The Corner

Safire’s Schtick

William Safire calls for the abolition of the penny. He begins:

WASHINGTON — Because my staunch support of the war in Iraq has generated such overwhelming reader enthusiasm, it’s time to re-establish my contrarian credentials. (Besides, I need a break.) Here’s a crusade sure to infuriate the vast majority of penny-pinching traditionalists:

The time has come to abolish the outdated, almost worthless, bothersome and wasteful penny. Even President Lincoln, who distrusted the notion of paper money because he thought he would have to sign each greenback, would be ashamed to have his face on this specious specie.

Now I don’t care if he wants to get rid of the penny. I’m against it, I guess. But what drives me nuts is Safire’s repeated invocation of “contrarianism” for contrarianism’s sake. I like contrarianism. I live to think of myself as a contrarian to one extent or another. But taking a contrary position simply and solely because it is contrarian is not a thoughtful position, it is an annoying pose. For years, Safire has boasted that he takes certain positions solely because others do not. That’s silly.


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