I walked out of the studio at Fox only to have a producer greet me at the door and tell me the wires were reporting Andrew had died. I walked around, dazed for a few minutes. A booker asked me if I could hang around for reaction. I said yes, foolishly. I went on. Bill Hemmer asked me some questions. I don’t really remember what I said. But I know I started to break down. They showed mercy and let me get off the air.
Andrew wasn’t anything like my best friend. But he was an old and special one. Back in the early days of National Review Online, even before we called it National Review Online, Andrew and I were buddies. It would be years before we’d meet in the flesh, but we would Instant Message (these were the AOL days) all the time and talk occasionally by phone. We were the same age (about a month apart), with very similar backgrounds, interests, and senses of humor. His Instant Messager handle was “Bodiaz” and he was one of those names in my “buddies list” that was always there (the only other being more omnipresent was Kathryn’s), because he was always awake. He was working for Matt Drudge and I was groping around trying to figure out where the fuse box was on this Internet thing. He was a huge fan of NRO and helped in countless ways behind the scenes to help me and us when he could. When he was asked to create the Huffington Post, he based it in large part on the Corner.
I’ve never known someone, perhaps with the exception of Drudge himself, who had more of a savant’s sense of media, old and new — but especially new. In the early days of the Drudge Report there was a lot of talk about how Drudge made the news, and that was often true. But he could only do that by understanding the news and how it worked at a visceral instinctive level. Matt saw this same gift in Andrew, which is why he hired him. The two of them changed the course of the massive river of news for literally billions of people. That’s no exaggeration, even venerable enterprises and institutions that despised the Drudge Report and pretended it didn’t exist had to change course because of it.
Andrew left there and went on to hugely exciting things. He founded Big Hollywood and Big Government and BreitbartTV and I’ve lost track of what else. He picked fights for fun and profit, but most of all for patriotism and an honorable sense of indignation at the hubris and hypocrisy of the mainstream media and the Left. We didn’t agree on everything and we differed on style. Hell, everyone differed with Andrew when it came to style.
I’m writing my column about him so I should probably stop this stream of consciousness. There will be lots of eulogies and obituaries for Andrew, including my own, talking about his politics and his beautiful wife and kids and his bottomless happy-warrior spirit. And that’s all true and right and appropriate. But people — particularly NRO readers — should know that Andrew’s accomplishments didn’t begin with his relatively recent fame and his gonzo antics. People will talk a lot about Shirley Sherrod and Anthony Weiner and that’s all fine and good. He’d like it, in fact. But he was a great, sweet, smart guy destined for great things long before he became a cultural touchstone. Indeed, his greatest accomplishment, I’m sure he would say, was marrying up and having four wonderful kids. And that too is something that you won’t see in his clips on YouTube.