Goodbye Safire, Hello Citizen Kane 

01.4.2005 | Russ Smith | Media Affairs

This holiday announcement caught me off guard. Speculation on William Safire’s successor was rife since the only Times op-ed columnist who’s reliably pro-Israel recently wrote that he was leaving his post on Jan. 25. I was betting that Sulzberger Jr., Bill Keller and Gail Collins would defy custom and hire a man or woman who held liberal views; not a conspiracy-besotted quack like Paul Krugman, quite, but certainly not a conservative or even the vaguely libertarian in-house reporter John Tierney.

No complaints here: Gregory Kane, the Baltimore Sun’s finest columnist, is a talent who merits the national attention that the Times appointment carries, rather than writing in relative obscurity. And as a black conservative, he’s an excellent antidote to Bob Herbert, just one of many Times pundits who’s a relic (at least in his opinions) from a time when Sid Vicious was still alive.

In one of his final Sun columns (Dec. 25), Kane proved, again, why he’s worthy of occupying Safire’s slot. He wrote: “We media types love [a] story with legs. And there was one story in 2004 that had enough legs to win an Olympic marathon several times over. That story would be the ruckus comedian Bill Cosby caused in May, when he dared utter what everybody knew was the truth: that there are black Americans who aren’t holding up their end of the bargain when it comes to educating their children.

“The reaction was one of two types: praise for Cosby from liberal commentators and columnists who would have called down the wrath of God on a conservative of whatever hue who had said the same thing. Yes, black Americans have reached the pathetic state where lies, flapdoodle and egregious nonsense spoken by liberals is preferable to truth spoken by conservatives, if the topic happens to be anything about black folks.

“The other reaction was to criticize Cosby. Some people are still at it. Considering there were things that happened within Afro-America this year every bit as controversial as Cosby’s comments, we have to ask why he’s the only one still taking the heat.”

I’ve no idea who the other finalists were—although Los Angeles’ Catherine Seipp, who writes for National Review among other publications, would’ve been delightful duking it out, and knocking out,

Maureen Dowd twice a week—but Kane’s appointment is the most sane decision made at the Times since Howell Raines was fired.

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