This has not been a good time for losing friends. Genius pal John Hughes. Patriot, superstar political and moral philosopher, Irving Kristol. One of the kindest, gentlest, finest men on the planet, a twinkle of intelligence and love always in his eyes, beautiful soul Irving Kristol.
Now, just yesterday, irreplaceable Bill Safire, who was more family than friend.
When I think of Safire and losing him to cruel, vicious cancer, I think of losing the walking talking embodiment of that highest of virtues, loyalty. (Kristol, too.) Yes, a brilliant writer and phrase-maker — the words, “an effete corps of impudent snobs,” will live forever. His advice to those of us who came to his Yom Kippur “breaking of the fasts” was perfect Safire, “I am not telling you to fast — but food tastes better when you’re hungry.”
Yes, fearless fighter for what he thought was right, against Carter and in telling the truth about Hillary Clinton, but more than that, in sticking up for Richard Nixon through thick and thin. He thought, he knew, Nixon was being wrongly persecuted and even after Nixon’s wayward goons wiretapped him, he stood up for Nixon.
Resolute lover of America. Resolute defender of Israel against the new anti-Semites who call themselves anti-Israel, Bill Safire was genuinely without fear or favor.
He was a pallbearer at both of my parents’ burials, and did it magnificently. More important, in life, he was a friend, confidant, and supporter of the Steins from his lofty perch.
The New York Times was lucky to have him for thirty years. The Nixon family was lucky to have him. The Steins were blessed beyond measure to have him and his beautiful Helene and sweet Mark and Annabel, for whose comforting I pray. But most of all, the cause of decency in this great country and in Israel, that most righteous of causes was given him as a gift by the Lord God Almighty, Lord of Hosts of battle, and Bill was a host unto himself.
We say in the Jewish faith that those who pass into eternity on or just before the High Holy Days are specially selected of the Lord. Irving Kristol passed the day before Rosh Hashanah. Bill Safire died yesterday, Erev, Evening of Yom Kippur. He is blessed and so are we to have known him. God bless you, Helene and Mark and Annabel, we mourn with you.