Regarding Ben Bradlee, “David Remnick, the editor of the New Yorker and a reporter for the Washington Post from the early 1980s until the early 1990s, wrote in a Tuesday online story that ‘the most overstated notion’ about the late WaPo executive editor Ben Bradlee ‘was the idea that he was an ideological man. This was a cartoon.’”
Well a photo-realistic graphic novel, perhaps. Here’s John Dickerson in Slate, which was owned by the Post for years until being spun off when the disastrously mismanaged Washington Post was acquired last year for pocket change money by Jeff Bezos:
There is a quote from Ben Bradlee’s book Conversations With Kennedy that I always thought about when I thought of him:
This record is sprinkled with what some will consider vulgarity. They may be shocked. Others, like Kennedy and like myself, whose vocabularies were formed in the crucible of life in the World War II Navy in the Pacific Ocean, will understand instinctively. There is nothing inherently vulgar in the legendary soldier’s description of a broken-down Jeep. “The fucking fucker’s fucked.” Surely, there is no more succinct, or even graceful, four-word description of that particular state of affairs.
Here’s why I liked that quote. First of all, it’s true on the specific matter of when and how to deploy expletives. It also captures the cadence and voice of a particular period of writing. It’s a little self-indulgent and has the feeling of a tumbler of something by the typewriter. William Manchester uses this voice in The Glory and the Dream. It makes me think that the writer would be good company until he had too many drinks. He’d probably flirt with your wife if you sat her next to him, but you wouldn’t be bored at dinner.
But the real reason I liked that quote is that it demonstrates the way in which Bradlee was straddling two worlds, playing the role of both reporter and friend. It would be great if every presidency had at least one reporter who worked that territory.
So Bradlee was buddies with JFK, cheerfully covered up his myriad excesses and peccadilloes, and his paper did everything it could to destroy Nixon (and later, fortunately unsuccessfully, Reagan). But heaven forefend we think of him or his newspaper as ideological. Gotcha.
— Kenneth P. Vogel (@kenvogel) October 22, 2014
For the sake of ideological diversity, that’s an exceedingly good thing.