One Thing About You by RONNIE DUGGER lb ou Dubose let me know, from his visits with her in January, that Molly was failing. I was kept in the East by a medical situation, but two days before she died I sat down for lunch in a bar in Cambridge and wrote her a letter, which was delivered to her home on Alta Vista Avenue in South Austin and read to her the day before she died. She opened her eyes to listen and smiled. Monday, January 29, 2007 A bar in Cambridge Dear Molly, From Lou I learn you are back home where you’re comfortable after the stay in the hospital. Pat’s and my thoughts are very much with you. She sends bundles of love to you. I have been searching my mind this morning for any other columnist and journalist in my lifetime who has done as much good as you have for the people through the press. Woodward and Bernstein, perhaps, in their one glorious series of exposesWatergate, ridding us of Nixon and his gang. But I can’t think of anyone to hold up against your achievement. My memory runs back to only three others, Marquis Childs, Walter Lippman, and James Reston, each very different from each other andftom you. Childs was a voice for justice like yours, national, but so much less heard or read than you that there is no real comparison. Lippman and Reston, also during my time, did more, each in his own way, to thwart Lyndon on Vietnam and drive him out, than any two others; but the first had no compassion, and Reston was too much of the Times. No one, least of all Abe Rosenthal, could or would ever say that of you. The thing about your achievement, Molly, is, yes, the excellent writing; yes, the hilarious and habitual noseto the absurdities and hypocrisies of Congress and the Texas Legislature; yes, the wide lens of your compassionate mirth, from the homeless to the four-homed, from Austin to Washington to Baghdad. But the thing about it that makes it the largest achievement for humanity of any American journalist in my lifetime is what happens when one puts it on a scale: the weight of it. Your being syndicated in 350 or 400 newspapers is without parallel among progressive, liberal columnists of your range and quality. Take, for example, the penetrating and always germane Robert Kuttner. The last time I asked him, perhaps a decade ago, he had 20 newspapers. Add in your raucous, best-selling books, and the liberating effects of your swing-from-the-hip speeches to huge movement and non-movement audiences starting in the 70swhy hell, Molly, the only comparison among 6 THE TEXAS OBSERVER FEBRUARY 9, 2007 humorists that holds up is to Will Rogers. Your achievements for compassion and common sense among Americans exceeds any other by a working journalist in my lifetime known to me, taking account together of both its passion and its sheer gross weight. This happened because of who you are, but also of one thing about you. Do you remember the only criticism I gave you when you were on the Observer, once when we ran into each other at Matt Martinez’s El Rancho down onwas it East First? I said to you, “Molly, I have only one question: when are you gonna get serious?” and you replied at once: “When we have a chance to win.” And this you have been doing, now that we either win really or lose our beloved great country. Your answer reflected what you knew, as Jon Stewart knows in action now also: The way to people’s sense of justice is through their sense of humor. Everybody had said so much about you by the time I embraced you at the big-do Observer benefit, all I remember being able to manage was, congratulations. So this here is what I have to say to you about you, at too great a length, as is my custom: in short, that you are the most effective journalist for compassion and justice known to me near or far across the whole of my lifetime. Love, Ronnie As usual, when we had an opening for editor or associate editor at the Observer, in 1970 about 30 or 40 applications arrived at our offices, five or six of them from journalists good enough for the job. The two strongest of all, though, clearly, were from someone named Molly Ivins, applying from Minneapolis, but hailing from Houston, and Billy Porterfield, the reporter and distinguished Texas writer. The decision fell to me. Porterfield was appealing. He was and is one of the best writers working in Texas. He was an experienced reporter on Texas papers; he knew the ropes and the rogues. Under Porterfield, too, the journal’s literary side would have been transformed into the equal of the rest of it. Bill let me know, however, that he did not like politics. I was dazzled by Molly Ivins’ clippings of her stories in the Minneapolis Tribune that accompanied her application. I hardly realized, because her reporting was so mature, that she was only three years out of college \(Smith, Columbia, a school in written, and ethically salient; as the reporter, Ivins was right there in the middle of them as a real reporter should be. Since there was no showing at all of a sense of humor in them, I could not have foreseen her blossoming into a humorist and a satirist of politicians; it was the boldness and fairness of her reporting that settled the matter in my mind. Kaye Northcott was in place as our associate editor, and with something
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