David Broder has died
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.
| March 9, 2011; 3:42 PM ET
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