Monday, January 24, 2005

The Last -- And The Best (Or Close to It) -- of William Safire

Today is the last day of William Safire's tenure as the "right-wing" voice of The New York Times. (Not that he's gone completely; he'll still be using his Sunday Magazine column to explain the English language.)

To commemorate this, the Times isn't just publishing his farewell column. It's publishing three more pieces. Two of them are reminiscences of his punditing career: one sums up the journalistic crusades he's taken on over the years, such as Baltic freedom (victory!) and state-sponsored gambling (dang!), while the other talks about his relationships with the various First Ladies from Pat Nixon to Hillary Clinton (and the idea that Bill Clinton wanted to punch Safire's nose out, after the pundit called her a congenital liar, raised my respect for Slick Willie a small notch).

The second one listed is one worth paying attention to. "How to Read A Column" talks about the various rhetorical tricks that commentators use to get their points across, as well as appropriate responses from the reader. Besides being a lot of fun (as Safire shows how to violate his own rules), the advice can apply not just to our usual gang of idiots in the mainstream media, but also to the modern gang of idiots in the blogosphere.

I'm not sure who they'll get to succeed Safire as the token right-winger at the Times, but one thing's for sure: nobody can replace him.