Who's a nattering nabob?

Apr 16, 2002

New York Times columnist William Safire spoke at the UNC-CH j-school tonight. I’ve only recently begun to read his columns, both his Op-Ed page column and his Sunday Magazine On Language column, on a regular basis. ”Splitting hairs on language is what I do, on Sundays,” he said. His other column is his soapbox. ”I’m a vituperative right-wing scandal monger,” he said. ”As a conservative veering toward the reactionary, my big moment is every October, when daylight saving is the only time when you can actually turn back the clock.” Safire is credited with writing the famous tongue twister that Vice President Spiro Agnew spewed about the press: ”nattering nabobs of negativism.”

Safire spoke for an hour about Washington and politics and the Israeli-Palestinian war, and he used profiles of personalities to tell those stories. He spoke of Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice, Ariel Sharon and George W. Bush, and his recollections of cocktail party conversations and private phone calls were fascinating. He’s much easier to listen to than Rush Limbaugh and other conservative windbags. He described himself as a civil libertarian, and this way—”I’m a card-carrying pundit. If I don’t have an opinion on something … I’ll create one for you before your eyes.” Safire predicted that the Democrats will lose their slim hold of the Senate in the fall elections, but they’ll win back the House of Representatives. An enjoyable and insightful talk, though still not enough to get me to fully trust a conservative.

Anton Zuiker

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