William Safire

Nixon speechwriter turned political analyst William Safire has died. What I read of his political writing encapsulated everything I can’t stand about American political conservatism, although it was well-reasoned and insightful by the Glen Beckian standards of the present era. On the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed “On Language,” his magazine column about words and their usage. On that subject, Safire was geekily, infectiously enthusiastic, and that’s an attitude that transcends a lot of political backbiting.*

*Incidentally, Oxford English Dictionary defines “backbiting” as “the action of detracting, slandering, or speaking ill of one behind his back,” and dates its first usage in this sense to approximately 1175 CE, not long before the origin of parliamentary democracy.