I write to endorse Jim Antle’s thoughtful post on the passing of columnist Joe Sobran. It has been many years since I read a single piece by Sobran, because I got so disgusted with what certainly appeared to be his trafficking in anti-Semitism. I just could not bear to read that crud. But I must say that before he lost his bearings, Sobran was one of the most elegant and eloquent columnists I have ever read.
For years in my room at home in New Orleans in my teens and early 20s (the latter, still there merely because it had become sort of like part of the furniture) I had a section of a wall devoted to politics, with its most prominent feature being a post of Ronald Reagan. Thumb-tacked to that poster was a column clipped out of the newspaper by, yes, Joe Sobran. It remains one of my favorite columns of all time, by anybody. I don’t know what headline it ran under in other papers, but the Times-Picayune accurately headlined it “Reagan’s Simple Virtues.” Its point was to fire back at the eggheads and would-be intellectuals-who-really-weren’t-so-bright who had made a cottage industry in the late 1970s of portraying Reagan as “simplistic” or, worse, a simpleton. Sobran turned the criticism around, incredibly deftly. He showed that what the East Coast establishment considered to be “simplistic” was actually better described as an admirable clarity. His closing line was, in context, just superb. It was much, much, much more eloquent than what I am about to write from memory, but the gist of it was: “For years I all I have wanted is a president who was as simple as Ronald Reagan. It is a mystery to me why simple virtues like Ronald Reagan’s are thought to be anything but a great qualification.”
Somewhere in my files, I still have that column. I hope I can dig it up and read its every thoughtful word again. It is the Joe Sobran who wrote that column, not the one later so rightly criticized by William F. Buckley, who I choose to remember. R.I.P.