William Safire Dies at 79

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist William Safire, who drew notice for his role as President Nixon’s speechwriter, died today in Maryland at the age of 79. The man of letters, who wrote the twice-weekly “Essay” for the Op-Ed page of The New York Times for over 30 years, was a college dropout who, the Times recalls, set up the famous Nixon-Khrushchev “Kitchen Debate” in Moscow. Safire, a “forceful conservative voice in the liberal chorus” was often outspoken in print, calling people liars and using his love of words to express his contrary opinions. Until he succumbed to cancer, Safire was still writing “On Language,” a readers’ favorite column in The New York Times Magazine that discussed the meanings of words and phrases.