William Safire : Libertarian Conservative
Another journalistic icon dies. In degree the future is going to need to critically analyze the mythologies they are being presented. Ritualistically selling of the future for a dependent position earning a living is normative and demeans many persons both liberal and conservative. The vacuum of credible confrontation over the Chemical Assault over the Reagan – Obama presidencies cast significant doubt over this generation.
Safire died from pancreatic cancer at a hospice in Rockville, Maryland on September 27, 2009. He is survived by his wife Helene; their children Mark and Annabel, and a granddaughter.
Safire joined the New York Times as a political columnist in 1973. In 1978, he won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary on Bert Lance's alleged budgetary irregularities. However, subsequent investigations by Congress found no wrongdoing.
Since 1995 Safire had served as a member of the Pulitzer Board. After ending his op-ed column, Safire became the full-time chief executive of the Dana Foundation where he was chairman from 2000.
In 2006, Safire was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush.
Safire also often hosted meetings of the Judson Welliver Society, a bipartisan social club of former presidential speechwriters.
Safire described himself as a libertarian conservative. A Washington Post story on the ending of his op-ed column quotes him on the subject:
I'm willing to zap conservatives when they do things that are not libertarian. [After the 9/11 attacks,] I was the first to really go after George W. on his treatment of prisoners.
After voting for Bill Clinton in 1992, Safire became one of the leading critics of Clinton's administration. Hillary Clinton in particular was often the target of his ire. He caused a mild tempest when he called her a "congenital liar"; Hillary responded that she didn't feel offended for herself, but for her mother's sake. According to the president's press secretary at the time, Mike McCurry, "the president, if he were not the president, would have delivered a more forceful response to that on the bridge of Mr. Safire's nose."
Safire was one of several voices who called for war with Iraq, and predicted a "quick war," with Iraqis cheering their liberators. Many readers who followed his columns in The New York Times felt dismayed when he consistently brought up the point that an Iraqi intelligence agent met with Mohamed Atta, one of the 9/11 attackers, in Prague, Czech Republic. This theory had been debunked by the CIA and other credible intelligence agencies (see Mohamed Atta's alleged Prague connection). Still Safire kept insisting that this theory was true and used it to make a case for war against Iraq. Safire had also said that "freed scientists" would lead coalition forces to "caches (Of weapons of mass destruction) no inspectors could find." This never happened, and no weapons of mass destruction were ever found.
Several prominent journalists have written in-depth criticisms of Safire's columns in the years after 9/11, including The Nation writer David Corn and former 60 Minutes producer Barry Lando. "Safire's recent work - unburdened by factchecking, unchallenged by editors - shows he is more intent on manipulating than interpreting the available information," Corn wrote in 2004. On Salon.com, Lando details Safire's false accusations toward a French company for facilitating a weapons materials sale between China and Iraq - a sale that in fact never went through. Lando uses Safire's allegedly irresponsible and erroneous writing to address the larger question of op-ed columnists' accountability and how it differs from that of news reporters.
He was a staunch defender of policy in favor of Israel and for this reason received the Guardian of Zion Award of Bar-Ilan University in 2005.