Sad to See Molly Go

Molly Ivins, queen of liberal commentary, dies: Austin resident battled breast cancer
By W. Gardner Selby
Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Molly Ivins, the acerbic Texas writer who shed her family’s conservative roots to become one of the nation’s best-known, treasured (sometimes vilified) liberal commentators, died Wednesday after battling cancer. She was 62.

Writing on in 1990, critic David Rubien compared Ivins to Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, Will Rogers, H.L. Mencken and Red Smith, writers (coincidentally men) who used satire to deflate pomp and prick conventional wisdom.

In her home state of Texas, Ivins was celebrated as a storyteller, whether it was in her recollection of late nights jawing with Democratic politicians or in her moving account in a post-Vietnam column of an unnamed boyfriend who died in that conflict.

The humor that laced her work did not deter her from forceful statements of opinion. In the last column posted online by her syndicate, dated Jan. 11, Ivins urged readers to act against President Bush’s plans to send more troops to Baghdad.

“We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders,” Ivins wrote, employing one of the president’s self-descriptions. “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. . . . We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, ‘Stop it, now!’ “

Friends and family who assisted Ivins through her illnesses included her assistant, Betsy Moon, who coaxed her last column out of her, according to Lou Dubose, a writer who co-authored two books with Ivins and was collaborating on a third.

“Molly was really well-served for a long time by this small group of men and women,” Dubose said.

There were sometimes disagreements among them: for instance, whether Ivins should attend and speak at a recent fundraiser for The Texas Observer (she did). But the tugging was understandable as friends balanced Ivins’ desire to remain active against their protectiveness.

Ivins came home to hospice care Monday. Three days earlier, she turned to Dubose from her hospital bed and said: “So how was your trip to New Jersey?” a reference to a research trip he’d completed for a book on the Bush administration and the Bill of Rights.

“A romantic journalist,” Dubose said. “She romanticized our profession.”

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