In the Arena

Robin Toner

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I wasn’t nearly as close a friend to Robin Toner as Karen, but we traveled many a mile together on the campaign trail, with many fond memories. My fondest was during the 1988 presidential campaign. Robin and I were following the Pat Robertson for President campaign in South Carolina and were left behind–yes, that is a Rapture reference–by the Robertson press bus in Aiken.

Happily, we were offered a ride to the next Reverend Pat event by an itinerant evangelical minister and his Bible-spouting 14-year-old-son, also a minister, in a splashy Pontiac convertible. The talk was Godilicious all the way and eventually spun toward the religion of the two visiting journalists. I was asked first. “Jewish,” I replied, which occasioned a condescending effusion of joy and trumpets the likes of which I have rarely seen. We were Preparing The Way, we Israelites. We were Fulfilling Prophecy. Boy, did those dudes love Israel.

“And what about you, Miss Toner?” The elder evangelist then asked. “I’m a Roman Catholic,” Robin said. Dead Silence. The temperature in the car seemed to drop 10 degrees. We drove the rest of the way to Columbia without a word. When we got out of the car, Robin said to me, “Well, you Israelites are safe, for a change. If these guys win, the gas chambers’ll be for us this time.”

Robin was a fine reporter and an even better person. My thoughts and prayers are with her family. She will be missed.