William Raspberry, who died of cancer last week at age 76, was a Washington Post columnist for 40 years, 35 of them on the op-ed page. It was a long career, over the course of which, as he wrote in one of his final columns, he had lost his early appetite for “delivering the hard zinger” and come to value persuasion over polemic. “I found myself trying to write,” he said, “in such a way that people who didn’t agree with me might at least hear me.” As public discourse grew increasingly shrill, Raspberry worked to understand the views of those he disagreed with.
Fairness didn’t mean humorlessness. Some of Raspberry’s best — and funniest — columns were those recounting his arguments with an imaginary cabdriver, through whom he voiced plausible objections to his own positions.