Rock who was the leader of the segregationistrnCitizen’s Couneil during therncity’s 1957 desegregation crisis, Prudenrnwrites a regular column for the paperrnthat often defends the Confederate Flagrnand the Southern heritage and displavs arntaste for ethnic rabbit punches (only arnfew days after he fired me for expressingrnviews he claimed to find “racially insensitive”rnand “offensive,” he published a columnrnin which Louis Farrakhan’s MillionrnMan March is characterized as “ThernShuck and Jive to Terrify the Mind”).rnBut though Wes is a competent wordsmith,rnhis column is essentially shallow,rnoffering little more than invective directedrnagainst the usual targets of liberalrnDemocrats and the Establishment media.rnA conservative columnist once describedrnwhat Wes does in his column asrn”nothing more than picking out a couplernof liberal Democrats every week and engagingrnin Billingsgate about them.” Forrnall his chest-thumping about Southernrnand Christian traditionalism, he’s carefulrnto avoid sniffing out the wrong ideologicalrnfire hydrants.rnA fervent proponent of Zionism, Wesrnwrote in his column in 1989 that the Israelisrnare “adrift in a sea of 400 millionrnmurderous fanatics,” a line that hadrnArab embassies in Washington threateningrnto cut off press relations with thernpaper’s foreign desk. During the PersianrnGulf War, he accused columnist Joe Sobran,rnan outspoken paleoconservativerncritic of the adventure, of harboringrn”dark motives,” called him an “embitteredrnIsrael-baiter,” and said Sobranrn”skirts close to sedition” in his oppositionrnto the war. After the United States’ victoryrnin the war, Wes inaugurated a runningrnfeature in the paper’s Life section,rnthen edited by John Podhoretz, calledrnthe “Hall of Shame,” which week afterrnweek reprinted criticism of the Gulf expeditionrnfrom paleo and liberal columnists,rnincluding Sobran and Pat Buchanan,rnto hold them up to ridicule.rnThe Times buys Sobran’s syndicatedrncolumn, but by Pruden’s personal commandrnseldom publishes a writer who isrnone of the most gifted in American journalism,rnand while Buchanan’s columnrnwas always the lead feature in the Commentaryrnsection before his 1992 presidentialrncampaign, after his return tornjournalism, and again by Pruden’s command,rnit began running below the fold.rnHow much of Wes’ zest in chopping atrnpaleoconservatives is due to his own personalrnbeliefs and how much comes fromrnwhat he figures is in his interest remainsrnunclear, but what is clear is that anyonernon the neoconservatives’ enemies listrnquickly shows up on his. It’s also clearrnthat his outrage at racial “insensitivities”rnis highly selective; Arabs and pro-rnF’arrakhan blacks are just as much fairrngame for his journalistic backhand as paleoconservativesrncritical of Israel.rnYet despite my ideological differencesrnwith Tod and despite the lack of personalrnrapport with him or Wes, I had no reasonrnto believe I faced a problem with either.rnWes had made me a columnist,rnand I regarded his professions of Southernrnloyalties as a sign that he was an ally,rnif not a fan. In 1993, Wes commented inrna memo to me, “I consider your columnrnan adornment to our pages,” and inrnMarch 1994 I received an annual assessmentrnfrom Tod (the only “annual assessment”rnI had in the four years of workingrnunder him) that gave me 13 “fives” (thernhighest grading) out of 20 categories ofrnjob performance (I also received sixrn”fours” and one “three,” both of themrnfiigh or satisfactory gradings). In an assessmentrnquestion asking about the “employee’srnstrengths,” Tod wrote that Irn”write a mean column; the editorials arernalways delicious as well.” Various seniorrneditors and colleagues at the paper alsornoffered praise for specific columns. I wasrnfully aware that there were those at thernpaper who didn’t like my column, and Irnoccasionally heard from them too, but Irnnever heard any criticism from an editor.rnBy the middle of 1995, I believed Irnhad established myself as a Washingtonrncolumnist who wrote a unique, controversial,rnbut popular feature. My syndicationrnwas prospering, and I found myselfrnquoted more and more often by otherrnwriters. I received an increasing numberrnof speaking invitations and an evergrowingrnbody of fan mail. I sometimesrnworried about the future of the newspaper,rnwhich still does not make a profit afterrn13 years of subsidization by its owners,rnbut I had absolutely no worries aboutrnlosing my position and maintainedrncordial if distant relations with the localrnauthorities.rnOn June 28 of last year, this euphoriarncame to an abrupt end. The day before, Irnhad published a column blasting thernSouthern Baptist Convention for adoptingrna resolution expressing “repentance”rnfor its historic support of Southern slavery.rnI argued that it made no sense inrnChristian theology for individuals to “repent”rnof a sin they had not personallyrncommitted and that in any case there isrnno evidence that owning slaves is a sin inrntraditional (or fundamentalist) Christianrntheology. Indeed, I wrote, there arernat least five clear passages in the letters ofrnPaul that explicitly enjoin “servants” tornobey their masters, and the Greek wordsrnfor “servants” in the original text arernidentical to those for “slaves.” Neither Jesusrnnor the Apostles nor the early churchrncondemned slavery, despite countlessrnopportunities to do so, and there is no indicationrnthat slavery is contrary to Christianrnethics or that any serious theologianrnbefore modern times ever thought it was.rnThe point was to argue that the Baptistsrnseemed to be motivated by a desire to accommodaternthemselves to modern politicalrnsensibilities rather than by seriousrnreligious or ethical precepts, and that thisrntrend did not augur well for the futurernof the traditionally conservative denomination.rnThe column set off a few bombshells,rnand some writers at the paper took me torntask for it. I learned from one reporterrnthat he heard Jack Kemp angrily denouncingrnthe column and me at a receptionrnthe night after its appearance. Asrnfor readers, some called to tell me theyrnthought the column was “brilliant,”rnwhile one lady informed me it made herrn”want to vomit.” Well, all in a day’srnwork, I figured; the day passed, and I forgotrnabout it.rnThe next afternoon, Wednesday, Junern28,1 was told that 7bd wanted to see mernin his office. Upon entering, he told mernto sit down and without prelude informedrnme that after conversations withrnWes they had decided the paper nornlonger wanted to sponsor my column as arnstaff column, that from that moment onrnI was no longer a staff columnist, andrnthat my salary was being reduced by half.rnI could continue as an editorial writer,rnand the paper would carry my column asrna syndicated feature. I had 24 hours tornaccept this proposal or resign from thernpaper.rnThunderstruck is not exactly the wordrnfor my reaction. I asked Tod what problemsrnthe paper had with my column, andrnhe replied (as I recall) it was the style,rnsubject, contents, themes, ideas, and justrnabout everything else except the anchovies.rnMy first thought was that thisrnwas not only a calculated insult but alsornan invitation to leave. I protested that Irnthought it was grotesquely unfair (tornwhich he replied, “Oh, it’s perfectlyrnfair”) but told him I had no choice but torn36/CHRONICLESrnrnrn