William Safire: 1929 - 2009, RIP.
They do not make them anymore like William Safire and sadly William Safire has passed way today at the age of 79. Today, journalism lost a gem. The journalistic tapestries that this wordsmith could create was like few others. The long time NY Times columnist “was hired to be a sore thumb” at the famously liberal newspaper. Safire was a journalist’s journalist who took no prisoners and most importantly never knew what the definition of PC meant. One always knew they were going to get the straight forward and brutally honest truth from William Safire. Rest in Peace … We lost a truly special person today.
Safire, the former Richard Nixon speech writer and Pulitzer Prize-winning NY Times columnist, died at 79 today from pancreatic cancer. The Pulitzer Prize winning journalist died at a hospice in Rockville, MD.
William Safire receiving the President Medal of Freedom in 2006
William Safire, a speechwriter for President Richard M. Nixon and a Pulitzer Prize-winning political columnist for The New York Times who also wrote novels, books on politics and a Malaprop’s treasury of articles on language, died at a hospice in Rockville, Md. on Sunday. He was 79.
The cause was cancer, said his assistant, Rosemary Shields.
There may be many sides in a genteel debate, but in the Safire world of politics and journalism it was simpler: there was his own unambiguous wit and wisdom on one hand and, on the other, the blubber of fools he called “nattering nabobs of negativism” and “hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history
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.
William Safire embodied what journalism show be. Sadly, not only has Mr. Safire passed on, but in so many respects so has the profession of journalism that he loved so dearly. Those calling them self journalist today should take pause, say a prayer for William Safire and rededicate them self for what the values of journalism truly are.
“He believed in the values of journalism — of ferreting out the truth and holding leaders to account, Republicans and Democrats,” Oreskes said. “Above all, he loved to encourage his colleagues to break a good story and raise hell.”
Born in New York in 1929, Safire began his career as a reporter for newspapers, television and radio stations after dropping out of Syracuse University. After becoming a public relations executive in the late 1950s, he was credited with putting together the 1959 “kitchen debate” between then-Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev at that year’s American National Exhibition in Moscow.
Safire was the publicist for a builder at the time.
“What I was publicizing was the typical American house,” he recounted during a conference at George Washington University in July. “It was my kitchen.”
The next year, he went to work for Nixon’s first, unsuccessful presidential bid. He rejoined the Nixon team in 1968, when the Republican eventually won the White House, and became one of the administration’s top speechwriters.
Safire spent more than 30 years writing on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times. In his “On Language” column in The New York Times Magazine and 15 books, Safire traced the origins of words and everyday phrases such as “straw-man,” “under the bus” and “the proof is in the pudding.”
Safire penned more than 3,000 columns, aggressively defending civil liberties and Israel while tangling with political figures. Bill Clinton famously wanted to punch the curmudgeonly columnist in the nose after Safire called his wife “a congenital liar.”