Civility, Camaraderie, And Columnists

Maureen Dowd and William Safire i i

hide captionMaureen Dowd and William Safire on Meet The Press.

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Maureen Dowd and William Safire

Maureen Dowd and William Safire on Meet The Press.

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If everyone's life is made of moments, than a true obituary is a collection of them. In the case of the recently departed William Safire, the particulars of his life — "political speechwriter" and "conservative columnist" — might indicate a different kind of man than he actually was. Maureen Dowd's lovely collection of Safire moments in her column today point to these delicious contradictions, and to the assumptions some people made about him.

He had a rough time with his transition from the Nixon White House to The Times. He told me that many of the liberal reporters stiffed him for the first couple of years until he dove into a pool to save a drowning child at an office party.

Dowd paints a picture of a twinkling, mischievous, and above all, thoughtful man — who never let intellectual disagreement block the way to civility. It's something to honor in a time when the most prevalent expressions of our disputes often appear as interruption and aggression. It's worth reading the liberal Maureen Dowd's remembrance of her conservative colleague's life — if only to remember that difference and discord, do not have to be the same thing.

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