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Jewish World Review April 7, 2003 / 5 Nisan, 5763

George Will

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A tough, irreverent journalist: Remembering the sharp wit of Michael Kelly | I know that ethnic stereotypes are supposed to be very naughty.

Trouble is, some are true.

There is a kind of Irish-American public intellectual who has a distinctive combativeness, literary flair and sense of fun.

Bill Buckley is one. Pat Moynihan was another. And so was Michael Kelly, the Atlantic Monthly columnist killed last Friday in Iraq, where he was embedded with the Army's 3rd Infantry Division near Saddam Airport.

Television is about pictures, but we columnists prefer words. So bear with me, and read two samples of Kelly's high-spirited prose.

In December 2001, Kelly wrote:

"I am Catholic and my wife is Jewish, so in our house we celebrate both Hanukah and Christmas, which our sons, Tom and Jack, regard as an excellent thing.

"People sometimes ask me if it is hard to raise children in respect and love for two great faiths that have a slight doctrinal disagreement between them, and I say: Not if you give them presents every day for eight days of Hanukah and for Christmas.

"The more gods, the merrier is Tom and Jack's strong belief."

On New Year's Day this year, Kelly imagined some headlines and news stories he would like to see.

This one will surely strike a chord today.

Kelly imagined the headline: "Talking heads to 'shut up, already.'"

His imaginary news report began:

"A coalition of more than 2,000 pundits, major entertainment figures, writers of previously best-selling novels, former elected, military and government officials, professors of humanities and ordained ministers announced a 'solemn pledge' to 'From this moment forth stop lecturing every American president and the world about stuff we don't know a damn thing about, as if somebody had died and made us G-d.'"

That was quintessential Kelly:

Trenchant, pugnacious, irreverent, self-deprecating.

Michael Kelly was 46.

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George Will's latest book is "With a Happy Eye but: America and the World, 1997-2002" to purchase a copy, click here. Comment on this column by clicking here.


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