R.I.P. Molly Ivins

Molly Ivins, the liberal, biting columnist who coined the nickname “Shrub” for President George W. Bush, died in Austin, Texas, Wednesday after a long battle with cancer.

A best-selling author and sharp critic of lackluster politicians, Ivins took no prisoner in her writings. Her death brought eulogies of praise from many quarters, including Bush.

Writes Kelley Shannon of The Associated Press:

Witty best-selling author and columnist Molly Ivins, a Texas liberal who died after a long battle with breast cancer, left legions of admirers, even among the politicians she regularly skewered.

President Bush, referred to as “Shrub” in Ivins’ writings, said in a statement issued after her death Wednesday evening that Ivins was a Texas original who was loved by her readers and many friends.

“I respected her convictions, her passionate belief in the power of words, and her ability to turn a phrase. She fought her illness with that same passion. Her quick wit and commitment to her beliefs will be missed,” Bush said.

Ivins died in her home in hospice care. She was 62. Ivins revealed in early 2006 that she was being treated for breast cancer for the third time.

Her livelihood was poking fun at Texas politicians, whether they were in the White House or her home base of Austin.

“Molly Ivins’ clever and colorful perspectives on people and politics gained her national acclaim and admiration that crossed party lines,” said Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who Ivins playfully dubbed “Governor Goodhair.”

Joe Holley of The Washington Post offers more:

More than 400 newspapers subscribed to her nationally syndicated column, which had its base in Texas but dealt more often than not with national issues, particularly after former Texas governor George W. Bush ascended to the White House. Her books included “Nothin’ but Good Times Ahead” (1993), “You Got to Dance With Them What Brung You: Politics in the Clinton Years” (1998), “Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush” (2000), “Bushwhacked” (2003) and “Who Let the Dogs In?” (2004).

Six feet tall, with a mane of red hair when she was younger, Ms. Ivins was large even in a place that has known its share of outsize personalities. With an earthy laugh and the husky, drawling voice of a barroom bawd, she was usually the focal point of any gathering of folks who enjoyed telling tales and trading political gossip.

During her days as editor of the Texas Observer, the feisty fortnightly voice of long-suffering Texas liberals, a favorite place was out back at Austin’s legendary Scholzgarten, where pitchers of cold beer helped lubricate the conversation. She loved the game of politics and the yeasty mix of egos, enthusiasms and downright weirdness she was sure to encounter, even when she was dismayed by the outcome.

Hobnobbing with politicos, she may have missed deadlines while her no-nonsense Observer co-editor, Kaye Northcott, was trying to get the political biweekly put to bed, but she would invariably come back with great stories. In later years, when the Observer nearly succumbed to its perennially precarious financial situation and Ms. Ivins was making a bit more than the $12,000-annual salary the publication paid her, she helped put it on sound financial footing.

Adds Katharine Q. Seelye of The New York Times:

In her syndicated column, which appeared in about 350 newspapers, Ms. Ivins cultivated the voice of a folksy populist who derided those who she thought acted too big for their britches. She was rowdy and profane, but she could filet her opponents with droll precision.

After Patrick J. Buchanan, as a conservative candidate for president, declared at the 1992 Republican National Convention that the United States was engaged in a cultural war, she said his speech “probably sounded better in the original German.”

“There are two kinds of humor,” she told People magazine. One was the kind “that makes us chuckle about our foibles and our shared humanity,” she said. “The other kind holds people up to public contempt and ridicule. That’s what I do.”

Hers was a feisty voice that she developed in the early 1970s at The Texas Observer, the muckraking paper that came out every two weeks and that would become her spiritual home for life.

Her subject was Texas. To her, the Great State, as she called it, was “reactionary, cantankerous and hilarious,” and its Legislature was “reporter heaven.” When the Legislature is set to convene, she warned her readers, “every village is about to lose its idiot.”

Her Texas upbringing made her something of an expert on the Bush family. She viewed the first President George Bush benignly. (“Real Texans do not use the word ‘summer’ as a verb,” she wrote.)


  1. Judy DiGennaro

    I wept as well. Many mornings my husband or I (whoever got to her column first) would read something deliciously wicked about “Shrub”. She went down fighting as always leaving us with her message to “Fight, don’t mourn”. I will do my best to follow her example.

    Judy Di

  2. Kent Shaw

    We lost a good one this time. As I sit here and literally shed a tear I hear Molly’s spirit telling my “Oh straighten up ya wuss and go out there and raise some hell, somebody’s got to!”

  3. Marie Howard

    I am sad. Molly Ivins’ was right-on target, with a funny take on really stupid government actions. Liberals with a capital L, we lost a good writer with a great heart. We will have to remember her by working harder and calling it just like it is.

  4. Trella Laughlin

    Miz Molly, by golly, your sharp wit and solid liberalism made Texas bearable for me for 30 years. Thank you for your work. I always looked up “Molly Ivins” in any publication that might carry your writings because I knew I would learn something and would get an out loud laugh, something that is hard to find in the right-wing dominated society we let fester. I will sure miss your writings, Ms. Ivins, and I hope you were surrounded with love and friends when you made that great transition. We have a lost a literate warrior. Now we have to fight on.

  5. David Rosenberg

    Molly Ivins was a one of a kind, the mold was broken after it produced her. I was heartbroken learning she had passed away but, very quickly I smiled knowing she would not want to be mourned. She would rather you remember her and pick up where she left off. I hope they had a “cold one” ready for her.

    So long Molly, I and countless others will be missing you.

  6. Jamie Curtis

    Only death caused her to drop the standard she carried. YOU may have heard one of her last calls to arms: “We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell.”, then pick up where she left off. You know who “they” are. Give ’em hell.

  7. ron kay

    …great heart…great mind….great woman. We are better people for having read her.

    (I’m gonna miss ya, baby…)

  8. Lexie Homewood

    I loved her “colyumes”, as she said the people in the Great State pronounced it. She is gone far too soon, and the liberal press has lost a great voice.

  9. Ruth Short

    I wan1ted to say something about the tragedy of losing Molly Ivins, but Teresa said it all so well that I’ll just endorse that. We should, and can, kick ’em out and be better. Let’s do it!

  10. Buckethead

    She walked into my shop one day and I recognized her right away. After a bit of B.S., I told her that I went to high school with her brother Andy and the first thing out of her mouth was “I probably called the cops on you!”. She truly was one of a kind and will be sorley missed. To Doubtom – I did have afew cold ones with her. A local brew pub bottled some Molly Ivins beer in her honor after a speech to the League of

    Women Voters. I will never forget.