battle with pancreatic cancer Sunday. In his final opinion column for The Times, Safire wrote about mortality and his intention to reinvent himself at 75.

Safire wrote two columns for the paper—one on politics and the other on language. His final political column was penned in 2005, but his most recent On Language essay was published just this month, on Sept. 11.  —PS

The New York Times:

He was a college dropout and proud of it, a public relations go-getter who set up the famous Nixon-Khrushchev “kitchen debate” in Moscow, and a White House wordsmith in the tumultuous era of war in Vietnam, Nixon’s visit to China and the gathering storm of the Watergate scandal that drove the president from office.

Then, from 1973 to 2005, Mr. Safire wrote his twice weekly “Essay” for the Op-Ed Page of The Times, a forceful conservative voice in the liberal chorus. Unlike most Washington columnists who offer judgments with Olympian detachment, Mr. Safire was a pugnacious contrarian who did much of his own reporting, called people liars in print and laced his opinions with outrageous wordplay.

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ThomasG's avatar

By ThomasG, September 28, 2009 at 3:51 pm Link to this comment

The Right-Wing Conservative EXTREMIST Republican Movement died, and now all of the corporate socialists and corporate communists that were a part of the Right-Wing echo-chamber are dropping like flies in a fog of Raid insecticide; good riddance to bad rubbish that supported “greed is good” against both the National interest and the best interest of the 70% MAJORITY Common Population of the United States.

Democracy must be vigilant and not allow a new generation of corporate socialists and corporate communists to breathe life back into Conservatism as a MOVEMENT that destroyed the U.S. Economy, bankrupted the Nation and left generations of Americans as yet unborn in debt for the trillions of dollars that it cost to prevent the collapse of both the United States and World Economy that their Conservative Movement inflicted upon the United States and the World at large.

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By voice of truth, September 28, 2009 at 2:10 pm Link to this comment

How could I forget Chris Matthews, he sends shivers up my leg!

And Tim Russert used to work for Patrick Moynihan, not a president, obviously, but along the same lines.

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By truedigger3, September 28, 2009 at 1:53 pm Link to this comment

William Safire used his language skills in peddling hate and selling war.
During the runner up to the attack on Iraq he was one of the most vociferous voices calling for war.

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By Inherit The Wind, September 28, 2009 at 1:48 pm Link to this comment

VOT:
Don’t forget Chris Matthews.

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Night-Gaunt's avatar

By Night-Gaunt, September 28, 2009 at 1:35 pm Link to this comment

Don’t get me started on the secretive and censorous MPAA!

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By voice of truth, September 28, 2009 at 12:30 pm Link to this comment

I think the reason more Dem presidential speech writers are not pundits today is probably because in the last 40 years there has been only 12 years of a Dem President, and no one was going to come out of Carter’s failed pack smelling good.  That essentially only leaves Clinton.  While his speechwriter may not have moved on, others on his staff have:

Carville, Begala, Stephanopoulis, Podesta, Dee Dee Meyers, etc.


Jack Valenti wrote for Lyndon Johnson.  Though not a pundit, per se, he did have an illustrious career with the MPAA.

Arthur Schlesinger did a lot of opining

And I finish with, AGAIN, the comments about Safire, for his IDEAS, from the oh so tolerant left.

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By Old Geezer Pilot, September 28, 2009 at 10:30 am Link to this comment

Hated his politics, loved his use of the English
language. Probably there was none better save for
Churchill.

For a real hoot, read:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/24/opinion/24safire1.htm
l

I will miss his wit.

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By Mark, September 28, 2009 at 6:43 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Just wondering: How many former speech writers for Democratic Presidents have landed jobs as pundits?

I can name at least four Repub speechwriters who have gone on to punditry: John McLaughlin, Pat Buchanan, William Safire, Peggy Noonan. Have I missed any? BTW, why did the Nixon Admin turn out so many pundits?

How about on the Democratic side? I’m drawing a blank.

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Night-Gaunt's avatar

By Night-Gaunt, September 27, 2009 at 9:44 pm Link to this comment

I did find it jarring that he was a better writer than speaker. That is he sounded different from his words on paper. Perhaps that is a commonality and I just quibble. [I speak the way I write.] His politics I could have done without but I did collect his studies on language, though I wish it had been Dr. Noam Chomsky at that column rather than him.

I really found it funny that both he and the sententious WFB Jr. could stomach the extravagances of the cryto-fascists in office only so much. But not before from the beginning, they had to reach their certain threshold to do it.

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By Carolyn, September 27, 2009 at 3:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I hated Safire’s politics but loved his On Language column. I’ll miss that.

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By Inherit The Wind, September 27, 2009 at 3:27 pm Link to this comment

I can’t help it: I’ll always have a soft spot for William Safire.  I hated his politics, I hated his twisting of facts, but, quite frankly, he was simply the most intelligent Conservative out there in public.  He was whip-smart, much smarter than William F. Buckley, and not nearly as much a sophist.  And, like WFB, he eventually saw through Bush and the neo-cons and had enough honesty left to castigate them.

But mostly Safire was flat-out funny.  NOBODY could turn a phrase better than WS. Plus, his diatribes on language…only John Ciardi was as talented and entertaining.  Ciardi, the Socialist and Safire, the Conservative, together made language and entomology entertaining, enlightening and exciting.

I cannot hate Safire the way I could hate Limbaugh, Podhoretz, I.Kristol or W.Kristol. He was, to me, proof you can enjoy someone who has diametrically opposite views.  I wish I had had the chance to meet him.  All his NYTimes colleagues adored him, despite their politics.

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By Brian, September 27, 2009 at 3:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mary Ann McNeely is a Mary Kay consultant.

In both her jewelry & skin care & makeup business, she can do a home party in your home or hers.

Also specializes in stupidity, vitriol, and hatred.

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By bilejones, September 27, 2009 at 2:53 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Two enemies of humanity gone in one week. Good

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By Mary Ann McNeely, September 27, 2009 at 2:17 pm Link to this comment

Safire checks out a few days after his buddy Irving Kritol.  I imagine they’ll be bunking together in hell.

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