There’s not enough gloom in the world to convey what the loss of Molly Ivins means to this state and this country. She was a gadfly in the best sense of the world, a truly witty person who could lay bare political childishness and hypocrisy with a couple of well-placed words, all delivered with so much warmth and humor that only a withered fig would could refrain from laughing. I don’t know whether she loved or hated her clear predecessor H.L. Mencken, who had a similar way with words but fell on the other end of the political scales, but I hope she loved him. I know she loved Ann Richards, another witty Texas woman with a Texas-sized personality. Here’s what she wrote in her obituary for Governor Richards:
She was so generous with her responses to other people. If you told Ann Richards something really funny, she wouldn’t just smile or laugh, she would stop and break up completely. She taught us all so much — she was a great campfire cook. Her wit was a constant delight. One night on the river on a canoe trip, while we all listened to the next rapid, which sounded like certain death, Ann drawled, “It sounds like every whore in El Paso just flushed her john.”
From every story I’ve heard and from the meager two times I got to meet her, all of this could apply to Molly Ivins, too.
On the recent campaign: “It’s like having Ted Baxter of the old ‘Mary Tyler Moore’ show running for president: Gore has Ted’s manner, and Bush has his brain.” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 10/25/2000)
On George Bush Sr.: “Calling George Bush shallow is like calling a dwarf short.” (Mother Jones, February 1990)
“The next person who refers to David Duke as a populist ought to be Bushururued, as they now say in Japan, meaning to have someone puke in your lap.” (Mother Jones, May/June 1992)
On Ronald Reagan: “You have to ignore a lot of stuff in order to laugh about Reagan – dead babies and such — but years of practice with the Texas Lege is just what a body needs to get in shape for the concept of Edwin Meese as attorney general. Beer also helps.” (Progressive, March 1986)
(Responding to the Reagan warning that “The Red Tide will lap at our very borders.”) “These sneaky bastards from Nicaragua — there’s 3 million of ’em down there, there’s only 16 million Texans, and they’ve got us cornered between the Rio Grande and the North Pole.” (Progressive, May 1986)
“I have been collecting euphemisms used on television to suggest that our only president is so dumb that if you put his brains in a bee, it would fly backwards.” (Progressive, August 1987)
On Texas: “I dearly love the state of Texas, but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part, and discuss it only with consenting adults.” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram column, March 1, 1992)
On H. Ross Perot: “It’s hard to envision a seriously short guy who sounds like a Chihuahua as a charismatic threat to democracy, but it is delicious to watch the thrills of horror running through the Establishment at the mere thought.” (Time, June 1992)
Here’s a lovely obituary in the NY Times, full of bon mots that you, dear reader, should steal and use often. The Nation, sadly but predictably, is a bit drier, but gives you a scope of the struggles that defined her life. And last, but certainly not least, The Texas Observer, the famous lighthouse in the fog of Texas politics that Ivins edited for 6 years back in the 70s, is chock full of information, with articles, some wonderful tributes, and pictures of Ivins at work and play. She asked that people not waste their money on flowers for her, but donate to the Observer instead. This is the woman who dubbed our President “Shrub” and said of his father that “real Texans do not use ‘summer’ as a verb.” That’s worth at least $10, right?