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JasonF 02-01-07 08:46 AM

Molly Ivins dies at 62

Molly Ivins, known for poking fun at politicians, dies at 62
POSTED: 9:36 p.m. EST, January 31, 2007

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Best-selling author and columnist Molly Ivins, the sharp-witted liberal who skewered the political establishment and referred to President Bush as "Shrub," died Wednesday after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 62.

Ivins died at her home while in hospice care, said David Pasztor, managing editor of the Texas Observer, where Ivins was co-editor.

Ivins made a living poking fun at politicians, whether they were in her home state of Texas or the White House. She revealed in early 2006 that she was being treated for breast cancer for the third time.

More than 400 news organizations, including CNN.com, subscribed to her nationally syndicated column, which combined strong liberal views and populist humor. Ivins' illness did not seem to hurt her ability to deliver biting one-liners.

"I'm sorry to say [cancer] can kill you, but it doesn't make you a better person," she said in an interview with the San Antonio Express-News in September, the same month cancer claimed her friend, former Gov. Ann Richards.

To Ivins, "liberal" wasn't an insult. "Even I felt sorry for Richard Nixon when he left; there's nothing you can do about being born liberal -- fish gotta swim and hearts gotta bleed," she wrote in a column included in her 1998 collection, "You Got to Dance With Them What Brung You."

In a column in mid-January, Ivins urged readers to stand up against Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq.

"We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war," Ivins wrote in the January 11 column. "We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, 'Stop it, now!"' (Read the column)

Ivins' best-selling books included those she co-authored with Lou Dubose about Bush. One was titled "Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush" and another was "BUSHWHACKED: Life in George W. Bush's America."

Dubose, who has been working on a third book with Ivins, said even last week in the hospital, Ivins wanted to talk about the project.

"She was married to her profession. She lived for the story," he said.

Ivins' jolting satire was directed at people in positions of power.

"The trouble with blaming powerless people is that although it's not nearly as scary as blaming the powerful, it does miss the point," she wrote in a 1997 column. "Poor people do not shut down factories ... Poor people didn't decide to use 'contract employees' because they cost less and don't get any benefits."

Praise from Bill Clinton
In an Austin speech last year, former President Clinton described Ivins as someone who was "good when she praised me and who was painfully good when she criticized me."

Ivins loved to write about politics and called the Texas Legislature the best free entertainment in Austin.

"Naturally, when it comes to voting, we in Texas are accustomed to discerning that fine hair's-breadth worth of difference that makes one hopeless dipstick slightly less awful than the other. But it does raise the question: Why bother?" she wrote in a 2002 column about a California political race.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whom Ivins had playfully called "Governor Goodhair," praised Ivins for her wit and insight. "Molly Ivins' clever and colorful perspectives on people and politics gained her national acclaim and admiration that crossed party lines," Perry said in a statement.

Born Mary Tyler Ivins in California, she grew up in Houston. She graduated from Smith College in 1966 and attended Columbia University's journalism school. She also studied for a year at the Institute of Political Sciences in Paris.

Her first newspaper job was in the complaint department of the Houston Chronicle. She worked her way up at the Chronicle, then went on to the Minneapolis Tribune, becoming the first woman police reporter in the city.

Ivins counted among her highest honors the Minneapolis police force's decision to name its mascot pig after her and her banishment from the campus of Texas A&M University, according to a biography on the Creators Syndicate Web site.

In the late 1960s, according to the syndicate, she was assigned to a beat called "Movements for Social Change" and wrote about "angry blacks, radical students, uppity women and a motley assortment of other misfits and troublemakers."

Ivins later became co-editor of The Texas Observer, a liberal Austin-based biweekly publication of politics and literature.

Bare feet too much for New York Times
She joined The New York Times in 1976, working first as a political reporter in New York and later as Rocky Mountain bureau chief.

But Ivins' use of salty language and her habit of going barefoot in the office were too much for the Times, said longtime friend Ben Sargent, editorial cartoonist with the Austin American-Statesman.

"She was just like a force of nature," Sargent said. "She was just always on and sharp and witty and funny and was one of a kind."

Ivins returned to Texas as a columnist for the Dallas Times-Herald in 1982, and after it closed she spent nine years with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. In 2001, she went independent and wrote her column for Creators Syndicate.

"She was magical in her writing," said Mike Blackman, a former Star-Telegram executive editor who hired Ivins in 1992. "She could turn a phrase in such a way that a pretty hard-hitting point didn't hurt so bad."

In 1995, conservative humorist Florence King accused Ivins in "American Enterprise" magazine of plagiarism for failing to properly credit King for several passages from a 1988 article in "Mother Jones." Ivins apologized, saying the omissions were unintentional and pointing out that she credited King elsewhere in the piece.

She was initially diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, and she had a recurrence in 2003. Her latest diagnosis came around Thanksgiving 2005.

Rest in Peace, Molly. I didn't always agree with her, but I usually found her columns worth reading.

Red Dog 02-01-07 09:43 AM

Never heard of her.

Groucho 02-01-07 09:47 AM

That's too bad. I used to read her columns all the time.

Randy Miller III 02-01-07 09:51 AM

Originally Posted by CNN
She revealed in early 2006 that she was being treated for breast cancer for the third time.


classicman2 02-01-07 10:05 AM

1. I would have sworn that she was older than that.

2. She was one of the few that had the guts to defend liberalism. That's the main thing I like about her. She was witty, but she fell into the same trap that many do - she began to become 'too witty.'

Draven 02-01-07 11:03 AM

Originally Posted by classicman2
She was witty, but she fell into the same trap that many do - she began to become 'too witty.'

That's always been my problem.

RIP - sounds like my kind of lady.

Tracer Bullet 02-01-07 11:23 AM

Originally Posted by Red Dog
Never heard of her.


JasonF 02-01-07 11:41 AM

For Red Dog (and everyone else), here is an Ivins sampler.

This is her final column:

Stand Up Against the "Surge"

By Molly Ivins, AlterNet. Posted January 12, 2007.

We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders and we need to raise hell.

The purpose of this old-fashioned newspaper crusade to stop the war is not to make George W. Bush look like the dumbest president ever. People have done dumber things. What were they thinking when they bought into the Bay of Pigs fiasco? How dumb was the Egypt-Suez war? How massively stupid was the entire war in Vietnam? Even at that, the challenge with this misbegotten adventure is that we simply cannot let it continue.

It is not a matter of whether we will lose or we are losing. We have lost. Gen. John P. Abizaid, until recently the senior commander in the Middle East, insists that the answer to our problems there is not military. "You have to internationalize the problem. You have to attack it diplomatically, geo-strategically," he said.

His assessment is supported by Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the senior American commander in Iraq, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who only recommend releasing forces with a clear definition of the goals for the additional troops.

Bush's call for a "surge" or "escalation" also goes against the Iraq Study Group. Talk is that the White House has planned to do anything but what the group suggested after months of investigation and proposals based on much broader strategic implications.

About the only politician out there besides Bush actively calling for a surge is Sen. John McCain. In a recent opinion piece, he wrote: "The presence of additional coalition forces would allow the Iraqi government to do what it cannot accomplish today on its own -- impose its rule throughout the country. ... By surging troops and bringing security to Baghdad and other areas, we will give the Iraqis the best possible chance to succeed." But with all due respect to the senator from Arizona, that ship has long since sailed.

A surge is not acceptable to the people in this country -- we have voted overwhelmingly against this war in polls (about 80 percent of the public is against escalation, and a recent Military Times poll shows only 38 percent of active military want more troops sent) and at the polls. We know this is wrong. The people understand, the people have the right to make this decision, and the people have the obligation to make sure our will is implemented.

Congress must work for the people in the resolution of this fiasco. Ted Kennedy's proposal to control the money and tighten oversight is a welcome first step. And if Republicans want to continue to rubber-stamp this administration's idiotic "plans" and go against the will of the people, they should be thrown out as soon as possible, to join their recent colleagues.

Anyone who wants to talk knowledgably about our Iraq misadventure should pick up Rajiv Chandrasekaran's "Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone." It's like reading a horror novel. You just want to put your face down and moan: How could we have let this happen? How could we have been so stupid?

As The Washington Post's review notes, Chandrasekaran's book "methodically documents the baffling ineptitude that dominated U.S. attempts to influence Iraq's fiendish politics, rebuild the electrical grid, privatize the economy, run the oil industry, recruit expert staff or instill a modicum of normalcy to the lives of Iraqis."

We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we're for them and trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush's proposed surge. If you can, go to the peace march in Washington on Jan. 27. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, "Stop it, now!"

This is Ivins on Election Day 2006:

Campaign '06: Goodbye and Good Riddance

By Molly Ivins, AlterNet. Posted November 7, 2006.

Congress stands before us so hopelessly corrupt that the stench has washed all over the country.

Right to the end, this insane conversation between reality and Not Reality... The president of the United States still says we are reducing terrorism by fighting in Iraq; still says we are creating democracy; still says we're preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and making Israel more secure; and, shoddiest of all, still not allowing that our fallen have died in vain.

The vice president, meanwhile, has announced that, all things considered in Iraq, "if you look at the general, overall situation, (the Iraqi government is) doing remarkably well." And now he's gone off to hunt in South Dakota, thus demonstrating a perfectly balanced sense of reality. South Dakota is so sparsely populated, it's really hard to hit another hunter.

Meanwhile, in case you hadn't noticed, Iraq is in a state of full collapse. And Afghanistan is not far from it. Baghdad is worse off for water, sewer, electricity and infrastructure than it was before the war. The R's have taken care of the whole problem with the brilliance we have come to expect from them -- they have decided to abolish the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (which has previously exposed bribery, contracts to cronies, shoddy work, lost billions of dollars, the failure to track hundreds of thousands of weapons shipped there and more). You must admit this is big, bold and brainy. This is Karl Rove problem-solving at its best.

This campaign has been like getting stuck in Alice's Wonderland for three months. "There is no use trying, " Alice said, "one can't believe impossible things."

"I daresay you haven't had much practice," replied the White Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

Every time you turn around, you run into the Jabberwocky or the Frumious Bandersnatch -- Richard Perle in penitence -- or some other equally fantastic sight. The great Skywriter in the Sky has positively run amok with irony and has been splashing it all over the campaign like Jackson Pollock. Fortunately, it is not my duty to lend dignity to the proceedings. I do make it a rule to skip talk of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll -- but when Mark Foley turns out to the chairman of House Committee on Missing and Exploited Children, you know you just have to sit down like a tired dog and scratch for a while.

While this perfectly insane dialogue has been taking place, Congress stands before us so hopelessly corrupt that the stench has washed all over the country. Perhaps my least favorite excuse for cheating is, "Everybody does it." NO, everybody DOESN'T do it. Nor does the system make you do it, or alcohol or drugs or Jack Abramoff. I do not want to hear one more excuse -- apologize and go.

On the other hand, I am really going to miss the stories this Congress provided. Remember Terri Schiavo? I mean, you wake up one morning and there it is, kind of like finding Fidel Castro in the refrigerator. And you listen to these people who do hold high elective office having this debate -- as though they know, as though they have any idea, as though they have any right. And then there are some of the troops, like Randy "Duke" Cunningham, semi-owner of the houseboat "The Duke-Stir." Some days you couldn't wait to get up to find out who'd been indicted. I miss watching Katherine Harris from Florida wear less and less blue eye-shadow as she went through her Senate race.

Well, it's been rank -- racist, sleazy, lying and full of insinuating scare tactics. Thank God it's over.

This is Ivins recanting a statement she made. She corrects her error with class and humor:

CROW EATEN HERE: This is a horror. In a column written June 28, I asserted that more Iraqis (civilians) had now been killed in this war than had been killed by Saddam Hussein over his 24-year rule. WRONG. Really, really wrong.

The only problem is figuring out by how large a factor I was wrong. I had been keeping an eye on civilian deaths in Iraq for a couple of months, waiting for the most conservative estimates to creep over 20,000, which I had fixed in my mind as the number of Iraqi civilians Saddam had killed.

The high-end estimate of Iraqi civilian deaths in this war is 100,000, according to a Johns Hopkins University study published in the British medical journal The Lancet last October, but I was sticking to the low-end, most conservative estimates because I didn't want to be accused of exaggeration.

Ha! I could hardly have been more wrong, no matter how you count Saddam's killing of civilians. According to Human Rights Watch, Hussein killed several hundred thousand of his fellow citizens. The massacre of the Kurdish Barzani tribe in 1983 killed at least 8,000; the infamous gas attack on the Kurdish village of Halabja killed 5,000 in 1988; and seized documents from Iraqi security organizations show 182,000 were murdered during the Anfal ethnic cleansing campaign against Kurds, also in 1988.

In 1991, following the first Gulf War, both the Kurds and the Shiites rebelled. The allied forces did not intervene, and Saddam brutally suppressed both uprisings and drained the southern marshes that had been home to a local population for more than 5,000 years.

Saddam's regime left 271 mass graves, with more still being discovered. That figure alone was the source for my original mistaken estimate of 20,000. Saddam's widespread use of systematic torture, including rape, has been verified by the U.N. Committee on Human Rights and other human rights groups over the years.

There are wildly varying estimates of the number of civilians, especially babies and young children, who died as a result of the sanctions that followed the Gulf War. While it is true that the ill-advised sanctions were put in place by the United Nations, I do not see that that lessens Hussein's moral culpability, whatever blame attaches to the sanctions themselves -- particularly since Saddam promptly corrupted the Oil for Food Program put in place to mitigate the effects of the sanctions, and used the proceeds to build more palaces, etc.

There have been estimates as high as 1 million civilians killed by Saddam, though most agree on the 300,000 to 400,000 range, making my comparison to 20,000 civilian dead in this war pathetically wrong.

I was certainly under no illusions regarding Saddam Hussein, whom I have opposed through human rights work for decades. My sincere apologies.

All of Ivins's columns back to November 2002 are archived here:


Do yourself a favor -- browse around and read a few of the columns with headlines that grab you.

Draven 02-01-07 11:57 AM

Thanks for posting those JasonF, it's a good read!

Vibiana 02-01-07 12:10 PM

My mother, may she rest in peace, loved Molly Ivins and never missed a column. The two of them are probably sipping a beer together on a cloud right now. :lol:

EDITED TO ADD MY FAVORITE MOLLY IVINS SNIPPET from the 1992 election season. I'm sorry I couldn't find an exact quote, but she said something about George Bush, pere, being upset because H. Ross Perot "keeps bringing out these horrible phallic charts where Ross's growth thing sticks way up and Clinton's growth thing sticks way up and poor Poppy's growth thing is just an itty bitty nub."

RIP, honeychile. :D

Nazgul 02-01-07 12:51 PM

Originally Posted by Red Dog
Never heard of her.

Me either. :shrug:

classicman2 02-01-07 12:59 PM

Why am I not surprised that some haven't heard of Molly Ivins?

CRM114 02-01-07 12:59 PM

I think she probably coined the lovable nickname, "Shrub" for GWB. ;)


JumpCutz 02-01-07 10:04 PM

Originally Posted by Nazgul
Me either. :shrug:

Wow. :|

Nazgul 02-01-07 10:52 PM

Originally Posted by JumpCutz
Wow. :|

Wow what?

JumpCutz 02-02-07 02:11 AM

Originally Posted by Nazgul
Wow what?

I guess I'm just a bit surprised there are people in this particular forum who have never heard the name Molly Ivins. :shrug:


movielib 02-02-07 07:28 AM

I've heard of her and I've read many of her columns over the years. I rarely agreed with her (except about her opposition to the Iraq War) but she did have class. RIP.

wmansir 02-02-07 11:03 AM

I recognize the name as a political writer, but couldn't say much beyond that. For all the talk about how humors she is I don't see it in the examples presented here, outside of name calling and a dick joke.

atlantamoi 02-02-07 02:40 PM

I was saddened to hear about this. She pissed me off quite often in her columns, but she passed too early.

Hiro11 02-02-07 04:47 PM

I'm sorry she died. I have to say, though, I considered her to be essentially the left wing version of Ann Coulter.

MrE 02-05-07 04:04 PM

Courtney Love is the left's Ann Coulter. Molly Ivins had class, was funny and got her facts right!

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