David Broder, R.I.P.

I was saddened to read of the death of David Broder, the Washington Post reporter and columnist.  Broder, who was 81, died today after a long and distinguished career that included receiving the Pulitzer Prize.

When I was a student at the Ohio State University School of Journalism, Broder was one of my journalistic heroes, and I am confident that my classmates shared that view.  He seemed like a walking, talking, embodiment of everything that a journalist should be — sober, careful, measured, scrupulous about sourcing, fair, and balanced (before “fair and balanced” became a catch phrase).  Broder had a knack for seeming to be above the fray.  He was not partisan, and he did not take cheap shots.  And his writing was clear and straightforward.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a David Broder column.  His work fell out of favor as journalists moved to a more advocacy-oriented, point-of-view approach, to the point where it seems that print journalists are vying to be featured as TV talking heads who are clearly defined as liberal or conservative.  It’s too bad, because David Broder’s thoughtful pieces definitely had a place in world of journalism, regardless of whether you agreed with his conclusions or not.  Political junkies who are interested in an even-handed evaluation of an issue, and citizens who are interested in more civil discourse, are all poorer for his passing.


Cowboy Poets And Harry Reid’s Passions

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has the grim outward demeanor of an undertaker.  But internally, beneath the dull-as-dishwater exterior, he burns with blazing passion about certain topics — one of which apparently is cowboy poetry.

Yesterday, in a speech on the Senate floor, Reid railed against the”mean-spirited” budget proposed by House Republicans.  As an example of such hardheartedness, he lamented that passage of the Republicans’ budget proposal would eliminate National Endowment for the Humanities funding for an annual cowboy poetry festival in Elko, Nevada.  Reid believes that the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and similar programs, create jobs.

Reid’s citation of funding for the cowboy poetry festival epitomizes the challenges involved in bringing our out-of-control federal budget back into balance.  There are countless examples of locally targeted federal funding in the budget, and every one probably has its ardent congressional defenders.  The question is not whether cowboy poetry is good or bad, but whether our federal government can afford to subsidize every local festival, every poorly conceived, over-budget weapons program, and every geriatric drug purchase — among countless other federal departments, programs, and projects.

I applaud those hardy souls who feel the poetic muse around the campfire on the open range, and people who want to celebrate their doggerel.  But getting our “fiscal house in order” will require tough choices.  If we can’t make the easy decision to cut federal funding for Elko’s cowboy poetry festival, and similar programs, we have no chance of closing our trillion-dollar budget gap.