Over the past year, conservatives have lost some powerful voices.
Jack Kemp was a ‘people’s politician’, with expansive hope for mankind.
was an exceptional and incisive Washington journalist who, later in
life (after a conversion), wished he’d spent more of his career writing
about abortion than politics.
Irving Kristol was a powerful political and intellectual force who shaped a whole movement of ‘conservative liberalism’…
an ideology that fused market economics, social
traditionalism, and aggressive democratic interventionism against
chosen authoritarian adversaries.
Now, it’s William Safire.
William Safire, 79, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist
and language maven for the New York Times, whose penchant for the
barbed and memorable phrase first manifested itself in speeches he
wrote for the Nixon White House, died Sept. 27…
“When word spread like cooling lava through the Nixon Administration
that I was to become a columnist for the New York Times,” he wrote on
April 15, 1973, “speechwriters who stayed behind wanted to know: ‘Will
you continue to stand up for the President, the work ethic and the
Nixon doctrine, or will you sell out to the elitist establishment and
become a darling of the Georgetown cocktail party set?’”
Safire, who puckishly assured his readers he never ducked the tough
questions, said that his answer to both questions was “yes and no.” He
encouraged his readers “to watch this space for further development.”
His skill at political insight was exceeded only by his gift of communication.
For more than three decades, Safire wrote twice weekly
as the resident conservative columnist on the Times op-ed page. He also
wrote the popular “On Language” column in the New York Times Sunday
Magazine, exploring grammar, usage and the origin of words. The column
led to the publication of 10 books about words and language.
That’s what I appreciated most about Safire, his great attention to words and clarity of expression.
The turning of the years can be cruel, and it is sad to
lose men like Bill Safire, Robert Bartley, William F. Buckley Jr.,
Robert Novak, Irving Kristol, Milton Friedman, Jack Kemp and others who
did so much to rescue America from the failures of the 1960s and
malaise of the 1970s. Yet one reason we note their deaths is the great
success they had in life. As Safire would have urged, our obligation is
to stop grieving and return cheerfully to the barricades.
The mission is purity of reason and nobility of service. Reinforcements badly needed.