Pulitzer Prize-Winning Columnist David Broder Dies

Host Robert Siegel speaks with political commentator EJ Dionne of the Washington Post and Brookings Institution about Washington Post columnist David Broder — who died Wednesday at age 81.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

David Broder died today of complications from diabetes. He was 81. Broder was a newspaper man. He wrote for the college paper at the University of Chicago. He wrote for a U.S. Army paper when he was in the service. He wrote for papers in Hyde Park in his native Chicago, and in Bloomington, Illinois. He wrote for the long-defunct Washington Star and for The New York Times. But mostly, he wrote for The Washington Post.

He joined the paper in the 1960s and remained there as a political reporter, later a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist.

He was also very often a panelist on the NBC newsmaker show, "Meet the Press." Here he is with host Tim Russert back in 2008.

(Soundbite of show, "Meet the Press")

Mr. Tim Russert (Host, "Meet the Press"): Two weeks-old: Obama 47, Clinton 34. David Broder, where is the race?

Mr. DAVID BRODER (Columnist, The Washington Post): Up in the air and probably going to stay there for a long time. I listened to Governor Dean, but - talking about how he wants to wrap this up. I don't see that happening. I can't - these are two strong candidates, and I think whatever happens in North Carolina and Indiana, it could be very hard to make the case to Mrs. Clinton that she ought to quit the race.

SIEGEL: Well, joining us now to talk about David Broder is another political writer turned Washington Post columnist, our own E.J. Dionne. E.J., there's a word I've heard you use to describe David Broder: Generous.

Mr. E.J. DIONNE (Columnist, Washington Post): That's right. I mean, I loved David Broder from the moment I met him, and I think there are dozens of reporters who feel that way.

The first time I met him was when I was 23 years old in 1976 during the New Hampshire primary. And it was in a press room. It may have been during a debate. And Dave Broder, one of the most famous political reporters in the United States, comes in, and he and another reporter, younger reporter, had been working on a story.

And he just hands his notes over and says: Here, you can use these. He gave the story to the younger reporter, and that's the kind of thing he did all the time.

The other thing about him was that he was a reporter's reporter and, within that, a citizens' reporter. It wasn't just that he knew every governor and every state party chair and probably half the county commissioners in the country, but he felt compelled constantly to go door-to-door to talk to voters.

And I remember in 1991, one of the first big David Broder projects I got involved in, he had this idea that we in Washington didn't really understand what was happening in the country in the fall of 1991.

So we went all over the country and stayed a week in different towns. I was assigned with my colleague, Maralee Schwartz(ph), to Kinosha, Wisconsin. We went door-to-door to community meetings and city council meetings. And when we all got back, we realized that there was a lot more discontent in the country than anybody thought.

And we wrote this series, and it was really all David's inspiration, that pointed to disaffection with President Bush at a moment when he was soaring in the polls and kind of predicted the Ross Perot movement before anybody knew that was out there.

SIEGEL: David Broder wrote about presidents and leaders in Congress, but he had a special weakness for governors.

Mr. DIONNE: He loved governors because they were problem-solvers and because they were non-ideological. And that's who David was. The other thing, he was an inveterate Midwesterner. He always wrote a column from Beaver Island, Michigan, and he said: Other folks say I ought to go to Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard and introduce - and be with all those ambassadors. Beaver Island, he said, was the center of the country. He was a small-D Democrat to the depths of his soul.

SIEGEL: E.J., thanks for talking with us, and we'll see you Friday.

Mr. DIONNE: Great to be with you.

SIEGEL: E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post, talking about David Broder, who died today at the age of 81.

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