Sunday, November 25, 2007

FlashBack: Mean Girls

Maureen Dowd took Turkey Day off, so let’s look back at a classic column.

Woman of Mass Destruction
By Maureen Dowd
22 October 2005

One of the major reasons used for the invasion of Iraq was the Saddam Hussein's possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Much of the evidence of WMDs was reported by Judith Miller who used now-discredited Iraqi expatriate Ahmad Chalabi as a source.

Any good schoolyard battle between two queen bees always starts with sarcastic declarations of devotion:

I've always liked Judy Miller. I have often wondered what Waugh or Thackeray would have made of the Fourth Estate's Becky Sharp.
Becky Sharp is one of the most famous amoral social climbers in literature. It implies a rise strewn with discarded relationships in a quest for power. An implication Dowd makes more explicit in the very next paragraph:
The traits she has that drive many reporters at The Times crazy - her tropism toward powerful men, her frantic intensity and her peculiar mixture of and hard work and hauteur - never bothered me. I enjoy operatic types.
And it wouldn’t be a cat fight without an argument over cafeteria table assignments.
Once when I was covering the first Bush White House, I was in The Times' seat in the crowded White House press room, listening to an administration official's background briefing. Judy had moved on from her tempestuous tenure as a Washington editor to be a reporter based in New York, but she showed up at this national security affairs briefing.

At first she leaned against the wall near where I was sitting, but I noticed that she seemed agitated about something. Midway through the briefing, she came over and whispered to me, "I think I should be sitting in the Times seat."

It was such an outrageous move, I could only laugh. I got up and stood in the back of the room, while Judy claimed what she felt was her rightful power perch.
Which of course includes an alliterative attack, one of several including “hard work and hauteur” above and these:
This cagey confusion is what makes people wonder whether her stint in the Alexandria jail was in part a career rehabilitation project.
But before turning Judy's case into a First Amendment battle, they should have nailed her to a chair and extracted the entire story of her escapade.
Other trademark Dowdisms are the silly nickname:
She more than earned her sobriquet "Miss Run Amok."
And the lowbrow pop-culture reference:
It also doesn't seem credible that Judy wouldn't remember a Marvel comics name like "Valerie Flame."
Perhaps it would be too much credit to think Judith Miller was as familiar with The Fantastic Four as Dowd seems to be. But as always, Maureen saves the heaviest salvo for last:
Judy told The Times that she plans to write a book and intends to return to the newsroom, hoping to cover "the same thing I've always covered - threats to our country." If that were to happen, the institution most in danger would be the newspaper in your hands.
When the paper of record is caught carrying water, even the op/ed page has to turn up its nose at the bias.

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