First, Art Buchwald. And now, Molly Ivins.
It's not been a good couple weeks for humorous political columnists. I will refrain from any suggestions of who's next.
Of course, it's been a bad couple of weeks for readers, as well.
It wasn't that Molly Ivins was so funny. (She was.) Or that she was so insightful. (She was.) Or such a good writer. (She was.) Or utterly, down-your-throat blunt. (Oh, my, she was.) It's that in addition to all these things, she was perhaps most importantly a terrific reporter.
Molly Ivins did her research, and not only backed up her humor and insight with facts, she would often ferret out the story in the first place. Most humorists react to what's there. Molly Ivins went out to find what was there. Often, she was so funny because she was so serious. That's a tough trick to pull off.
"The minimum we should expect of Bush in return for dropping impeachment (or not)," she wrote eight months ago, "is that he cease breaking the law."
It's such a sad loss that Molly Ivins passed away from breast cancer after a very long battle and several reoccurrences. But as someone who proudly proclaimed herself a liberal, it's nice she lived to see the Democrats get back control of Congress. And see "the Shrub" (as she long-called Mr. Bush) become an object of deserved public scorn. Given that she'd been covering George W. Bush since before he was governor of her Texas, she'd had plenty of scorn to pass around and write about. In fact, "before he was governor of Texas" doesn't do it justice. Molly Ivins had more opportunity to observe George W. Bush than most people: they went to high school together. So, if she delivered more pointed, scathing observation of his failings than most of his supporters cared for, it came with a very long history and credentials behind it.
But of course, she wrote about much more than George Bush. Her reporting on Texas made local politics a thing of beauty and an understandable piece of a much-larger picture. Even if she often didn't understand what was going on in Texas any more than anyone did.
"I carry no special brief for government," she wrote last June, " -- many years of studying the Texas Legislature will disenchant anyone. But if you are put in charge of government, the least you can do is run it well."
She was able to see the ludicrousness behind the posturing. And even if one was from the other side of the aisle and didn't agree with her politics, it was hard not to accept and perhaps even admire grudgingly that her outrage was real. And always fair. Because, although her outrage may have been born from her personal perspective, it was an outrage for when people were getting trampled, whatever your political view.
And she was outraged to the end. Here's how she ended her final column:
"We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we're for them and trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush's proposed surge. If you can, go to the peace march in Washington on Jan. 27. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, 'Stop it, now!'"
The world just always seemed a safer place knowing that Molly Ivins was around to keep everyone on their toes and chide them when necessary. Which was pretty much always
It's always terribly sad when someone so unique and so talented, who had added to the betterment of the human race, is gone. But the sadness is because of how wonderful they were when they were alive. And for that, there is only joy, relief and heartfelt thanks. And, in the case of Molly Ivins, all of that was wrapped up in gut-busting laughter. With a snarl to watch out.