Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Dowd And Donaghy

On March 24, 2014, Maureen Dowd trekked all the way from her Georgetown brownstone to the Kennedy Center to deliver the 27th Annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy. What made it newsworthy was that she was joined by old friend Alec Baldwin, aka 30 Rock media mogul Jack Donaghy. This was one of Baldwin's first public appearances since publicly avowing to never make public appearances again. Or as Washington Post's Reliable Sources put it:

When the press releases went out the special instructions were crystal clear: “Please note that Alec Baldwin will not be taking any questions from the media. However, he is available for photos.” Then there was the reminder a week later, “Again, just want to let you know that Alec Baldwin is available for photo opportunities but he will not be taking any questions.”
And just in case some poor unfortunate scribe didn’t get the hint, at the actual reception we were reminded yet again. Okay, got it. Baldwin, who famously gave his “public life” the kiss off in an epic New York magazine “as told to” in February, doesn’t do interviews. Alright already.
But he does pose for photos including this one:

And the dead trees edition of WaPo has this photo of Alec with the lady of the hour:

The full event with Dowd's speech can be seen here (Baldwin's introduction as the Y-Chromosome starts at about minute 19):

And here is another photo from the event, this one with Alec and Maureen standing with Robert Lynch, CEO, Americans for the Arts:

But once again my invitation to her event got lost in the mail. I'm beginning to wonder if she is trying to avoid me.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Buzz On Smarm

Bigger Than Bambi

By Maureen Dowd
Published: December 14, 2013

There has been a backlash against snark for a couple of years now, including David Denby's book titled Snark: It's Mean, It's Personal, And It's Ruining Our Conversation" which included an entire chapter on Maureen Dowd.

Now Tom Scocca, a writer I have been following since his days at Baltimore City Paper, has struck back with an essay on a phenomenon he calls 'smarm,'  overly sincere earnestness which he sees as worse than snark. He writes:
What is smarm, exactly? Smarm is a kind of performance—an assumption of the forms of seriousness, of virtue, of constructiveness, without the substance. Smarm is concerned with appropriateness and with tone. 
Smarm disapproves. 
Smarm would rather talk about anything other than smarm. Why, smarm asks, can't everyone just be nicer? 
That essay really hit a certain portion of the zeitgeist and caused Malcolm Gladwell for one to issue rebuttals. The Dowdster weighed in on the anti-smarm side, naturally. The title of the essay comes from what Scocca calls The Bambi Rule, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." Dowd much prefers the Dorothy Parker variation, "If you don't have anything nice to say, come sit by me." She concludes her two-cents on the smarm/snark divide with this great rant:

 Pretending that false and ugly things don’t exist is a bit delusional. Yet such prettifying is consistent with a culture dominated by an Internet concerned mainly with marketing techniques.

Not to review books negatively is in essence to subsume book reviewing into advertising, public relations and promotion. Succumbing to uplift, edification and happy talk is basically saying that there’s something more important than telling the truth: not making enemies, not hurting people’s feelings.   
All quarrels are not petty. Sometimes quarrels are about big things, and it’s an actual privilege to take a side in them.

Snark in the defense of truth is no crime.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Barack From Another Planet

An Irish Catholic Wake-Up
October 13, 2012

For this week's Movies With Maureen feature she picks a deep cut, John Sayles's lesser known cult classic, Brother From Another Planet.
Ever since Obama tapped him, Biden has felt that his role is to warm up Barry’s Brother From Another Planet affect.
The titular alien who landed in New York Harbor was indistinguishable from a person of African descent except for the number of toes on his feet. He wanders around Harlem mute until he is able to blend in with the whacky locals. Feel free to make your own metaphor about Obama and Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The 47% Solution

Let Them Eat Crab Cake
Published: September 18, 2012

Despite our extended absence, Maureed Dowd has continued to limm the political landscape with her usual savvy and insight. Today's column is yet another journeyman piece of work. As a refresher course let's review the rhetorical devices she is so fond of.


Perhaps the most ignored aspect of her arsenal, the lilting alliteration is one of her go-to tricks.

But, even as Mitt was spitefully demonizing and dividing in Boca, he remained cardboard-cutout un-self-aware

And while that one is good it is no match for one later in the column:

Romney came across as a mean geek, a Cranbrook kid at the country club smugly swaddled in class disdain.

It's like poetry, only with venom.

Crossword Clues

While never quite hitting the heights that William F. Buckly or former Times stablemate William Safire, reading a Dowd column should make you scramble for the dictionary at least twice each week. Her is the word of the week, hitting that perfect connotation of folly, ignorance and effeteness which exemplifies Mitt Romney:
At another point in the video, Romney once more showed his foreign policy jejuneness,

Not-So-Nice Nicknames

Dowd's withering sobriquets often sting more than the rest of the column. While Mitt Romney has yet to have one like The Dauphin (for W.) or No Drama Obama (among the dozens she has invented for The One), she does give one for the Mittster here:
Mr. Sunshine said he sometimes felt “that the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace — and that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish.”


The pinnacle of parallelsims in a Maureen Dowd column is when she reverses a phrase with flourish. While today's examples aren't perfect, they do hint at the flavor she can reach. The first doesn't quite pull off the full reversal.
We thought Romney was secretly moderate, but it turns out that he’s secretly cruel,

And the second lacks quite the twist needed.

One thing we have to give Mitt, though: He is, as advertised, a brilliant manager. He’s managed to ensure that President Obama has a much better chance of re-election. 

It's tough to put out 1600 words of this quality every week so we can forgive if everything isn't quite perfect, as long as Maureen isn't perfectly quiet. With less than two months left in the campaign, we are in for a bumpy ride.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Charles Pierce's Crush

Charles P. Pierce, erstwhile Boston sportswriter turned acid-penned political pundit, has a running bit where he ridicules David Brooks's New York Times columns mercilessly. But lately he has been finding that there is someone else worth his attention. A few days ago he had this to say about Maureen Dowd:

...we should pause and congratulate Maureen Dowd for producing what, to me, anyway, was the shining, glorious quintessence of her entire career as a political commentator, to say nothing of loosing finally every bat that's been bouncing off the walls of her peculiar belfry for the past 20 years. Combining Stuff I Read This Week with a bit of discreet gay-baiting, a dollop of material that she first tried out while smoking in the Girls Room at Our Lady, Queen Of Clairol, and a whole lot of her unique ability to project her own Daddy neuroses on every Democratic politician within a 20-mile radius — it looks like Ed Rendell gets to stand in for her sainted Irish pops these days, and, I swear, you can almost hear the phlegm ringing in the spitoon — MoDo apparently has decided that the president is no longer man enough for her.
Whew. I'm out of breath just reading that. Today he decides that in the entire decline of political punditry, Dowd is at least 50% culpable.
...the worst two things that have happened to American political journalism in the past 30 years are Maureen Dowd and Mark Halperin -- Dowd, because of her relentless, obsessive need to take her own galloping Oedipal neuroses for an outing every time there's an election...
But then he has this to say:
Dowd, at least, can write a little. Most of her imitators can't.
What a sweet talker. Charlie Pierce, like Charlie Brown has a crush on The Little Red Headed Girl. I think Chuckie is in love.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ripping Romney

Liz Cheney: Desist!
March 6, 2012

Maureen Dowd has some harsh words for Mitt Romney about a recent warmongering speech, but here is her real beef:

“I will station multiple aircraft carriers and warships at Iran’s door,” he said as if he were playing Risk. Not afraid to employ “military might” (or alarming alliteration),
Be careful, Mitt. Maureen is working that side of the street. Remember what she did to Clinton. Don't make her pull her Pulitzer out on you.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Alliteration Alert At The Airport

Tension on the Tarmac
Published: January 28, 2012

Our Miss Maureen loves her some alliteration, starting right from the titillating title. Some days she tries to fit in as many fanciful phrases as she can. She starts by waxing nostalgic for the days when Clintons were campaigning.

But No Drama Obama saves his rare tempests for the runway.

Hillary had sent word that she wanted to talk to Obama. Standing in front of her plane, she apologized to him for the comments of her co-chairman in New Hampshire, Billy Shaheen, who had warned that Republicans would pounce on Obama’s confessions of cocaine and marijuana use.
But it's not until the middle of the missive that she really builds up a head of steam. Check out these cheeky chestnuts:
But Hillary did not like it, feeling she was being held in place and patronized, even “manhandled,” as her aide put it to a reporter.
Having rehashed a Hillary Clinton anecdote, Dowd turns to the newer tempestuous contretemps at an airport, the one with Arizona governor Jan Brewer.
The toxic dominatrix of illegal immigration, the woman who turned every Latino in her state into a suspect, was flustered and gesticulating at the president as he put his hand on her arm to chill her out.
Culminating in this colorful collage:
After his brouhaha with Brewer, dubbed “the dust-up in the desert,” he became a hero to the Hispanics he had gone West to court. They loved seeing their Cruella de Vil get dressed down.
Try saying any of those phrases three times fast. But it doesn't end there. The going is just getting good.
Everything is breaking Barry’s way, as Mitt and Newt rip into each other in vicious ads and debates like alligators going after house pets.
Romney was tutored in Florida by Brett O’Donnell, a new debate coach. Too bad he can’t find a conviction coach.

O’Donnell manned up Mittens and taught him how to pummel Newt in “moments of strength,” as the Republican strategist Alex Castellanos calls them.
The alliterative lilt is perhaps the most underestimated of Dowd's rhetorical reaches, but when she strikes her stride, nobody can hold a candle to her cadence.