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David Broder, 81, dies; set 'gold standard' for political journalism

The Pulitzer-winning Washington Post political columnist, who was known as the dean of the Washington press corps and covered national politics for four decades, has died.

For years, The Washington Post had resisted poaching reporters from other major newspapers. In the mid-1960s, the new executive editor, Bradlee, actively pursued high-profile journalists to raise the paper's quality and ambition.

Bradlee wrote in his memoir, "A Good Life," that Mr. Broder was "the first top rank reporter ever to quit the Times for the Post. The traffic had all been the other way. I romanced him like he's never been romanced - in coffee shops, not fancy French restaurants, because Broder was a coffee-shop kind of man: straightforward, no frills, all business."

As senior political writer, Mr. Broder began designing the paper's campaign and election coverage for the 1968 presidential race.

His best-known early scoop came from a conversation with Republican presidential candidate Nixon during a 1968 campaign stop in Oregon. Nixon dropped hints that Maryland Gov. Spiro T. Agnew (R) was a potential running mate because of his executive experience.

"I wrote it in May and promptly forgot about it," he told Crouse in the book "The Boys on the Bus." "It never crossed my mind again that it was a serious prospect, and I was as astonished as everyone in that convention when it came to pass. But out of that, I've become 'a great confidant of Richard Nixon's' and 'the only reporter who knew he was going to pick Agnew.' "

For decades, Mr. Broder traveled more than 100,000 miles annually and chronicled the rising influence of black leaders and members of the women's movement at political conventions. He said he never tired of the "intense and unpredictable human drama in convention week," the sudden rise and fall of potential candidates for high office.

Mr. Broder largely withdrew from daily reporting after the 2004 campaign but continued his column. He also taught journalism at the University of Maryland and, as he had throughout his career, continued to mentor younger generations of reporters.

In 2008, journalist Ken Silverstein of Harper's Magazine raised concerns that Mr. Broder violated conflict-of-interest rules at The Post by accepting thousands of dollars from appearances before trade and business groups - a practice Mr. Broder had once criticized.

Mr. Broder said he breached The Post policy in some instances by not informing his bosses and apologized for "the embarrassment it has caused the paper."

As a reporter, Mr. Broder admitted shortcomings on issues great and small. He compiled for publication his "annual accounting of errors and misjudgments" highlighting his bloopers in election coverage.

Although the columns were at times lighthearted - once noting the three times it took before he properly identified the Financial Accounting Standards Board - he was appalled when reflecting on his coverage of President George W. Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"Without waiting for him to actually do anything, I saluted his performance, leading off with the assertion that 'it took almost no time for President Bush to put his stamp on the national response to the tragedy that has befallen New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.' "

In a reference to a comment to Bush's highly criticized Federal Emergency Management Agency director, Michael D. Brown, Mr. Broder added, "But if Bush were as vindictive toward the press as is sometimes reported, he could well turn to me and say: 'You're doing a heck of a job, too, Davey.' "

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