Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist William Safire died today at 79. Bill was a friend and often encouraged me through the years as a columnist and commentator. He was one of the most interesting men that I have known in my life and, like millions, I will miss him.
While we had previously met, Bill and I spoke more frequently during the Clinton impeachment and later we would continue to speak about legal and policy issues. We both shared a certain libertarian streak.
He was the undisputed master of the language among columnists and would occasionally take each of us to task for writing infractions — though always in a humorous and kind-hearted way. I only received one such correction in a Safire column but I credit my editors for not being a recidivist.
My wife and I would go to Bill’s house every year to “break the fast” at Yom Kippur. It was like the salons of Europe with a collection of journalists, politicians, ambassadors, and the like. It was one of the city’s most unique functions and Bill passed away just a day before Yom Kippur when he would bring together this diverse group of intellectuals and power brokers in his home.
Starting as a speechwriter for Richard Nixon, Safire’s clarity in writing and thought soon made him a favorite of liberals and conservatives alike. He won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1978; in 1995 was named to the Pulitzer board. While we had disagreements on some issues, I always respected Bill for his graceful writing style and passion.
Bill was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and passed away in Maryland in a hospice.
Bill was a worthy icon in a city of false idols. We will be fortunate indeed to see the equal to Bill Safire in our lifetime.
For the full story, click here.