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Posted at 3:42 PM ET, 03/ 9/2011

David Broder has died

By Ezra Klein

Every so often, a guest will come to town and want a tour of The Washington Post. I try to oblige, but I know that I disappoint them. “Here is where the reporters sit,” I’ll say, gesturing across the vast fifth floor. But they’ll look out and see nothing but people at cubicles. “And here is where the cafeteria is,” I’ll say, pointing at a salad bar. But they’ve already seen what a salad bar looks like. A salad bar didn’t bring down Richard Nixon.

The one part of the tour that never disappointed was David Broder’s office. Initially, I thought it was because it was so visually striking. The compact space was packed from the floor to the ceiling with the notes, research, memorabilia and assorted other detritus of a lifetime spent reporting. It looked like 60 years of reporting crammed into a six-by-six box. It was exactly what people were looking to see when they came to the Post.

Then we refurbished the fifth floor and the office was cleaned out — but my guests had the same slightly awed reaction. It didn’t matter that it looked like every other office on earth. It was David Broder’s office. It was where David Broder worked. And that was enough. The interior of the Washington Post building may not look like much, but David Broder’s name on the door meant something to each and every person I brought by it. David Broder meant something to each and every person I brought by.

David Broder died today. He was 81, and still working. Dan Balz’s memories of him are much more worth reading than mine. But I keep thinking back to the last time I saw him: It was in October, when the Hudson Institute presented Gov. Mitch Daniels with its Herman Kahn award. I was lost in one of those crowded ballrooms where almost everyone looks anxious and uncertain, like they don’t know who to talk to or where to go. Or maybe that was just me. Then I ran into Broder. He was there to kick the tires of a possible presidential contender, and he was graciously greeting the stream of people who were walking up to shake his hand, slap his back, ask his thoughts. He listened a lot more than he spoke. He seemed to be enjoying himself immensely. I just hung back to watch. The best way to not be lost, I figured, was to watch him.

By Ezra Klein  | March 9, 2011; 3:42 PM ET
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very kind observations. I often snarked about Broder's middle of the road, for every hand another hand take on things, but he had a long and distinguished (and influential) career that is well worth memorializing.

Posted by: bdballard | March 9, 2011 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Well said, bdballard. I certainly had my issues with the man, but there's no disputing that he had a long and infleuntial carreer, and that his work affected a great many people. And, of course, even people of whom we're not the greatest fans have friends and family that will miss them, and I'm sure they'll be having a hard several days/weeks/months/etc. Here's to hoping they're able to get through the loss.

Posted by: MosBen | March 9, 2011 4:47 PM | Report abuse

This is a thoughtful and fitting tribute. David Broder was one of a handful of journalists I would regularly see at political science conventions -- he was always very gracious when I saw him.

Posted by: gdbeamer | March 9, 2011 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Read him regularly and thought he was one of the strengths of the Post. The torch passes.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | March 9, 2011 5:02 PM | Report abuse

The work of David Broder that I will always respect and remember the most was his 1981 book "Changing of The Guard," which talked in an amazingly prescient way about an emerging group of pragmatic young Democratic politicians around the country at the state and local level, and how they were apt to change the Democratic Party and its ideology. At the very beginning of the Reagan years, Broder had his finger on the pulse of the kind of leader we would get many years later as Bill Clinton came on to the national stage. If Broder had never written anything besides "Changing Of The Guard," he still would have scored an enormous achievement as a political writer.

As with others here, I think his insights and opinions declined in the later years, but he certainly had an influential voice and a long and distinguished career.

Posted by: Patrick_M | March 9, 2011 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Someone's personal manner is irrelevant in an appraisal of their work. Broder was a disaster for political journalism in the U.S. and history will record him as such.

Posted by: bmull | March 9, 2011 6:00 PM | Report abuse

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