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Archive for Thursday, February 1, 2007

Political humorist Molly Ivins dies

February 1, 2007

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— Best-selling author and columnist Molly Ivins, the sharp-witted liberal who skewered the political establishment and referred to President Bush as "Shrub," died Wednesday after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 62.

Ivins died at her home while in hospice care, said David Pasztor, managing editor of the Texas Observer, where Ivins had once been co-editor.

Ivins made a living poking fun at politicians, whether they were in her home state of Texas or the White House. She revealed in early 2006 that she was being treated for breast cancer for the third time.

More than 400 newspapers subscribed to her nationally syndicated column, which combined strong liberal views and populist humor. Ivins' illness did not appear to hurt her ability to deliver biting one-liners.

"I'm sorry to say (cancer) can kill you, but it doesn't make you a better person," she said in an interview with the San Antonio Express-News in September, the same month cancer claimed her friend former Gov. Ann Richards.

To Ivins, "liberal" wasn't an insult term. "Even I felt sorry for Richard Nixon when he left; there's nothing you can do about being born liberal - fish gotta swim and hearts gotta bleed," she wrote in a column included in her 1998 collection, "You Got to Dance With Them What Brung You."

In a column in mid-January, Ivins urged readers to stand up against Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq.

"We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war," Ivins wrote in the Jan. 11 column. "We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, 'Stop it, now!"'

Ivins' best-selling books included those she co-authored with Lou Dubose about Bush. One was titled "Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush" and another was "BUSHWHACKED: Life in George W. Bush's America."

"Molly Ivins was a Texas original," Bush said in a statement. "I respected her convictions, her passionate belief in the power of words, and her ability to turn a phrase. She fought her illness with that same passion."

KU award

Molly Ivins spoke at Kansas University in 2001 as the winner of the William Allen White Medal, given by the William Allen White Foundation.

Blaming the powerful

Ivins' jolting satire was directed at people in positions of power.

"The trouble with blaming powerless people is that although it's not nearly as scary as blaming the powerful, it does miss the point," she wrote in a 1997 column. "Poor people do not shut down factories ... Poor people didn't decide to use 'contract employees' because they cost less and don't get any benefits."

In an Austin speech last year, former President Clinton described Ivins as someone who was "good when she praised me and who was painfully good when she criticized me."

Ivins loved to write about politics and called the Texas Legislature the best free entertainment in Austin.

"Naturally, when it comes to voting, we in Texas are accustomed to discerning that fine hair's-breadth worth of difference that makes one hopeless dipstick slightly less awful than the other. But it does raise the question: Why bother?" she wrote in a 2002 column.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whom Ivins had playfully called "Governor Goodhair," praised Ivins for her wit and insight. "Molly Ivins' clever and colorful perspectives on people and politics gained her national acclaim and admiration that crossed party lines," Perry said in a statement.

Back to Texas

Political columnist Molly Ivins has a laugh during a fundraiser at the ScholzGarten in Austin, Texas, in this Oct. 14, 2002, file photo. Ivins died Wednesday after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 62.

Political columnist Molly Ivins has a laugh during a fundraiser at the ScholzGarten in Austin, Texas, in this Oct. 14, 2002, file photo. Ivins died Wednesday after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 62.

Her first newspaper job was in the complaint department of the Houston Chronicle. She worked her way up at the Chronicle, then went on to the Minneapolis Tribune, becoming the first woman police reporter in the city.

Ivins counted as her highest honors the Minneapolis police force's decision to name its mascot pig after her and her getting banned from the campus of Texas A&M University, according to a biography on the Creators Syndicate Web site.

Ivins later became co-editor of The Texas Observer, a liberal Austin-based biweekly publication of politics and literature.

She joined The New York Times in 1976, working first as a political reporter in New York and later as Rocky Mountain bureau chief.

But Ivins' use of salty language and her habit of going barefoot in the office were too much for the Times, and they parted ways.

Ivins returned to Texas as a columnist for the Dallas Times-Herald in 1982, and after it closed she spent nine years with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. In 2001, she went independent and wrote her column for Creators Syndicate.

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