Kathleen Turner is starring on stage in Philadelphia as the leftist writer Molly Ivins, and The Washington Post promoted the show on Sunday -- and noted that one of the Ivins-adoring playwrights was a former Post staffer:
"Red-Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins" is a 75-minute foray into the psyche of a sassy commentator perhaps most celebrated for a single word: "Shrub," the withering nickname she gave to George W. Bush, a politician who symbolized for her all that seemed wacky in the reward system of American politics.
Written by a pair of newspaperwomen -- Bethesda-based Margaret Engel, a former Washington Post staffer, and her twin sister Allison, communications director at the University of Southern California -- the play styles Ivins as a live-wire wit who, in her profane, folksy way juiced up the public discourse. (You may recall that the first of her books was titled, "Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She?") And she accomplished this from a perspective honed far from the Beltway.
"She was our Mark Twain," says Margaret Engel, an author and executive director of the Alicia Patterson Foundation in Washington, an organization that awards grants to journalists for investigative and research projects. "She really is the larger-than-life American character who comes around quite rarely, and had a way of seeing things with a clarity you don't find often."
Post staff writer Peter Marks reported both Ivins and Kathleen Turner were on the board of the liberal group People for the American Way, so they knew each other a little.
Margaret Engel also worked for the Newseum in Washington, where in 2006 she defended the liberal media against our study of gooey network coverage of rallies for illegal immigration. In a CNN story for Lou Dobbs Tonight, she explained how the rallies were quite newsworthy: "When you have really significant numbers of people in the streets protesting something, you can't avoid it simply because the Gallup polls show the numbers are 81 percent in a different direction."
At the time, our point wasn't that the rallies weren't newsworthy, but it was clear that the coverage was large in amount and incredibly supportive in tone.