"I have no claims to objectivity. I’m not objective. I never was objective and I’m never going to be objective. Is anybody? I just hope I’m fair."
— journalist Richard Ben Cramer, who died yesterday at 62, quoted in Martha Sherrill’s 1992 profile in the Style section of The Washington Post.
"Through guns, the romance of mass production is linked, ironically enough, to the romance of individual freedom, of life lived by wits in don’t-tread-on-me solitude: the riverboat gambler or the gold-rush madam with their derringers, or the the mountain man and yeoman farmer with their rifles. Guns are also ‘equalizers.’ God created man and Samuel Colt made him equal, as the saying goes — a gun having the rare, maybe unique, power of seeming to offer both of the contradictory blessings of American democracy at the same time: equality and freedom. […] There is a lot of mystique about guns in America. There are also a lot of guns in America. Half of American households have guns, somewhere between 150 and 200 million guns in all, according to educated guesses, with 50 or 60 million handguns alone. We add 4 or 5 million new ones a year, not counting imports like the AK47. Meanwhile, advocates on both sides keep adding to their mystique. It’s a measure of the persistence of American idealism that anyone could imagine that we’ll ever reduce their numbers and their allure to the point where we can, as they say, control them."
— Henry Allen, in an April 1989 story in the Style section, via Gangrey.
"All his life, George McGovern has been a textbook liberal, either an idealist or a sap, depending on your politics. He believes that human beings are improvable, that good intentions translate into good policy. He believes it is possible to intervene to solve people’s problems. He does not believe, did not believe, that at some level life is just a cold, lonely fight."
— Laura Blumenfeld in her 1995 story for the Style section on the alcoholism-related death of McGovern’s daughter Teresa.
"‘Deep Throat’ is only a dirty movie. Daniel Ellsberg is still seeing the same psychiatrist. Robert Bork sits on the Supreme Court, appointed in 1976, because he never sacked Archibald Cox, because Archibald Cox never left Harvard to become a special prosecutor, because there was nothing to prosecute, specially. Elizabeth Taylor is dead. She was never saved from drugs and booze and overeating by the Betty Ford Center, because the Betty Ford Center does not exist, because Betty Ford remained a perfectly happy golf widow in Grand Rapids, Mich., who sometimes acted a little silly at Christmas parties. … A generation of talented young people, over-educated and under-experienced, never took to sorting mail and answering phones at newspapers, trying to become famous reporters like Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman. Instead, they became insurance actuaries, dentists and performance artists."
— Martha Sherrill, in a June 7, 1992, essay “What if Watergate hadn’t happened?” The 40th anniversary of the break-in is this month, Nixon was worse than we thought, and while investigative journalism is at risk, we still gate-ify every scandal.
"What did they know? Did they live in a trailer without electricity? Did they go to school wearing a bad wig after a free beauty school treatment burned their skull bald? Did they wear polyester polka-dot pants home-made by a mama who seemed hellbent on making them the freakiest-looking kid in the class?"
— Apropos of absolutely nothing, we were poking around in the archives looking for something when we came across Jennifer Frey’s amazing profile of Tonya Harding from 1999.
"Queen Elizabeth II, this upholstered relic in white gloves, this corgi-bitten defender of an ill-kept faith, this walking logo for a country that looks like a theme park with riots, this highness, this majesty drove across the Potomac River, got out of her limousine at the Tomb of the Unknowns and Nature herself was enthralled."
— Henry Allen, in 1991, writing on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to the White House. Tonight the President hosts a state dinner for British Prime Minister David Cameron.
"New Hampshire is a fraud. Which is to say that behind that idyll of white-steepled, sleigh-belled, town-meeting, republican-with-a-small-R America lurks a much realer and hidden New Hampshire — the souvenir hustlers, backwoods cranks, motorcycle racing fans, out-of-state writers, dour French Canadians and tax-dodging Massachusetts suburbanites who have conspired as New Hampshire has conspired for two centuries to create an illusion of noble, upright, granite-charactered sentinels of liberty out of little more than a self-conscious collection of bad (if beautiful) land, summer people, second-growth woods full of junked cars and decaying aristocracy."
— Henry Allen’s classic 1988 Style essay on New Hampshire. Happy primaries, all.
"Does the sweater have a Rudolph reindeer knitted across it, with a nose that actually lights up? You bet. It will no doubt be worn by the woman who will drag you kicking and screaming into the joyeux realm, and maybe you’d be better off if you just shut up and go along. Her sweater commands it."
— Hank Stuever’s classic 2001 essay on the people in your office who wear the holiday sweaters.