BOB: Ben Bradlee died on Tuesday, and there is little to be said about the legendary Washington Post executive editor that has not been said to a farethewell all week long. In the 80s, I worked for him as a contract writer but knew him only slightly, so I have no intimate anecdote to dine out on. But his passing leaves so much to lament, because we shall not see his like again. Bradlee was of his moment -- intrepid ownership, endless resources, and a Vietnam-scarred society prepared to see institutions challenged. And he was also of his Post-War, ex-pat milieu: arrogant, entitled, macho and skeptical. That convergence unseated a president.
The New York Times David Carr called Bradlee a “patrician pirate,” and that nails it. Bradlee took the helm of a nondescript schooner called the Washington Post in 1968 and commenced to plundering. Official deceit. Political corruption. Simple pomposity. He had his way with them. Even in his custom, English dress shirts he was the Dread Pirate Bradlee. The schooner became a mighty sailing ship. Washington and the world quaked.
In 1995, Sixty Minutes Mike Wallace asked then-retired Bradlee about the buccaneer life.
Wallace: Do you miss it?
Bradlee: Yeah I little bit. I miss the big, the stories that take the town by the throat.
BOB: You don’t hear much about throat-grabbing, these days. Or mighty vessels, for that matter. There are no more pirates, patrician or otherwise. The last swashbucker is dead, and everyone else is just bailing, bailing, bailing to stay afloat.