Headlined “How to Read a Column,” Safire’s swan song starts this way:
At last I am at liberty to vouchsafe to you the dozen rules in reading a political column.
The dozen rules not only puncture the pomposity of the punditocracy (that one’s for you, Bill), but also poke fun at Safire himself. To wit:
9. Cherchez la source. Ingest no column (or opinionated reporting labeled “analysis”) without asking: Cui bono? And whenever you see the word “respected” in front of a name, narrow your eyes. You have never read “According to the disrespected (whomever).”
10. Resist swaydo-intellectual writing. Only the hifalutin trap themselves into “whomever” and only the tort bar uses the Latin for “who benefits?” Columnists who show off should surely shove off. (And avoid all asinine alliteration.)
(Also avoid “to wit,” nitwit.)
Agree with him or not, Safire rarely misfired during his 37-year Times tenure. The politerati are poorer without him.