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Quite the World, Isn't It?

On David Broder, and the passing of a class act

I've been in a bit of a funk since reading the news this morning that David Broder had died of complications from diabetes. He had, for decades, been one of the best and most influential political journalists in the country, a standing surpassed only by his gentlemanly and generous manner.

David's longtime colleague at the Washington Post, Dan Balz, wrote this very nice tribute summarizing neatly what made David so influential. I've been a fan of his work since the early 1970s, when I was first thinking about going into journalism, and was drawn by his political coverage. It was, as I mentioned to Balz in an email exchange earlier today, one of the reasons I gravitated to campaign coverage.

Two anecdotes. I crossed paths with David several times over the years, which was a bit of a rush for me. During one trip David asked me to join him for dinner in some remote spot where he, of course, had eaten many times before. His cell phone rang while we were at the table, and it was his wife. He chatted for a moment and then said he was having dinner with a friend and would have to call her back. He overstated the relationship (we barely knew each other) but it was a moment of personal pride, and one that I cherish, that he would use the word. His inclusiveness should be contagious.

Another time during the 2004 primaries David and I were on the same bus in some significant primary state (2004 Kerry campaign in South Carolina? Edwards' bus? I don't recall specifically, and the specifics don't really matter). I had complained about having to write two stories to be ready depending on what the primary day results would be. The LAT hadn't sprung for the full exit poll data, or at least wasn't forwarding it to me. Late in the afternoon David wandered back and asked if he could sit down next to me, then flipped open his notebook to where he had written down the exit polls through the second cycle and said something to the effect that it might help me decide which version of the story to spend the most time on. It's one thing to share with a colleague; something else to so generously help out someone who in theory is your competition. It was a small moment but obviously memorable moment, and indicative of what a class act David was, beyond being a tremendous journalist.

None of us is irreplaceable. But David was pretty damn close.
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