Mary McGrory, RIP

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Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory has died at the age of 85. Among movement conservatives, it will be forever fashionable to dislike her work. But the truth is that she was a great talent and a remarkable person in many ways. Yes, her operating intellectual framework was conventionally left-liberal. But she came by her opinions honestly. Her loathing of the Nixon administration stemmed from disgust at the corruptions of power, and no one wrote more scathingly of the Reagan team during the Iran-Contra fiasco. Yes, she might have been more nonpartisan in her likes and dislikes, but she was clearly no opportunist: indeed, she was a pioneer in subjecting power to whithering criticism.

There is also the private life of Mary. This fiery public figure also spent countless hours every week, away from cameras and reporters, helping private and religious orphanages in the Washington area deal with an unending number of tragic cases of abuse and neglect. She worked with children and families and was always personally involved in cases, just because she had a huge heart. The cases are too numerous to go into, and she wouldn’t appreciate it anyway. She was also financially very generous to these institutions, and never sought to make anyone aware of this fact.

She was a faithful Catholic who an old-timey edge to her. I recall once sitting behind her at Mass when the Bishop’s sermon went on for longer than thirty minutes. She grumbled audibly that no homilist needs that much time to get the point across. Everyone around her agreed. Indeed, she knew how to make great points in a short space; so many of her columns were models of precision and brevity.

With the GOP wrecking the world, and conservative punditry having signed up for the ride, the world needs Mary now. May her example inspire many others–even if they do call themselves left-liberals.

2:00 pm on April 22, 2004