Anthony Lewis was the first national newspaper columnist I remember reading. His column at the New York Times ran from 1969 to 2001 and he was usually right and always lucid and thoughtful, no MoDo-style gotcha bullshit for Tony Lewis.He died today at the age of 85.
Lewis was widely credited with revolutionizing coverage of the Supremes and wrote 2 great books about the Warren Court and some of its landmark cases:Gideon’s Trumpet andMake No Law.
It’s a pity that most folks in the MSM nowadays lack Lewis’ common decency and reporting skills. The fact that the NYT has gone from having him and Tom Wicker as leading columnists toTom Friedman andMoDo makes a mockery of the theory of evolution but what can ya do?
2 thoughts on “Anthony Lewis, R.I.P.”
Yes, Lewis was and is a giant in comparison to MoDo and Tom, but I remember getting frustrated with his columns at times, particularly when he’d go out of his way to “balance” any criticism of Reagan’s Central American proxy wars with “but-both-sides-are-guilty-of-abuses” assertions.
But, then again, maybe I’m a little biased on that front: I didn’t know Ben Linder (an American citizen killed by the contras in cold blood), but his brother John lived in New Orleans for some time and I genuinely admired/appreciated him as someone exceptionally well informed and not afraid to speak up and speak out. In contrast, “both-sides-do-it” rang kind of hollow for me.
But, now having spoken ill of the dead — sorry — I’ll again agree with you on the successors being, well, not in the same league. Lewis was a journalist and then an opinion journalist. MoDo and Tom barely qualify as columnists, and probably would be better described as gossip columnists (assuming Tom’s cab drivers actually exist).
I read Gideon’s Trumpet for my High School Civics class. It wasn’t bad. It was a good character sketch of Gideon, his lawyer (eventually he got one), and the court. I remember being impressed by Earl Warren, who among many awesome things, wrote the opinion that it was OK for the US to use extraordinary rendition of Japanese-Americans during WWII.
But as a book in and of itself, it was meh. Repetitive, tried too hard to be objective (so it could neither be a documentary or an action movie), and somewhat static.
But as precedent that’s currently being systematically disassembled by the current court, it’s a must read. We’ve forgotten so soon, and I think the current nine should have this book read to them every night even in their graves.
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