Columnists have the luxury of saying what mainstream media often ignore or brush aside. Within journalistic limits of fairness, accuracy and good taste, the columnist gets to stop and stare at the underside of news reports, which explains why columnists are especially valuable in a polarized political environment.
Red State voters have George Will, Cal Thomas, Bill Safire or David Brooks to explain the definition of torture or justify the White House use of God talk. Blue Staters have Molly Ivins, Maureen Dowd, E. J. Dionne and Tom Oliphant to point out outrageous inconsistencies in the current conservative rhetoric. (Newcomers to this column might conclude that there is a bias in this description, and they would be right.)