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James Jackson Kilpatrick


James Jackson Kilpatrick wrote some of the best campaign and convention coverage ever for National Review from the sixties through the seventies — up there with H.L. Mencken and A. J. Liebling. My all-time favorite was his description of former House speaker John McCormack taking the podium at the 1972 Democratic convention in Miami. No one listened, because it was McGovern’s hour, and he was just some old guy. Read that graf, and feel your eyes water.

Another proof of his skill, in the same piece, was his concision. The McGovernites had to accomplish a tricky maneuver, dumping votes to lose the substance of a motion, while retaining a procedure that would help them later on. Kilpatrick described it, with perfect clarity, in half a paragraph. Theodore White, in his election year book, took five or six pages. Hunter Thompson, in his election-year-and-drugs book, took about thirty pages and still didn’t understand it.


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