On His Retirement, Safire Fills Entire 'NYT' Op-Ed Page

By: Joe Strupp In a rare move Monday, The New York Times gave its entire op-ed page to one columnist -- the retiring William Safire. Editorial-page Editor Gail Collins said she could not recall any time in the recent past when one columnist had been allowed to use the entire page himself.

?It is a big moment for the paper, and he has been an integral part of the op-ed page for three decades,? Collins told E&P about Safire's last day as an opinion columnist. ?We asked him what he wanted to do, and we were eager to do whatever we could to mark the moment. It was a neat thing.?

Safire split the space into four parts, offering a traditional column that discussed why he wanted to leave: to try something new. He'll invest more time in the Dana Alliance, a non-profit organization with which he has been involved for years. ?When you?re through changing, learning, working to stay involved,? he wrote. ?Only then are you through. Never retire.?

Another part offered a lesson in ?How to Read a Column,? in which Safire suggests readers ?never look for the story in the lede? and ?watch for repayment of favors.? Safire then lists his wins and losses over some 30 years of writing opinions, claiming his support for Israeli security and Baltic freedom were successes, while opposition to state-sponsored gambling and government invasion of privacy seem to be losing.

Finally, Safire offered his thoughts on First Ladies he has known, calling Pat Nixon ?a pal,? Barbara Bush ?the warmest,? and Nancy Reagan the beginning of what he called his ?first lady difficulties,? which began when he criticized her for taking free dresses from designers in exchange for her personal promotion of the clothing and continued when he labeled Hillary Clinton a ?congenital liar.?

?It is a unique spread,? said Collins of today's page. She said a new columnist to replace Safire would likely be named within a month or so, but would not offer any details about the current search process. "It will be a new person," she said. "But other than that I am not saying."


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