Molly Ivins

Our National Treasure: Miss Molly Ivins
From Deep In The Hearts Of Texas
By Michael Maynard
December 23, 2013

If you are looking for a last minute gift for your favorite political junkie, buy the electronic book “Molly Ivins – Letters To Our Nation”. Molly’s columns were and still are a national treasure.

Mary Tyler “Molly” Ivins (August 30, 1944 – January 31, 2007) was an American newspaper columnist, author, liberal (she did not consider herself a liberal or a conservative political commentator), satirist and humorist. Born in California and raised in Texas, Ivins attended Smith College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She began her journalism career at the Minneapolis Tribune where she became the first female police reporter at the paper. She joined the Texas Observer in the early 1970s and later moved to The New York Times. She moved to the Dallas Times Herald in the 1980s as a columnist, finally settling in at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram where her syndicated column reached 400 newspapers. (Source: Wikipedia)

She often appeared on the Public Broadcasting System’s ”NewsHour with Jim Lehrer”. While television was not her natural medium, her humor, especially about her native state, was a natural on TV, too. Jim Lehrer showed the following clip as a tribute to Miss Molly on the day of her passing. She discussed Texas “ort”.

What’s missing right now from the national political landscape is humor and good satire. Sure, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert do a good job every night skewering the stupid and corrupt, but they are comedians first, political satirists second.

Texas has always been a great place for political satire. Molly Ivins gave credit to Sam Houston as being the best political satirist and followed in his tradition. Here are the best quotes from The First and Third President of the Republic of Texas and United States Senator Sam Houston:

All new states are invested, more or less, by a class of noisy, second-rate men who are always in favor of rash and extreme measures, but Texas was absolutely overrun by such men.

When Houston was challenged to a duel by David Burrnett who was five foot one, Houston, who was well over six feet, said that “he did not fight downhill.”

Accusing a Senator of branding a man by the use of an innuendo, Houston gave an illustration:

“A manufacture of bologna sausage accused a man whom he had discharged of spreading a report that the manufacturer’s sausage was made of dog meat. The accused man protested: I never said any such thing, but I will tell you what I did say. I said that where bologna sausages are plentiful, dogs are scarce.”

The United States bought what is now New Mexico for ten million dollars. Sam Houston who helped negotiate the sale said ” It was the best sale ever made of poor land and a disputed title.”

 Sam Houston was called a party onto himself. Houston answered, “From that I rather have some consolation because I know that I could not be in better company, and no differences can arise between myself and myself.”

Molly Ivins was indeed a national treasure. She was an unique amalgam of humor, wisdom and insight, and satire. While she poked fun in politicians and pointed out their foibles, she had a great deal of respect for the political process, if not all the people in it. Miss Molly managed to be pointed and cutting, without being mean spirited or cruel. Thanks to the Internet and sites like YouTube, BrainyQuotes, and Wikiquote, a new generation can have access to Molly Ivins and some of her best books, columns, videos and quotes:

I dearly love the state of Texas, but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part, and discuss it only with consenting adults.

All anyone needs to enjoy the state legislature is a strong stomach and a complete insensitivity to the needs of the people. As long as you don’t think about what that peculiar body should be doing and what it actually is doing to the quality of life in Texas, then it’s all marvelous fun.

I never saw anything funnier than Texas politics.

You can’t ignore politics, no matter how much you’d like to.

Havin’ fun while freedom fightin’ must be one of those lunatic Texas traits we get from the water – which is known to have lithium in it – because it goes all the way back to Sam Houston, surely the most lovable, the most human, and the funniest of all the great men this country has ever produced.

Some days, I’d feel better with Punxsutawney Phil in the Oval Office – at least he doesn’t lie about the weather.

One of the funnier slogans, from George W. Bush’s last run for governor, was ‘end social promotion.’ Social promotion is the story of Bush’s life.

Bush was replaced by his exceedingly Lite Guv Rick Perry, who has really good hair.

Governor Goodhair, or the Ken Doll (see, all Texans use nicknames—it’s not that odd), is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. But the chair of a major House committee says, “Goodhair is much more engaged as governor than Bush was.” As the refrain of the country song goes, “O Please, Dear God, Not Another One.”

As our former Governor Bill Clements said during an etiquette lesson preceding the visit of Deng Xiaoping of China to Houston, ‘We have to be nice to this little fella and remember we all like chop suey.”

The bill to make English the Official State Language came to naught, which is just as well since we’d have had to deport the entire state leadership if it was passed.

In the line of journalistic duty, I attended the God and Country Rally featuring Phyllis Schlafly, Pat Robertson and Pat Boone, and am filing a worker’s compensation claim against The Nation.
Jim Collins is the man who once moved me, in the days when I wrote for the Dallas Times Herald, to observe, ‘”If his IQ slips any lower, we’ll have to water him twice a day.’”

I know what kind of governor [George W. Bush] has been—if you expect him to do for the nation what he has for Texas, we need to talk.

Next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please pay attention.

I ‘ve always found it easier to be funny than to be serious.

I miss reading her columns today. I can just imagine what fun she would have at the expense of the current crop of Texas political buffoons : Perry, Cruz, Gohmert, Stockman, Dewhurst, Abbott, Farenthold, et al. She would probably have delighted watching Wendy Davis’ valiant filibuster against the restrictions on woman’s reproductive rights and enjoy chronicling Davis’ campaign for governor.

It is more difficult being a female political humorist, satirist, columnist and reporter. Molly Ivins really did not have any female role models to follow, she was sui generis.

Why aren’t there more women political satirists?

Anthologies of political satire from ancient Rome to the present time include the work of few if any women. In America today all of the hosts and most of the writers of late night TV comedy programs are men. Male stand-up comedians greatly outnumber the women. Only a small proportion of the members of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists are women. A few women satirical columnists have recently achieved national prominence, but the field of newspaper and magazine commentary is still dominated by men. Reports from Britain and elsewhere tell much the same story.

One obvious reason is that, after a long history of discrimination, women have come only lately to a serious involvement in any aspect of politics. And yet there are studies suggesting that the barriers to women becoming professional satirists are more deeply rooted in differences between the genders. …

Here we turn to other research suggesting that the answers are deep-rooted in contrasting tastes in humor. Willow Lawson’s “Humor’s Sexual Side” in Psychology Today reported that men more often use humor as a tool of aggression or to engage in rivalries with other males, whereas women tend to use humor to bond with others.

Even those Molly Ivins satirized —  she called President George W. Bush “Shrub and wrote a book “Bushwhacked” about him (with Lou Dubose) — respected her. She said about the performance of George W. Bush as governor and president: “I think he’s further evidence the Great Scriptwriter in the sky has an overly developed sense of irony.”

But she would also have cringed at how mean-spirited, hateful, racist, greedily corrupt and morally bankrupt politics has become in the Citizens United era. Anyone with a brain, a heart, decency and concern about this country has to be. Molly Ivins also wrote:

What stuns me most about contemporary politics is not even that the system has been so badly corrupted by money. It is that so few people get the connection between their lives and what the bozos do in Washington and our state capitols.

Politics is not a picture on a wall or a television sitcom that you can decide you don’t much care for.

Today’s political environment is so bitter, shameless, mendicant, and malicious, that even a politics junkie and policy wonk like myself can get worn down by it. This article started out discussing the latest right-wing inanity about how trickle down economics was a huge success. That article was so stupid and inane, I couldn’t get my heart or head into it. Miss Molly even had thoughts on that.

 There’s never been a law yet that didn’t have a ridiculous consequence in some unusual situation; there’s probably never been a government program that didn’t accidentally benefit someone it wasn’t intended to. Most people who work in government understand that what you do about it is fix the problem — you don’t just attack the whole government

It is honoring the tradition and history of political writers ,muckrakers, columnists and satirists, such as Lincoln Steffens, Will Rogers, Samuel Clemens, Ambrose Pierce, H.L. Mencken, Mike Royko, Jimmy Breslin, today’s Nicholas Kristof and Paul Krugman, and Molly Ivins, is why I write. No, I’m not so immodest to think that I am 1/100th as good as any of them. But there is a critical need for those who can write to explain the world, poke fun at it and/or provide a different perspective. I can do that.

I wish it was easier to be funny than serious. Writing humor is hard, especially when you see the callous disregard of the needs of the poor and middle class. The buffoons are many: Palin, Bachmann, Robertson, Paul and son, Trump, and the Texas politicians named above. But they are also dangerous because of those they influence who do not recognize their buffoonery and are hailed as truth-tellers by Fox News and the right-wing media.

One last Molly Ivins quote:

There are two kinds of humor. One kind that makes us chuckle about our foibles and our shared humanity — like what Garrison Keillor does. The other kind holds people up to public contempt and ridicule — that’s what I do. Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful. I only aim at the powerful. When satire is aimed at the powerless, it is not only cruel — it’s vulgar.

Rest in peace, Miss Molly. You are dearly missed.  But you are in a better place looking down at all the foolishness that you so brilliantly satirized.

To buy the e-book of Molly Ivins’ “Letters To The Nation” ($9.99), please visit:

Columnist/Journalist/Writer/Book Editor Co-Founder/CEO of Azimuth Partners, high tech consulting firm for 30+ years. Former columnist for the Washington Post/Newsweek syndicate.

3 Comment on “Our National Treasure: Miss Molly Ivins – From Deep In The Hearts Of Texas

  1. Pingback: Happy 71st Birthday Molly Ivins | waldina

  2. Pingback: Happy Birthday Molly Ivins | waldina

  3. Pingback: Yes, I Was Born This Way | MICHAEL MAYNARD

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