Cragg Hines, Retiring at 'Houston Chronicle,' Takes 'Gargantuan' Expense Reports With Him

By: E&P Staff Let the "tastes like Apple" jokes begin.

Cragg Hines, the Washington columnist retiring from the Houston Chronicle after 35 years, apparently had a fondness for food that rivaled the late Johnny Apple of The New York Times -- with massive expense accounts to match.

So suggests the Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill in a report on his farewell at the paper.

An excerpt follows. Then an excerpt from his farewell column last weekend. His final words: "I'm outta here."

Houston Chronicle readers may be disappointed that they?ll no longer be seeing Cragg Hines?s byline, as they have for the past 35 years, but the newspaper?s finance department may not be.

That?s because the paper?s first fulltime Washington columnist, who retired Friday, was renowned for gargantuan expense reports that matched his stature and reputation as a gourmand.

When the Chronicle?s editor, Jeff Cohen, joked at a Friday night farewell party for Hines at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel about the size of his expenses, Hines said he refrained from saying he had learned the art of writing expense accounts from the New York Times?s legendary Johnny Apple ? only because Apple?s widow, Betsey, was among the guests.

Fittingly, Hines decided to retire after having lunch in June with some friends at the famed Taillevant restaurant in Paris. ?I?d been thinking about retiring when we had this heavenly lunch,? he said. ?I had lobster risotto with a hint of curry, drop-dead delicious, and my friends were all American, all younger and all retired, and I said why not me??

As for the two Texas presidents he has covered, Hines clearly favors the first President Bush. ?His son is a huge disappointment,? he said. ?My readers say, ?Why do I hate him?? I don?t hate him, I just can?t imagine why he?s been so ineffably bad.?

From Hines' final column....

I thought about going quietly, just a couple of sentences toward the end of a regular column noting that after more than three decades of writing about politics and government for Chronicle readers that I was pulling the plug.

I decided that approach, however elegant and restrained, was sort of chicken and not actually my style. There would be a summing up, a possibly self-indulgent coda to my current career. I knew I'd have fun doing a wrap-up, and I have.

It's not a bad moment to round off my time in Washington. There's a certain symmetry. I joined the Chronicle's Washington bureau in June 1972, the week of the Watergate break-in. I leave as another Republican administration attempts to hijack the government.

Even if Al Gonzales doesn't have the good sense to step down, I, for wholly different reasons, do....

Biggest regret: initially supporting Bush-43's elective war, but I had plenty of company.

Why am I retiring? Because I can.


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