Peter had been at The Economist for nearly three decades, and it was an honour to have him as a colleague. He was a wonderful writer, an incisive thinker and a very nice man. Several tributes to his life and work are gathered at Politico; more will come in next week's print edition.
What I was reflecting about yesterday is that Peter had a quality that I've admired in many of my colleagues: a willingness to take up new things, which is to say, a willingness to accept the challenge and discomfort of being unsettled. This is, I think, characteristic of good journalists and it's particularly important at a publication like The Economist, where people often move around. That was certainly true of Peter, who prior to moving to Washington was the foreign editor, the Bagehot columnist, the business-affairs editor, a Middle East specialist, and a science writer, among other things.
Committing yourself to interrogating assumptions as a part of your career--not just other people's assumptions, but your own--reflects intellectual integrity, and you can see that in Peter's work. In his Lex of two weeks ago, to give a recent example, he challenges the complacency of the view that we can understand today's restive right as a form of collective madness: "It is perfectly true that the Republicans have moved sharply to the right since the big-government “compassionate” conservatism of the younger President Bush. But who says a political party is not entitled to change its mind? And what gives a couple of think-tankers the right to specify where the political centre is, or to dismiss as “an outlier” a party that chooses to stray from it?" I admire that trait. It was a pleasure to know Peter a little during his life.