Robin Toner

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We have known for a while that this day was coming, but there’s a real difference between expecting something and being prepared for it. The quiet passing early this morning of veteran New York Times political reporter Robin Toner leaves a big void in the lives of those of us lucky enough to have known her and the millions who didn’t, but who were enlightened by her work. In an elegant and heartbreaking obituary, Todd Purdum writes of Robin:

While Ms. Toner loved the game of politics, she never lost sight of the practical problems that politicians often fail to resolve. “Reality often seemed to be just another subject for debate in the health care struggle,” she wrote after the collapse of the Clinton administration’s proposed restructuring in 1994. “But it has a way of reasserting itself when the shouting is over. As Congress and the White House move on to lobbying reform and trade issues, a variety of experts are quietly noting that the problems that prompted the health care struggle are still, ahem, very much here.”

And he notes the irony of the words that Robin herself once said of a colleague who had left us too soon:

When her longtime New York Times colleague David Rosenbaum was murdered as he walked near his Washington home in 2006, Ms. Toner described his approach to reporting in words that applied equally to hers: “He believed that, behind every arcane tax provision or line in an appropriations bill, there were real people getting something, or getting something taken away. He believed that there was, on most stories, something approximating truth out there if you were smart enough and hungry enough to find it.”

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