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This Man Was Once the Most Important Person in American Journalism

Howell Raines, the one-time editor of the New York Times who left in disgrace after the exposure of the fallacious reporting of his protégé Jayson Blair, mis-memorializes the late William Safire in a jaw-dropping piece on the New Republic‘s website. Key quote:

In his grasp of political combat and public policy, Bill Safire was one of the smartest men I ever knew. His rigid loyalty to the Republican Party stood in contrast to his intellectual habits, which were liberal in the old-fashioned sense of being comprehensive and open to new information.

Leave aside the classically parochial and self-congratulatory suggestion that non-liberal ideas “stand in contrast” to ones that allow one to be “open to new information.” Raines’s description of Safire as a rigid Republican loyalist is simply and embarrassingly wrong. Safire voted for Bill Clinton in 1992 because he was so disgusted by George Bush the Elder. He spent much of his time in his final years as a columnist excoriating the second Bush administration for its transgressions against his civil-libertarian views. Raines was his supervisor during many of those years. Maybe he would have done well, in that role, to have read Safire’s actual writing once in a while.



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