So [tag]William Safire[/tag] got the Medal of Freedom from Dubya today. This is akin to Bill Clinton giving Monica Lewinsky the [tag]Medal of Freedom[/tag], were he still president.OK, so that’s not a fair comparison, but it’s close, despite the fact that Safire, a self proclaimed libertarian conservative, says he is “willing to zap conservatives when they do things that are not libertarian.” I wouldn’t agree with this self-assessment (as quoted by the Washington Post once). He certainly has capped on Dubya and his administration on more than one occasion. On the other hand, he clung to his theory that Iraq representatives met with the [tag]9/11[/tag] conspirators – using it as an argument for the war in [tag]Iraq[/tag] – even after considerable evidence to the contrary produced by our own intelligence community.
[tag]Bush[/tag] awarded Safire the Medal of Freedom, the highest honor that our government can bestow on a civilian, “for polishing the nation’s language and elevating the debates of the day.”
Um … yeah …
To say I have mixed feelings about this is certainly an understatement. Safire is certainly a competent writer; I’d even hazard the statement that he is a great one. He certainly is a damn funny one. When he was speech writer for the [tag]Nixon[/tag] administration, he coined the phrase “nattering nabobs of negativism,” as [tag]Agnew[/tag] famously described those in the press covering the administration. Another Agnew phrase written by Safire describes members of the press as “an effete corps of impudent snobs.” It makes me proud to be a member of the Fourth Estate. He also developed his famous (at least among journalist folk) [tag]Rules for Writers[/tag], which I quote here:
- Remember to never split an infinitive.
- The passive voice should never be used.
- Do not put statements in the negative form.
- Verbs have to agree with their subjects.
- Proofread carefully to see if you words out.
- If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be by rereading and editing.
- A writer must not shift your point of view.
- And don’t start a sentence with a conjunction. (Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.)
- Don’t overuse exclamation marks!!
- Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.
- Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
- If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
- Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.
- Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
- Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.
- Always pick on the correct idiom.
- The adverb always follows the verb.
- Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; seek viable alternatives.
Unless you are a word geek of some description (an English major, a reporter, copy-editor, etc.), you may not get most of the jokes above. Trust me, they are terribly funny and borderline brilliant, and I’m not being facetious. The adverb always follows the verb. That is awesome. Avoid cliches like the plague; seek viable alternatives. Yes, yes.
I’ve never read his fiction or non-fiction books, but I’ve heard from friends and colleagues whose opinions I trust, that they are worth reading. And there have been times when I read his column on the op-ed pages of the New York Times and thought “right on, brother.” There are other times I’ve read his column and been compelled to scream, if only silently in my head: “WTF? Are you a lunatic? Which lobbying organization is that has you on the payroll? Can you suck on the teat of the Establishment any harder?”
Actually, “teat” is not the first term that came to mind … but even as I would be railing against what he wrote, he many times would make me laugh. Other times, I would have to admire a turn of phrase, even as it knitted my eyebrows and wrinkled my forehead
Anyway, Safire is a great opinion writer/columnist, and deserves his reputation as such, regardless of your politics (although sometimes his logic was suspect, at best, when it came to the conclusions he drew). But the Medal of Honor? From Bush II? Along side the likes of B. B. King, Joshua Lederberg, John “Buck” O’Neil and Natan Sharansky (go ahead, Google the names you don’t know or read the entire article from the link above; I didn’t know them all either)?
No doubt it is [tag]liberal media bias[/tag] that is to blame.
And why is Norman Mineta getting the Medal of Honor? I’m not saying he wasn’t a good commerce secretary or transportation secretary, but … I’m just sayin’ (sorry Mr. Safire).