Bob Herbert's vision

April 8, 2011

I'm late to this, but I can't
let it pass by: I'm really going to miss Bob Herbert's op-eds in the New York Times. I think E.J. Dionne
edges him out as my favorite big-paper columnist; I appreciate Dionne's faith-based angle and elegant prose.
Herbert's writing is more workmanlike--some would say formulaic. (If you
haven't played Automatic Bob Herbert, you should.)

Still, Herbert stands out for
his sustained attention to actual struggling Americans, not just Washington
abstractions of them. In a job that can tempt an opinion writer to phone it in,
he dug deep for column ideas and sources.

Most importantly, Herbert's
writing sparkles with moral clarity. Here's an excerpt from his final column:

Arthur Miller, echoing the
poet Archibald MacLeish, liked to say that the essence of America was its
promises. That was a long time ago. Limitless greed, unrestrained corporate
power and a ferocious addiction to foreign oil have led us to an era of
perpetual war and economic decline. Young people today are staring at a future
in which they will be less well off than their elders, a reversal of fortune
that should send a shudder through everyone.

The U.S. has not just
misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the
earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost
impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its
young, it has lost its way entirely.

In a political climate in
which the Democrats' message struggles to rise above "like the other guys, but
somewhat less insane," Herbert's clarity and passion are sorely needed. He intends to spend his time "writing more
expansively and more aggressively about the injustices visited on working
people, the poor and the many others in our society who find themselves on the
wrong side of power." I'll be paying attention.


Goodbye Bob

"some would say formulaic..."
Yes; I thought he wrote basically the same column each week.

"Limitless greed, unrestrained corporate power and a ferocious addiction..."
And he never met an over-the-top adjective he didn't like. Limitless, unrestrained... aren't there style rules about overuse of adjectives?

Yes I appreciated his concern for the less fortunate, but in a high-profile publication like the NYT you need to be a good writer.

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