The nation is the poorer for Bill Safire’s passing. As a columnist, commentator, and author, he enlightened and enlivened the public square for four decades. And the extended Nixon Family is shocked and saddened by the loss of a brilliant thinker and writer, a witty companion, and a dear friend.

Bill met Richard Nixon in Moscow in 1959.  He was the PR man for the builder of  the “average American house” that was one of the most popular features of the American Exhibition there. When the Vice President and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev arrived for the official opening, Bill took advantage of some general confusion to lead everyone into the kitchen of his house.   The result was the legendary Cold War confrontation that became known, to Bill’s particular satisfaction, as the “Kitchen Debate.”

Bill began writing for Mr. Nixon, and in January 1969 he became one of President Nixon’s principal White House speechwriters and advisers.

Bill knew how to get inside ideas, understand them, and then explain them in ways and words that everyone —from the smartest expert to the man in the street— could understand.

RN appreciated Bill’s brilliant pen, his wise counsel, his independent judgment, and his loyal friendship.

Bill was a sharp reporter who knew how to listen. As a result he scored many scoops for his column in The New York Times. He could also write about ideas and issues and personalities — and, of course, words. He loved everything about words: their histories, their meanings, and the fun you can have with them.

His many books ranged from an important memoir of his time with President Nixon and historical novels and thrillers, to a moving study of the Book of Job.

Bill was a devoted husband and father and a doting granddad. Our thoughts and prayers are with Helene and his family.

Ronald H. Walker
President, The Richard Nixon Foundation

Photo: William Safire’s snapshot of Vice President Nixon and Premier Khrushchev in the kitchen of the model house at the American Exhibition in Moscow.  Safire captured the then-unknown Leonid Brezhnev, who would unseat Khrushchev five years later, standing significantly over RN’s shoulder.   Safire later wrote: “After the reporters and the crowd had left the house, I went back to the now historic kitchen, opened the refrigerator, took out a beer and sat down on the range to think things over.  I decided to go to work for Nixon, if I could; he didn’t get upset when he was caught off guard, he knew how to seize an opportunity, he obviously had respect for —and knew how to play to— the press, he had a sure grasp of issues, and, cornball though it sounds, he made me feel proud of my country.”