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William Safire, 1929-2009

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William Safire, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and former speechwriter for President Richard Nixon, died in Maryland on September 27, 2009.  Born in New York City in 1929, Safire became vice president of Tex McCrary, Inc., a public relations firm, in 1955.  He started his own firm, Safire Public Relations, Inc., the next year.  In 1959, he helped stage and publicize the “kitchen debate” between Nixon, then vice president, and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, in part to highlight a model kitchen build by one of his clients.  In October 1966, Safire arranged for Nixon’s response to President Lyndon Johnson’s Manila Communique to be published in the New York Times, triggering a response from Johnson that raised Nixon’s stature as a presidential candidate for 1968. After the 1968 election, Safire joined the Nixon White House as a speechwriter and a special assistant to the president.  In 1973, Safire became a political columnist at the New York Times. In this clip from a March 2008 interview with Library director Timothy Naftali, Safire comments on the importance of his experience as a speechwriter and tells the story of how he came to write the immortal phrase “nattering nabobs of negativism” for Vice President Spiro Agnew.

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