I recently became editor-at-large of Andrew Breitbart's empire, but I first met Andrew when he was still the unnamed other half of Matt Drudge's monster website. The year was 2001. I'd just entered college at UCLA, and after seeing the anti-Israel bias of the student newspaper, The Daily Bruin, I had become their token conservative columnist. My specialty was throwing bombs. The reaction to my pieces was absolutely unanimous: The liberals on campus hated them.
One day, I opened my email to find a missive from some guy named Andrew. No last name attached. It said that he worked with Matt Drudge. It also said he'd been sitting in a Westwood restaurant with nothing to read and picked up a copy of the Daily Bruin. He'd read my column, and he wanted to get together.
"Hell yes," I thought and told him so. A few days later, we were sitting at that same restaurant. I was watching him sip a Sprite and eat a plate of Mexican food, and we were chatting about what we wanted to do with our lives. I remember thinking that Andrew was one of the most electric characters I'd ever met: hysterically funny, brashly indifferent to the conventions of political correctness. Ballsy. Jovial. Nobody loved life more, or attacked it more ravenously.
And generous. There are a lot of nasty characters in the media space, as I found out early in my career. But Andrew was loyal to a fault. He would stand by his friends — and his ideals — through hell or high water. He was unremittingly giving. After finding out that I had just secured a deal to become the youngest syndicated columnist in the country, he quickly fixed me up with David Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, both of who are now close friends. Throughout my career, whenever I needed advice — particularly on my last book, "Primetime Propaganda," in which I went semi-undercover to expose Hollywood's hatred for conservatives — Andrew was there, explaining to me how to play the media. Nobody knew how to do it better. He drew his political opponents into his traps, and then locked the door as the walls began to shut in, Star Wars-style, although he would have preferred a John Waters reference.
Andrew was also a warrior, of course. Now that he's gone, people will characterize him as angry, which he was but only at injustice. Mostly, he enjoyed the battle, as most great warriors do. He loved the back and forth. He loved nothing better than the bizarre irony of mortal political enemies having a drink together — which is why an hour before his death, he was apparently having an animated conversation with a liberal in a Westwood restaurant. Typical Andrew.
Everybody got along with him. He surrounded himself with people you'd never expect — Orthodox Jews and liberal agnostics, libertarians and social conservatives, goofballs and the most serious of the serious. He liked everybody, and everybody liked him.
Andrew was a perfectionist, a narrative junkie, an excitable and unstoppable force of nature. He was loosey-goosey in his manner, but he was rigorous in his thinking. He was hilariously funny — jokes and stories ran trippingly from his tongue, dirty and clean, but all without boundaries. There has never been anyone in his league when it comes to strategizing the media war. And there was no one I would rather take a late-night phone call from than Andrew. I'll never forget the 9 p.m. phone call in which he told me he had some sort of story on a Congressman from New York or the pure joy in his voice when he explained to me about the ACORN tapes, his booming laugh resonating in my ears. Andrew lived for this.
Andrew wasn't religious, but he believed deeply in the moral fabric of the nation. He knew the value of the American system of government and thought, and he would not stop fighting for it. Most of all, Andrew loved truth. He hated falsity, whether interpersonal or journalistic or political. He hated hypocrisy and couldn't stand two-faced politicians (as Anthony Weiner can attest). He was not a manipulator. He was unwaveringly honest, sometimes to his own detriment. He loved culture and hated ignorance.
When my father heard about his death, he wrote me, "You know how I always say that when someone vivid dies some light goes out of the world? In his case, it was like a torch going out — brilliant and ephemeral. It reminds me way too much of him being like Diogenes carrying his torch in daylight looking for an honest man. Andrew was our Diogenes." I can't put it much better than that. As far as America is concerned, we're down by a Diogenes.
As far as I'm concerned, I'm down a great, great friend. Andrew, I will miss you. So will the country. But we'll keep on fighting until the fight is done.
Ben Shapiro, 28, is a graduate of UCLA and Harvard Law School, and Editor-At-Large for the Breitbart websites. He is the four-time bestselling author of "Primetime Propaganda." To find out more about Ben Shapiro and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.