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An appreciation for the life and profound insights of David Broder, dead at 81, the dean of American political observers and pundits.

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

As a commentator myself, it is a sad honor to mark the passing of the dean of American commentators, David Broder, since 1966 political correspondent and columnist for the Washington Post.

An undoubted master is gone, and we as a nation are the poorer.

David Broder was the reporter's reporter.

It is easy when you are a writer on U.S. politics and national affairs, as Broder was for decades, to think that your job demands that you stay in the nation's capital working the phone and walking only the highly polished corridors of the powerful and the aspiring.

Broder strongly disagreed.

He more than any other contemporary political authority understood that what is great about America is not just or even merely what is happening in Washington,D.C., but what is happening at the grass roots, in the homes, places of business and religion of the citizens, though they are thousands of miles from marbled splendor and Victorian grandeur, the hot house environment of the government.

As a result, David Broder spent as much time out of his office as he did in it. And his columns were the better for it, since he thereby caught the nuances that eluded his less insightful colleagues who did not understand that their beat, as Broder's, was nothing less than all the highways and by ways of the Great Republic he venerated. Like Richard Nixon (for whom he retained a carefully parsed admiration), Broder liked to see how "it" (whatever the issue of the day) "played in Peoria."

This meant leaving the gilt and gold of the White House to walk amidst the everyday people of America from whence power comes, but whose representatives so often overlook and then forget it altogether.

Broder never did.

And he had the well-worn shoes and battered luggage to prove it, since he easily logged 100,000 miles a year, or more; his job both a sprint -- and a marathon.

Like all the great political columnists, commentators, pundits all, his love affair was with America itself, and he clearly believed God had indeed shed His grace on thee. Never out of touch with the people, unlike so many of those he covered, he remained in awe of their majesty and in touch with all their vicissitudes from the mundane to the monumental. If it was American, it interested Broder. It's what kept him active, focused, grounded, fresh. And worth reading and listening to through 11 White House administrations, beginning with Dwight D. Eisenhower's second term.

Child of the Middle West and its values.

David Salzer Broder was born in Chicago Heights, Illinois and graduated in 1947 from the University of Chicago, where he was editor of the newspaper and received a master's degree in political science in 1951.

After 2 years in the Army, he worked for a newspaper in Bloomington, Illinois, The Pantagraph, then moved to The Congressional Quarterly in 1955. Five years later he left the Quarterly for The Washington Star. In 1965 he was hired by The New York Times as political reporter. And there, one could suppose, he would stay, since The Times then as now, considered itself the most important newspaper in the most important country on earth. Broder thought otherwise.

His tenure at The Times was brief and unhappy. As  he  wrote in a letter delivered upon his departure The Times epitomized "endless bureaucratic frustration" and "parochialism of outlook", in short it was in his stinging analysis, part of the problem, not part of the solution. In 1966, he found his niche at the newspaper about to seize the citadel and become the leading source for American affairs and politics, the Washington Post. David Broder was one of the significant reasons for an  ascendency that only The New York Times disputed.

A man of note and an increasingly notable newspaper had found each other and knew they had a good thing going. They ascended together, Broder in part because of his high visibility as a political pundit, panelist and television commentator. In some ways he was an unlikely media "star", since he appeared bookish, scholarly, inexpressive for media which wanted "personalities," not detailed analysis. But, though he could be flat as a day-old glass of champagne, even without bubbles he delivered. In time his characteristic understated presentations became part of his value. He did not hype. He did not glamorize. He did not fawn or name drop. He reported the news... and then he commented on it. Today's Internet-driven commentators should take note. Broder's approach gave him a distinguished career and a grateful nation. What 'net commentator can say as much?

Pundit pitfalls.

All was not clear sailing, of course. He was after all a political pundit with constant deadlines. He had a few notable bad times. In 1976, he reported prematurely that Morris K. Udall of Arizona had won the Wisconsin presidential primary only to learn a few hours later the actual winner was Jimmy Carter, then governor of Georgia. Devastated and unforgiving, Broder insisted that for the integrity of the Post he must resign. The Post's editor, Benjamin Bradlee, out-insisted Broder who stayed. Bradlee was a wise man and Broder wise, too, to listen to him.

Later, during the Clinton administration, Broder so forgot the tenets of his profession, that he allowed his corrosive disdain for the president to show itself in an interview. This was a serious lapse in professional behavior; this time the Post suspended his news reporting on the issue. This no doubt rankled Broder, but set against a lifetime of achievement, the millions of miles logged, the thousands of people met, listened to, reported on, such lapses were minor indeed.

Besides, Broder delivered the goods regularly and in so doing could literally change American history. This is what he did when in 1972 he reported on Senator Edmund Muskie's fury against New Hampshire publisher William Loeb's scurrilous attacks on the Senator's wife. Broder broke the story that imploded Muskie's campaign with the impression that he was emotionally unfit for the presidency. Whether Muskie cried or not was never the issue; it was his emotional volatility and here Broder got the nuance, and the story, just right.

Now Broder is gone, the dean of the Washington press corps; the man covering the raw material of history, is now history himself. Praise him for his hard work, his high standards, his fairness and reporting skills. Praise him, too, for his ability throughout a long career to straddle the quite separate fields of news reporting and commentary, honest to a fault, the consummate professional.

Praise him, too, for doing his bit to capture the greatness of America and its enduring glory, by capturing the changing hopes, dreams, aspirations, and struggles of its people. Above all, remember this: behind the equanimity, there was always Broder's passion for the great land he knew so well, whose great story he had long and truly reported. He has now filed his last story, and we regret.

About the Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., where small and home-based businesses learn how to profit online. Attend Dr. Lant's live webcast TODAY and receive 50,000 free guaranteed visitors to the website of your choice! Dr. Lant is also the author of 18 best-selling business books. Republished with author's permission by Ray Wisniewski <a href="


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