Here I go doing that thing that journalists avoid, because nothing is more sure to draw a tidal wave of dissension and contempt from the world:
I’m going to say something nice about somebody.
The somebody is David Von Drehle, deputy opinion editor and columnist for The Washington Post. He’s written some really good columns lately, and I’ve recently added him to the fairly short list of people whose stuff I will make a point of reading simply based on the byline, whatever the headline might say.
It’s the first time in while I’ve added anyone to that list. Probably the most recent newcomers were Frank Bruni and Ezra Klein in the NYT — and with Klein, it was probably his podcasts that got me started, not his columns. Those who have been on the list a longer time include E.J. Dionne, David Brooks, Nicholas Kristof, Bret Stephens, Jennifer Rubin, and South Carolina’s own Kathleen Parker. And going back even farther — Tom Friedman and George Will. And I really miss David Broder and Charles Krauthammer.
Some of them I agree with. Others add depth that help me amend my views. Some of them, I simply enjoy the way they write.
And now there’s a new one. When I started reading him, I wondered where he had been that I hadn’t noticed him before. He’s 61 years old — which is still quite young, mind you, but it seems I would have noticed him in the past. Had his duties as deputy opinion editor kept him from writing columns, or what?
The answer is that he’d jumped around in his career, developing a diversity of experience that shows up well in his columns:
David Von Drehle is a deputy opinion editor and columnist for The Post, where he writes about national affairs and politics from a home base in the Midwest. He joined The Post in 2017 after a decade at Time magazine, where he wrote more than 60 cover stories as editor-at-large. During a previous stint at The Post, Von Drehle served as a writer and editor on the National staff, in Style, and at the magazine. He is the author of a number of books, including the award-winning bestseller “Triangle: The Fire That Changed America.” He lives in Kansas City with his wife, journalist Karen Ball, and their four children.
You can read more about his diverse career on Wikipedia.
So he’s done a lot, and you can tell that by reading him. And the fact that he writes from WAY outside the Beltway Bubble probably doesn’t hurt, either. He possesses the rare perspective of actually having the experience to know what he’s talking about, but in a position to do so from arm’s length. This is the combination that modern technology should provide, but too seldom does.
Here’s his latest column, headlined “If the Mar-a-Lago case collapses? Disaster dodged, America.” Basically, he’s saying that the emergence of Joe Biden’s documents problem “should spell the end of any realistic prospect of criminal charges against former president Donald Trump over his Mar-a-Lago portfolio of pilferage.”
And that’s a good thing. Of course, the cases are light-years apart. One involves criminal defiance of the law — a raid necessitated by Trump’s refusal to simply hand over the documents the government was seeking, versus a problem we’d only know about because Biden’s people found the documents, reported it and turned them over — and then kept looking. Not to mention Garland’s appointment of a special prosecutor. The Biden example is one of going all-out to obey the law and correct a problem. The Trump case is the opposite.
Nevertheless, the steam is leaking out of any likelihood that Trump will pay for what he did. And the columnist explains that that’s a good thing:
Before continuing, let me be clear: I believe Trump is a bad person of low character, selfish and dishonest, intellectually lazy, childish and shameless, and that his presidency has been a terrible thing for the country I love. For this reason, I’m relieved by the likely collapse of the classified documents case against him. Because it was the strongest case against Trump, in terms of trial strategy, it was the most likely to produce an indictment — and indicting Trump is a terrible idea for those who genuinely hope to be rid of him.
Politically, Trump is a dead man walking. He has lost the ability to drive the news cycle. His outlandish social media posts fall as silently as unheard forest trees. His declaration of his next campaign produced a yawn worthy of another run by Ralph Nader. As drum major of a wackadoodle parade, he marched through the Republican primaries last year, delivering candidates who bombed in the general election. Now no one marches to his tune. When he tried to influence the election of a House speaker, even the surviving zealots ignored his instructions….
To be indicted and hauled into court for history’s most heavily publicized trial would invigorate Trump, and the spectacle would galvanize his dwindling base of support….
And we know what that would lead to.
In short, von Drehle is a perceptive observer who knows how to think about an issue — rather than get in line behind a partisan talking point of the day — and has the skill to effectively express his thoughts.
I appreciate that. I hope the Post will forgive me for the long quote above. I also hope that if you’re not a subscriber (and I recommend that you become one), you can at least read all of this column before the pay wall stops you.
And if you can go even beyond that, here are some other recent columns to check out:
- Lisa Marie Presley, the King’s doomed princess
- How long till people stop falling for ‘founder’ hype?
- The tragedy of Herschel Walker
- The GOP is stuck in a doom loop begun 30 years ago
- Now this is how to lose an election: With a smile and a hug
I loved that last one. And the one before it, about the lasting effects of Pat Buchanan’s campaign in 1992, is about something I alluded to back in this comment.
Anyway, I’m glad to have discovered his work, and look forward to being enlightened further in the days to come…