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September 29, 2009
By Jamie Stiehm, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
A newly minted blogger in this space feels compelled to say something about the late William Safire, a consummate Washingtonian with friends on both sides of the street. The Samuel Johnson of political language? There's a case to be made for that, and nobody would make it better than the dead language maven himself. Safire's death follows Sen. Edward Kennedy's by one month, and between these two major figures passing in their 70s, Washington has taken on a great deal of generational loss in a short time. This bipolar city does have a heart, after all, and it is heavy.
My friend, author and editor Robert Schlesinger, has some kind and eloquent words to say about the former speechwriter for President Richard M. Nixon. But let me make this perfectly clear: writing White House speeches for "a very good hater" (to borrow a phrase from Dr. Johnson) is not honorable, then or now. W.B. Yeats would be hard-pressed to fit it into his memorial poem praising a well-lived life: "Soldier, scholar, statesman, he." Nixon was a curse on our body politic and his evil deeds live long after him: Afghanistan as the new Vietnam, anyone?