William Safire

As a speechwriter, he made Spiro Agnew sound fizzy--"nattering nabobs of negativism" was his alliterative classic--and helped Richard Nixon explain his policies. (He later explained Nixon himself in a historically rich memoir, Before the Fall.) William Safire, who died Sept. 27 at 79, was not just a fighter--he was a champ. He had brio, savvy and insight into human nature. That's why he could write novels: because he was interested in what makes humans do what they do, in motives and twists of fate and unintended consequences.

He enjoyed his rise and wanted others to as well. Once, when I got...

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