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Jack Anderson, Corrupt Politician's Nemesis, Dies

Old 12-18-05, 07:41 AM
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Jack Anderson, Corrupt Politician's Nemesis, Dies


Anderson died at his home in Bethesda, Maryland, of complications from Parkinson's disease, said one of his daughters, Laurie Anderson-Bruch.

Anderson gave up his syndicated Washington Merry-Go-Round column at age 81 in July 2004, after Parkinson's disease left him too ill to continue. He had been hired by the column's founder, Drew Pearson, in 1947.

The column broke a string of big scandals, from Eisenhower assistant Sherman Adams taking a vicuna coat and other gifts from a wealthy industrialist in 1958 to the Reagan administration's secret arms-for-hostages deal with Iran in 1986.

It appeared in some 1,000 newspapers in its heyday. Anderson took over the column after Pearson's death in 1969, working with a changing cast of co-authors and staff over the years.

A devout Mormon, Anderson looked upon journalism as a calling. He was considered one of the fathers of investigative reporting, renowned for his tenacity, aggressive techniques and influence in the nation's capital.

Anderson won a 1972 Pulitzer Prize for reporting that the Nixon administration secretly tilted toward Pakistan in its war with India. He also published the secret transcripts of the Watergate grand jury.

Such scoops earned him a spot on President Nixon's "enemies list." Watergate conspirator G. Gordon Liddy has described how he and other Nixon political operatives planned ways to silence Anderson permanently -- such as slipping him LSD or staging a fatal car crash -- but the White House nixed the idea.

Over the years, Anderson was threatened by the Mafia and investigated by government agencies trying to trace the sources of his leaks. In 1989, police investigated him for smuggling a gun into the U.S. Capitol to demonstrate security lapses.

Known for his toughness on the trail of a story, he was also praised for personal kindness. Anderson's son Kevin said that when his father's reporting led to the arrest of some involved in the Watergate scandal, he aided their families financially.

"I don't like to hurt people, I really don't like it at all," Anderson said in 1972. "But in order to get a red light at the intersection, you sometimes have to have an accident."

Anderson began his newspaper career as a 12-year-old writing about scouting activity and community fairs in the outskirts of Salt Lake City, Utah. His first investigative story exposed unlawful polygamy in his church. He was as a civilian war correspondent during World War II and later, while in the Army, wrote for the military paper Stars and Stripes.

After he went to work with Pearson, the team took on communist-hunting Sen. Joseph McCarthy, exposed Connecticut Sen. Thomas Dodd's misuse of campaign money, and revealed the CIA's attempt to use the Mafia to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Anderson also wrote more than a dozen books.

He was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1986. In a speech a decade later, he made light of the occasional, uncontrollable shaking the disease caused.

"The doctors tell me it's Parkinson's," he said. "I suspect that 52 years in Washington caused it."

He is survived by his wife, Olivia, and nine children.

I doubt very few people on the forum are familiar with Jack Anderson.

He was a very influential, to say the least, columnist.

Last edited by classicman2; 12-18-05 at 07:43 AM.
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Old 12-18-05, 09:44 AM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
I doubt very few people on the forum are familiar with Jack Anderson.
You mean you doubt very many people on the forum are familiar with him?

He was a very influential, to say the least, columnist.
Yes, I remember him well. But it seems like he's been gone from ther limelight for a very long time so I agree many of the kids here will not know of him.
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Old 12-18-05, 12:53 PM
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I'm a youngster (31) who remembers Anderson. When I was growing up, he and a guy named Dale Van Atta coauthored a column in the Washington Post (my hometown paper) that sometimes appeared on the comics page. I would read it and seldom understand it. As I got older, I understood it more.

Brit Hume (and many other journalists, but Hume is the most famous) started as a researcher for Anderson.
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Old 12-19-05, 12:46 PM
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Today's journalists don't know Jack--but ought to

By Julia Keller
Tribune cultural critic
Published December 19, 2005

God invented irony to keep the world interesting.

Just as the news was breaking that President Bush had unilaterally authorized wiretaps on Americans--the kind of story that would've been catnip to a Jack Anderson--the latter, a legendary investigative reporter, died Saturday at 83.

No matter what you think of Bush's actions, the revelation about official eavesdropping was a scoop, the kind of scoop that used to show up in Anderson's newspaper column with a regularity that distressed the mighty and delighted the ordinary citizen.

He was a giant. His star faded in recent years, but there was a time when Jack Anderson was as famous as another Anderson, CNN's Anderson Cooper, or any other current media celebrity you care to name. And just as the new film "Good Night, and Good Luck" has introduced a whole new generation of Americans to the journalistic contributions of Edward R. Murrow, perhaps a film will come along in a few years and remind people of Anderson's achievements as well.

From 1947, when he teamed up with Drew Pearson to write the syndicated column "Washington Merry-Go-Round," later taking over sole authorship, all the way through to 2004, when he reluctantly relinquished his pen in the wake of Parkinson's disease, Anderson was an institution.

His enemies, of course, thought he belonged in one.

That's because the Pulitzer Prize-winning Anderson was an old-fashioned, unrepentant, outa-my-way, damn-the-consequences journalistic crusader. He kept tabs on presidents, monitored members of Congress, held bureaucrats' feet to the fire. Year after year, Anderson broke the biggest stories--such as the arms-for-hostages scandal during the Reagan administration--and caused the biggest stink.

One of the ways he did what he did was by hiring young, eager interns who didn't know any better but to run around and make pests of themselves--and occasionally bump into stories. I know because I was just such a pest.

Working for Anderson as an intern in late 1978 was my first job in journalism. When I applied to join his staff, I was an appallingly naive 19-year-old who had just graduated from Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va., with no earthly idea of how I'd turn an English degree into gainful employment. I'd published an essay in a student magazine about a visit to James Dean's grave, and somebody on Anderson's payroll must have been a Dean fan because they took me on.

With Anderson, you learned on the fly. There was no formal training, no pep talk, just a finger pointing you toward a small desk in a messy room filled with other desks and other interns. We answered phones, we met with the people who walked in off the street claiming the CIA had dropped listening devices into their root canals, we slipped into presidential news conferences, we hung out on Capitol Hill with our eyes and ears open.

The first story I wrote was obtained by listening to an unusually candid cafeteria conversation between two Senate staffers about an upcoming hearing; when I called a Senate office to confirm what I'd heard, the fuming staffer screamed, "I'll get you for this! This is just the kind of thing I'd expect from Jack Anderson!"

I was thrilled. Pay dirt: Only the guilty, I realized, doth protest so much. (And frankly, given recent revelations, I wish I'd listened a little harder to those the-CIA-rigged-my-fillings tales.)

Contrary to some obituaries published Sunday, Anderson did give credit in print to interns. He'd slip our names into the part of the column in which comment is obtained from official sources: "As a spokesman for the Department of Defense told our reporter Julia Keller."

During my time with Anderson, other employees included Howard Kurtz, now famous for his Washington Post media column, and James Grady, the novelist whose first book was the basis for the Robert Redford film, "Three Days of the Condor." Fox TV's Brit Hume had just left. So Anderson was a pretty fair talent-spotter.

He wasn't perfect, of course. He made mistakes in his column, but when he made them, he corrected them and apologized, a habit that seems almost quaint and old-fashioned in Washington today, so rarely does it occur. He was a man of great personal integrity who took his membership in the Mormon church seriously. He wasn't like so many of today's journalists, who go to the same cocktail parties with the people they cover and then wonder how they end up being pawns of the powerful.

To Anderson, journalism wasn't just a job. It was a calling, a duty, a sacred obligation. Somebody had to make sure leaders told the truth, bureaucrats toed the ethical line, corporate leaders followed the rules.

He taught his staff that if you wanted that somebody to be you--if, that is, you aspired to a career in this strange profession, the one with the bad hours and bad coffee and good prospects for ulcers--then you'd better realize the seriousness of it, the gravity.

Anderson did, and our democracy's the better for it.
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Old 12-19-05, 01:54 PM
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I remember him well, but I'm not one of the youngsters here.
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