Monday, December 12, 2011

Letter to William Safire -- New York Times

William L. Safire (December 17, 1929 – September 27, 2009) was an American author, columnist, journalist and speechwriter for President Richard M. Nixon.  He was perhaps best known as a long-time syndicated political columnist for the New York Times and the author of "On Language" in the New York Times Magazine, a column on popular etymology, new or unusual usages, and other language-related topics from its inception.

Leonard Garment, a poker buddy of Bob Strauss, was a former law partner of Richard Nixon in the 1960s and later served as White House Counsel to President Nixon.  I sent a job inquiry to Mr. Garment in the 1990s at Dechert Price, to which a partner responded.

May 29, 1997
3801 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC  20008-4530

William Safire
The New York Times Washington Bureau
1627 I Street, NW
Washington, DC  20006

Dear Mr. Safire:

I was entertained by your May 25, 1997 piece on "The New Old Testament."  I interpreted it as a sly parody of the old--now very old--controversy about the "Old versus New Nixon."  But, then, according to Bob Strauss's partners I tend to attach a negative meaning to trivial events.  (I'm also supposed to be potentially violent.  I'm not potentially violent--not that there's anything wrong with that.)

I found it interesting that Leonard Garment was the only person (who does not happen to be a federal circuit judge or a world-renowned linguist), of the several I have contacted, that responded to my letter (albeit via a partner).  Was that simply coincidence or was that a measure of the character of the man?

Like I always say (and I'll say "like" if I damn like, Mr. Safire), perhaps the most significant indicator of a person's character is the character of the people who work for him.  In Nixon's case, it was really a mixed bag.  Unfortunately in Bob Strauss's case--well, we won't pursue that one.


Gary Freedman

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