William Safire

William Safire, the former Nixon speechwriter famous for providing Vice President Spiro Agnew with gems such as ‘hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history’, died yesterday. I looked forward to his NYT column “On Language“, links to whose posts I shared on several occasions with friends over email.

If you must read anything by Safire, let it be his last Op-Ed column “How to Read a Column” for the NYT in 2005, full of self-directed jibes:

7. Watch for repayment of favors. Stewart Alsop jocularly advised a novice columnist: “Never compromise your journalistic integrity – except for a revealing anecdote.” Example: a Nixon speechwriter told columnists that the president, at Camp David, boasted “I just shot 120,” to which Henry Kissinger said brightly “Your golf game is improving, Mr. President,” causing Nixon to growl “I was bowling, Henry.” After columnists gobbled that up, the manipulative writer collected in the coin of friendlier treatment.