Molly Ivins

On the death of newspapers.

Evan Smith: Molly, I feel like it’s fitting to talk about Ann Richards first.

Molly Ivins: Let’s talk about Annie. I’ve been writing about her and thinking about her, and what I remember is that the ’90 campaign was so crazy. I mean, there was Ann, running as the New Texas, against Clayton Williams, who kept personifying the Old Texas, right down to the boots and the racist and sexist comments. She represented inclusion—it was about bringing people in who had never been part of the good-old-boy establishment. I remember setting off from the Congress Avenue Bridge on her inauguration day and marching to the Capitol. What a feeling! We were just thrilled. Henry Cisneros was carrying his little boy, and tears were running down his face because they were going to be included too. And then, of course, Ann got handed a plate full of shit. At the time she became governor, practically every function of state government was under court order; the prisons were so overcrowded that hideous convicts had to be released. She spent all her time cleaning it up, and along came [George W.] Bush to claim all the credit.

ES: Pretty soon the tributes are going to give way to the predictable complaint: “Well, she wasn’t that great of a governor.”

MI: She wasn’t. She didn’t get anything done that people had dreamed of: new programs or changing the way things worked. She cleaned up the mess and that was about all she had time for. She was supposed to have done more in her second term—that was the thinking. Best-laid plans. I do remember one moment. She and [then—lieutenant governor Bob] Bullock started a program of alcoholic rehabilitation in the prisons, which is where we really need it. All the studies show that it cuts recidivism more than any other single thing you can try. There was the governor of Texas in a circle of prisoners saying, “My name is Ann, and I am an alcoholic.” It was so very moving.

ES: Do you buy the conventional wisdom that she looked out at four more years in that job and took a pass?

MI: I don’t think she wanted to run a second time. She was just exhausted.

ES: Did she seem happy to you in her life after politics?

MI: Oh, yes, much happier. She was free to say what she wanted, and she got to do a bunch of stuff that she’d always wanted to do.

ES: It has to be difficult for you, given your own battle with cancer, to see this person you’ve been so close to succumb to the disease.

MI: As often happens, Ann was really defeated by the treatment. She had been through the chemo and

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