Happy trails, Big Red

I first discovered Molly Ivins about 18 or so years ago, and loved her writing. I didn’t agree with much of her politics, but my word, was she a hell of a writer. And every now and then, she would just absolutely nail a topic.

A few examples I recall from those days:

1) When the Branch Davidians barricaded themselves in their compound and refused to come out, triggering a standoff that lasted 51 days until FBI and BATF agents stiormed it — and the consequent fire killed nearly all within. During the endless days of waiting, Ivins had a suggestion that I thought had a lot of merit: why not simply put up a big wall around the compound, declare it a prison, and simply wait out the “inmates?”

2) She once described the first President Bush’s speech patterns as sounding like (and I’m probably hopelessly mangling her brilliant prose) “he wrestles with a sentence, going round and round, until he exhaustedly reaches the end and they call it a draw at the period.”

3) Her coverage of the Texas Legislature (“The Lege”) was, well, legendary. At one point, they were debating criminalizing sodomy. :

“Say, Billy, about this here bill of yours. Are you saying that if I am in bed with my lawful wedded wife and I should happen to mis-aim and end up in the wrong place, we should go to jail?”

“Yes, I am. It’s a sin and a crime against God and Nature.”

So the men shook hands and parted. But before they could get far, another legislator demanded the Sergeant At Arms reprimand them, because they had just made it illegal for a prick to touch an asshole.

She also had Pat Buchanan’s number.

After Buchanan’s fiery speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention, she acidly observed that it “probably sounded better in the original German.” And at a National Press Club address I heard on NPR once, she pointed out something that I’d never quite caught before: that conservative humor, at its worst, tends to denigrate and run down the weak and defenseless. Buchanan is an ideal exemplar of that tendency, and it’s a lesson that I’ve taken to heart: whenever I attempt to write something political and humorous, I keep in mind just who I’m attempting to lampoon.

No, I didn’t agree with much of her politics, nor her assessment of President Bush in particular, but she was a hell of a woman, a hell of a fighter, and she will be sorely missed.

She was one of a kind — unfortunately.

Update: a truly superb collection of Ivins quotes (including a paraphrased summary of the sodomy story above) can be found here.

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