Molly Ivins. Art Buchwald just a couple of weeks ago. Living spiritual parents are getting awfully hard to come by these days.
Just a few paragraphs to remember how eloquently brutal Ivins could be, like this one from her January 21, 1999 column, about what was obviously her least favorite topic, the entire Lewinsky/Clinton tale:
"My other favorite argument is that Clinton mustn't be allowed to 'get away with it.' Get away with what? Did you ever in your life see anyone more caught, more ruthlessly exposed in relentless detail? It is mind-boggling enough that this pathetic, sordid episode is the subject of an impeachment trial; now comes the question of whether the Senate has so lost all sense of seemliness as to bring Monica Lewinsky and Company into the U.S. Senate to tell once more the tawdry tale of the 10 oral encounters that shook the world."
In her writings, Ivins despised those things that were distractions from the real work of government, of doing the work of and for the people of the nation. And the impeachment of Clinton was the right wing engaging in Caligula-like decadence for the sake of itself. Ivins ripped into the conservative machine, only to see it take things to the next level of ignorance and depravity with the Iraq war.
Prescient (and right) as ever, Ivins said in a February 11, 1998 column about the crazed House of Representatives speaking in session: "Next up, several members decide to demand that if we use air strikes against Iraq, we take out Saddam Hussein. In the first place, murdering foreign leaders is not a proper tool of foreign policy, for the sensible reason that you never know what you'll get if you do. One of the most famous hypothetical questions of history is: What if someone had managed to murder Adolf Hitler early on? Suppose someone did, and then the Nazi movement had been taken over by, say, Albert Speer, who was a lot better organized than Hitler?"
Ivins never became the regular TV pundit that so many other alleged columnists became. Perhaps it was because of moments like this, being interviewed about the brewing Clinton "scandal" on some Fox "news" program in March 1998: "If we had devoted this much time and this much space in the newspapers to the single most important problem in American politics today, which is the money that finances campaigns and the way the people that get elected respond to that money, we would have solved the problem by now. We would have the people of this country so outraged, they would be demanding campaign finance reform. What are we doing? We're talking about the president's dick. It's ridiculous."
In that same interview, she said this: "I actually have a fair amount of respect for good politicians. And by 'good politicians,' I mean people who really try to move the ball in such a way that people can get helped. And they do deserve respect and they do deserve credit." But she believed all politicians, good and bad, need to be held to account, not for fucking around or drinking after work. But for what they did that affected you and everyone else in the country while on the job. If they're not dicking us over, who gives a shit about their dicks? Because of this, she reserved special scorn for the Washington press corps.
On CNN's Reliable Sources on July 14, 2001, in those heady Chandra-riffic days before everythingchangedon911, responding to Howard Kurtz's question on the press's behavior on the "Did Gary Condit kill that woman?" story, Ivins said, "It's a disgraceful performance. Look, part of what happens is that in journalism there is a contest for the limited time and space we have available to try to present what is going on to people's attention. And we had the same problem during the Monica Lewinsky scandal; two-thirds of the world's economy collapsed while the press was simply obsessed with Ms. Lewinsky."
She said, often, that the sins of omission were the real crimes of contemporary journalism. Her columns so often filled that gap, talking about labor and working people and countries like the Congo and Indonesia. She refused in the last few years to get drawn into the false debate of "would you rather Saddam still be in power," turning that around to say that the left never wanted him in power in the first place.
She was goddamned smart, so smart she didn't have to flaunt it. So smart that she could use the down to earth side to say what she meant so all of us could understand it. She didn't suffer bullies. She loved Texas like a parent loves her child even after that child has gone on a three-state killing spree. She was unfailingly polite. And she could eviscerate anyone who was failing all of us with just an image or two. Those guttings will be desperately missed. That sense and celebration of the decency of the average American will be missed even more.
We've lost one of our defenders.