Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Mean Girls

Seeing Red Over Hillary
Published: January 30, 2008

Life is just like high school. And no one knows that better than the brainy school newspaper editor NYT columnist Maureen Dowd. Like two queen bees and wannabees in the middle school cafeteria, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are playing mind trip power games about who likes who how much. And whenever there is a catfight, Maureen is on hand to take names and tattle to the guidance counselor subscribers.

It’s already famous as The Snub, the moment before the State of the Union when Obama turned away to talk to Claire McCaskill instead of trying to join Teddy Kennedy in shaking hands with Hillary.
Anyways, the whole thing is playing out like Mean Girls or one of those high school dramas on Nickelodeon or the Disney Channel. See, Teddy has a new BFF endorsed Obama and Hill goes over to show that there are no hard feelings but Obama suddenly sees another friend he has to talk to and looks the other way.
It would have been the natural thing for the Illinois senator, only hours after his emotional embrace by the Kennedys and an arena full of deliriously shrieking students, to follow the lead of Uncle Teddy and greet the rebuffed Hillary.
Maureen, like any good tweener reporter that keeps up with the gossip is able to rehash all the bad blood. It started when Obama first decided to run for Student Council United States President:
Last winter, after news broke that he was thinking of running, he winked at her and took her elbow on the Senate floor to say hi, in his customary languid, friendly way, and she coldly brushed him off.
And rather than ask what’s wrong you have to call your other friends and say, “OMG, Hill is acting SO weird.”
It bothered him, and he called a friend to say: You would not believe what just happened with Hillary.
So she starts snubbing him during recess at debates.
Again and again at debates, he looked eager to greet her or be friendly during the evening and she iced him.
And when she accuses him of not liking her, he is so “Of course I like you,” but like, you can tell he really doesn’t mean it.
Knowing that it helped her when Obama seemed to be surly with her during the New Hampshire debate, telling her without looking up from his notes that she was “likable enough” — another instance of Obama not being able to hide his bruised feelings — Hillary went on ABC News last night to insinuate that he was rude Monday.

“Well, I reached my hand out in friendship and unity and my hand is still reaching out,” she said, lapsing back into the dissed-woman mode. “And I look forward to shaking his hand sometime soon.”
But, see, he know that she got the football team captain Bill Clinton to say all sorts of mean things behind his back.
But Obama’s outrage makes him seem a little jejune. He is surely the only person in the country who was surprised when the Clintons teamed up to dissemble and smear when confronted with an impediment to their ambitions.
And now Hill is getting the cheerleaders National Organization of Women to say that he is the one acting like a slut disloyal candidate.
The New York State chapter of NOW issued an absurd statement on Monday calling Teddy Kennedy’s endorsement of Obama “the ultimate betrayal”: “He’s picked the new guy over us.”
If you want to read the tea leaves yourself ABCNews spent a minute and a half on it with John Madden style circles and arrows, or you can just wait to her more gossip in gym class her next column.

And now for our regular features.

Movies With Maureen®:
She was impossible to miss in the sea of dark suits and Supreme Court dark robes. Like Scarlett O’Hara after a public humiliation, Hillary showed up at the gathering wearing a defiant shade of red.
New Rude Name®
As first lady, Alpha Hillary’s abrasive and secretive management of health care doomed it.
Clinton Royalty Metaphor®
Their relations have been frosty and fraught ever since the young Chicago prince challenged Queen Hillary’s royal proclamation that it was her turn to rule.
See you in study hall.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Meet The Clinton Bashers

Maureen Dowd on Sunday joined the panel of Bash The Clintons Meet The Press where she was asked about the Caroline Kennedy endorsement of Barack Obama in the New York Times. Presumably she was the most qualified to answer the question because a) she’s a New York Times employee, and b) she got Caroline’s autograph on a bunch of Christmas presents.

MR. RUSSERT: Another event overnight, Maureen Dowd, in your paper, Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the 35th president, John Kennedy, wrote an op/ed piece in The Times endorsing Barack Obama. And this is what she said: "I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president--not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans." Barack Obama. Are we going to see Caroline Kennedy, Oprah Winfrey, town hall? How significant is this?

MS. MAUREEN DOWD: Well, I think this is huge. The Hillary people were obviously trying to get Caroline Kennedy's endorsement, and the fact that she gave it to Obama is very much like the moment that Bill Clinton pushed when he shook JFK's hand at Boy's Nation. Now, JFK probably didn't remember that at all, but the Clinton campaign made that the Arthurian moment, where Galahad took the sword out of the stone. And now Caroline has done that for Obama. But it's a real moment because she is saying, "You are like my father," after decades of politicians pretending to be like, like JFK, and Gary Hart chopping his hand, and, you know, Dan Quayle trying to act like he was JFK. She is giving him the imprimatur, and it's--I think it's huge.
Her next turn at bat let her cut loose with a greatest hits compilation of Billary bashing. She got in the Big Dog allusion and even mentioned an Onion article as a reference on Bill’s behavior.
MS. DOWD: Well, it was an astonishing spectacle of seeing a so-called first black president trying to destroy a would-be first black president. I mean, we've never seen anything like this, and it was very personal between Obama and Clinton. And I think that, in the end, Hillary gave up a good narrative for her, which is that she had carved out her own identity and that it wasn't going to be the Bickersons back in the White House, and you just saw the Clintons. And, and Mitt Romney was right, you, you visualized her in the Oval, him in the East Wing rambling around looking for mischief. And it was, you know, it was a very seamy--Phil Gaily, who's the editorial page editor of the St. Petersburg Times, said watching Clinton in South Carolina is like watching a mad dog slobber. It was about him. And, you know, as The Onion said, you know, The Onion headline was, "Screw It, I'm Running for President by Bill Clinton."
Since she was taking it easy on Bill, Tim lobbed her another softball so she could get in more digs:
MR. RUSSERT: Maureen, you wrote on Wednesday, "It's odd that the first woman with a shot at becoming president is so openly dependent on her husband to drag her over the finish line."

MS. DOWD: I know. We're seeing all these astonishing things in this race, and it worked in Nevada and New Hampshire for--I think Bill Clinton helped her there. But, in this case, I just think it raised the deja vu of the Clintons will drag anyone down to their own level and trash anyone to make up for what is missing in them or what they have done wrong. During impeachment, you know, they were trashing the founding fathers. Bill Clinton's lawyers actually filed a brief saying, "Well, Alexander Hamilton had a tawdry affair, and he wasn't kicked out of office." So it's a very debilitating dynamic, you know, to drag everyone down to their level, especially when you have this alternative of optimism and hope. And they were willing to put a dagger in the heart of hope. I mean, Obama should just beat them over the head every day with the idea that Bill Clinton said he represented false hope. Because the only way they can beat him is to beat down hope and inspiration and bringing young voters and expanding the party, and they want to kill all that. And that is not a good, you know, situation for them.
After giving Obama campaign advice, she goes on to burnish his reputation as a historic watershed figure:
MS. DOWD: Tim, one of the most striking images of South Carolina--Jeff Zeleny wrote about today--was the Confederate flag flying near the capital and Obama workers holding up Obama placards. And it's, you know, an amazing historic image.
Russert also sets up a straw man in the name of Rudy for Maureen to take a few swings at. She mostly rehashes her column for the day:

MR. RUSSERT: Maureen Dowd, the indictment of Bernard Kerik, his former police commissioner, who he proposed to be secretary of Homeland Security, stories about his New York City police detail being used to guard his then-girlfriend, now-wife Judith Nathan, did those issues just take a toll on Rudy Giuliani?

MS. DOWD: Oh, of course, you know. And, you know, he's got to stop talking about 9/11 and call 911 because he's in real trouble there. And I was expecting more of a--from a man who loves opera, more of an operatic finale, one way or the other, to save himself or to self-immolate. I mean, some Maria Callas death scene. But he's so mundane. And actually yesterday he switched his message to hope. So that's not going to work for Rudy Giuliani.

MS. DOWD: And he was able to jump on the headlines of the day and say something provocative, and he just seems to be sleepwalking.

MR. RUSSERT: Is he recognizing that he's not going to win and sort of protecting his next career?

MS. DOWD: I think so, and saving, and saving, you know, protecting Giuliani Partners.
Moving on to McCain, Chuck Todd and Dowd exchange a little inside baseball concerning the chumminess of fellow senators McCain and Hillary.
MS. DOWD: Well, I asked McCain about that in the green room, doing reporting, and he was saying not to think--I know he really does like Hillary Clinton--I've talked to him about that--and thinks she's really fun to travel with. But he said to expect fireworks. He's not going to lay off of her. He's already talking about how she's waving the white flag of surrender on Iraq.

MR. TODD: They enjoy the vodka shots, right?

MS. DOWD: Oh, yeah, they did in Estonia, yes.
The Indiana Jones style vodka shooter contest happened back in 2006 according the Times.
In her final say of the day, Maureen manages to put Obama on an even higher pedestal than her earlier sloppy wet-kisses:
MS. DOWD: Well, I think, you know, it's very interesting to me because I think that in, in Iowa, Obama learned how to connect with his electricity. Usually you have someone being the daddy figure, and he's like the blessed child, you know, he's learning as he goes. And we're watching him learn and get personally upset in real time, which we, we saw with McCain in South Carolina in 2000, now we're seeing with Obama. And the question is, did this give him his spine? You know, he's been struggling. Is he on the pedestal like Adlai Stevenson, or is he JFK and RFK, who knows how to fight back? And I think he's got a false choice. He doesn't have to be Tonya Harding to fight back; he could be like Reagan and just flick them away and use wit. But he's learning on the job, and he, you know, he--his speech, his victory speech last night was angry. You know, he is angry at the Clintons for what he sees as underhanded tactics, and they were underhanded. So it, it depends, is he going to get back on the pedestal or is he going to figure out some way that he's comfortable with not to do cage fight, fighting.
She had declared Obama “The Golden Child” back in December and now she want to see him double axel his way to the nomination.

The Fat Gray Lady Sings

It’s Not Giuliani Time in Florida
Published: January 27, 2008

"Giuliani Time" makes the case that Mr. Giuliani's true ideological identity is conservative, and makes this case in a way that is sure to appall liberals who felt queasy about him in the first place (or guilty when they voted for him). But of course Mr. Giuliani, if he does run for president, will want to make the same case to Republicans, and in some ways "Giuliani Time" might work to his advantage, since it never mentions, say, his support for gay rights or his endorsement of Mario M. Cuomo in the 1994 governor's race. Mr. Giuliani was always a hybrid and, in some ways, a paradox: something both he and this movie might prefer that we forget.
Movie Review
Giuliani Time (2005)
"Confronting a Mayor's Legacy in 'Giuliani Time'"
New York Times, May 12, 2006
Rather than the jugular, Maureen Dowd goes straight for the testicular in turning 9/11 Mayor and presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani into a castrato:
I simply expected that Rudy would rise to greater heights as he fell behind, that he would self-immolate in a dramatic way befitting a man who loves opera and the “Godfather” movies. I longed for the Manhattan diva to reprise Maria Callas doing one of her famous Donizetti mad scenes that he loved so much.
Rudy does like the ladies singing in breastplates. The opera in question here is Lucia di Lammermoor, and the metaphor between it and Rudy was made by John Tierney in the Times within a month of the World Trade Center attack:
You could call it post-traumatic infatuation syndrome, a condition that Mr. Giuliani himself can recognize from his study of opera. The textbook case is in "Lucia di Lammermoor," the Donizetti opera set in 17th-century Scotland.

Lucia, grief-stricken by her mother's recent death, is walking to her mother's grave when a bull charges her. She's rescued by Edgardo, with whom she promptly falls in love. Lucia overlooks his flaws, the chief one being that his family and hers are sworn enemies. The results of her infatuation are not pretty. By the end of the opera, Lucia, Edgardo and a bystander are all dead.
Dowd also calls Rudy out, complete with more references to high notes in Italian, for not be aggressive enough in not going on the attack when the Gray Lady used a McCain endorsement to launch an anti-Rudy tirade :
I missed his showman’s appreciation for pouncing on the news of the day and grabbing headlines with some outrageous, provocative aria. Surely, The New York Times’s McCain endorsement — harshly branding America’s Mayor “a narrow, obsessively secretive, vindictive man” who spurred racial polarization and exploited 9/11 for his business and political purposes — gave Rudy the lyrics for an operatic rant against The Times that could have replaced his milquetoast stump speech and delighted conservative audiences.
Dowd picks up the opera metaphor a little later in the article. There seems to be a Valkyrie in a pigtails warming up her vocal cords:
Could it be over before the fat lady sings? If early-bird voters don’t save him and he comes in third here, will he get out of the race so he doesn’t suffer the indignity of losing New York, a scene so melodramatically implausible that even Verdi wouldn’t try to pull it off?
The early bird voters are the dinner special seeking seasonal elderly residents of Florida aka “snowbirds” that seem to be Rudy’s natural base, but are actually avoiding him in droves.
At a Rudy rally in Boca on Thursday, there were snowbirds and transplanted New Yorkers. Some, naturally, loved Rudy and some, naturally, loathed him.
And it wouldn’t be a campaign related column without some random gratuitous Billary bashing:
And how could he pass up the chance to mock his old nemesis Hillary, the feminist icon who is totally dependent on her husband to do the heavy lifting?

It was Mitt Romney who scored the best Hillary line at the Boca debate. When Tim Russert asked him, “How would you run against Hillary and Bill Clinton in November,” Mitt replied: “I frankly can’t wait, because the idea of Bill Clinton back in the White House with nothing to do is something I just can’t imagine. I can’t imagine the American people can imagine.”
Mo and Mitt can imagine just fine and just in case she spells it out:
The audience laughed and Russert tried to pin down Mitt to see if he was implying any East Wing shenanigans. It does conjure up a disquieting image of Hillary in the Oval and Bill rambling around next door in the study right near that pantry.
But Bill’s intern-al transgressions pale next to Rudy’s sexual shenanigans while he was in office, divorcing one wife while squiring around the next one on city funds.
“He’s Bernie Kerik’s partner,” he said. “And family values? He makes Bill Clinton look like a young upstart.”
In fact. the tales of lust, corruption, and vindictive revenge that marked the Rudy regime would make a particularly tragic libretto. Tancrudi, anyone?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Programming Alert

According to The Hotline, Maureen Dowd will be making one of her rare television appearances as part of the panel on tomorrow's Meet The Press. Tim Russert must still be smarting from the spanking he took in Talking Points Memo and HuffPo for letting Clintonista James Carville shill for Hill without any disclaimer or rebuttal. Something tells me we won't be hearing any rehashes of the NYT Hillary endorsement from the Dowdster. Full clip files and commentary to come tomorrow.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Laughing With MoDo

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and parody is the most flattering form of ridicule. It means you have spent enough time to mock the form and style of the subject. There have been a rash of very funny Faux-Dowds out there recently.

The cleverest one is a Chinese menu style one at 23/6 called the Maureen Dowd DIY: The 23/6 Dowd-O-Tron. By picking either Bubba, Hillzilla, or Obambi, you can make over a half million different Maureen Dowd columns that all sound vaguely familiar.

Not quite as clever, but breathtaking in scope is Jon Swift’s parody of the Hillary Cries column called The Crying of Maureen Dowd. He takes the column and pretty much replaces every instance of “Hillary” with “Dowd” and throws in some “poor lonely spinster” bashing for good measure. It wears thin fast, but DowdHaters find it hilarious. This sample is typical:

For years Dowd has been known for her cold, icy, cynical demeanor. Though some friends claim she is actually warm and witty in person, most of her colleagues don't see her as very likable and use another word to describe her that rhymes with "witch." But Hillary Clinton's stunning victory in the New Hampshire primary finally caused Dowd's calculatedly controlled demeanor to crack.
Finally, as reported by the Hillary Hit Team aka Media Matters, Don Imus who is back on the air after his forced re-education sabbatical used Wednesday’s column as a set-up for a joke about Bill being the first African American president:
McCORD: Did you see [New York Times columnist] Maureen Dowd this morning?

BERNARD McGUIRK (executive producer): They're running for president. Of course it's OK.

IMUS: No, I understand all that, but I mean, they're getting a bunch of heat from people.

McCORD: Mo Dowd is kind of coming --

McGUIRK: But they're winning.

McCORD: I think she -- you're right, Bernie. But she's -- she writes, Maureen Dowd of The New York Times, this morning, here's her start: "If Bill Clinton has to trash his legacy to protect his legacy, so be it. If he has to put a dagger through the heart of hope to give Hillary hope, so be it. If he has to preside in this state as the former first black president, stopping the would-be first black president, so be it."
In other words, that they'll do anything, whatever the heck is necessary.

TONY POWELL (co-host): Another example of black-on-black crime, I guess.
And of course Media Matters finds nothing funny about it, but nobody has ever accused them of having a sense of humor.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Let The Big Dog Eat

Two Against One
Published: January 23, 2008

She talked a lot about her 12-year-old daughter, Chelsea, her interest in educational programs and her desire to be "a voice for children" in the White House. Two for the Price of One.
"Candidate's Wife; Hillary Clinton as Aspiring First Lady:
Role Model, or a 'Hall Monitor' Type?"
by Maureen Dowd May 18, 1992

The Clintons have always been a tag-team and whether they are heroes or villains depends on your opinion of them. For the upcoming South Carolina primary, Bill Clinton has been unleashed and is out there banging Obama in the back in the head with a folding chair at every opportunity.
The Clintons — or “the 2-headed monster,” as the The New York Post dubbed the tag team that clawed out wins in New Hampshire and Nevada — always go where they need to go, no matter the collateral damage. Even if the damage is to themselves and their party.
Maureen Dowd unleashes the sports metaphors, mixing and mashing at random.
In the Myrtle Beach debate Monday night, Obama was fed up with being double-teamed by the Clintons.
It’s odd that the first woman with a shot at becoming president is so openly dependent on her husband to drag her over the finish line.
Dowd has also become very fond using “Big Dog” as short hand for Bill Clinton.
The Big Dog relished playing the candidate again, wearing a Technicolor orange tie and sweeping across the state with the mute Chelsea.
Left unsaid is what the canine epithet for Hillary would be, perhaps a cartoon hero who always wins anyways.
Keep in mind, in the last two primaries, we ran as an underdog.”

And finally we mix both sports and pets for the final lap:
And if he has anything to say about it, and he will, they’ll be fighting till the last dog dies.
Bill Clinton, like any good pit bull, gets the most vicious when everything is on the line.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

How Not To Succeed

Red, White and Blue Tag Sale
Published: January 20, 2008

'Mediocrity is not a mortal sin.'

'I know blood is thicker than water, but Bud Frump is thicker than anything.'

-How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying

Maureen Dowd’s flu-filled trip with George Bush emboldened her to step on the toes of both Paul Krugman and book-leave absentee Thomas Friedman by delving into international finance and she is shocked, shocked to find foreigners at a firesale for financial institutions.
When President Bush finished doing his sword dances and Arabian stallion inspections, when he finished making a speech in Abu Dhabi on the importance of freedom that fell flat, when he finished lounging in his fur-lined George of Arabia robe in the Saudi king’s tent, he came home.

Or he came to what was left of home.

A Washington Post cartoon by Tom Toles summed it up best: “Great to be home,” W. enthuses on Air Force One, heading toward the East Coast. “Anything interesting happen while I was gone?” Hanging on the skyline of New York is a sign reading: “U.S.A. Now a Wholly Owned Subsidiary of Foreign Investors.”

Today's Movie With Maureen® is about J. Pierrepont Finch, a window washer, climbing the corporate ladder. Finch’s rival is a toady who got his position through nepotism. On the international scene, Dowd sees W playing the lackey.
Wherever he went, W. seemed dazzled by the can-do spirit of the J. Pierrepont Finches of the new Middle East. “It’s important for the president to hear thoughts, hopes, dreams, aspirations, concerns from folks that are out making a living,” he told Saudi entrepreneurs.

In Dubai, he commended young Arab leaders, saying, “The entrepreneurial spirit is strong.”
The double use of the “e-word” recalls the apocryphal Bushism that the problem with the French is that they have no word for ‘entrepreneur.’

She also touches on the current international financial crisis brought out by the free fall of the dollar against the euro.
Two decades ago, we fretted that Japan was taking over America when Sony bought Columbia Pictures and Mitsubishi bought a chunk of Rockefeller Center. But they overpaid for everything.

Now, because of Wall Street’s overreaching, our economy depends on foreign oil and foreign loans to stay afloat.

China and Arab countries have a staggering amount of treasury securities. And the oil-rich countries are sitting on so many petrodollars that they are looking beyond prestige hotels and fashion labels and taking advantage of the fire sale to buy eye-popping stakes in our major financial institutions.
This echoes another old joke that goes like this: “I hear the Japanese are buying up America. I didn’t even know the Arabs were selling.” Not only are the Arabs not selling, they are doubling down and the Chinese are at the checkout line as well.

She quotes billionaire investor Warren Buffett about the long term consequences.
As Warren Buffett has said, we are giving ourselves a party to feed our appetite for oil and imported goods and paying for it by selling off the furniture, our most precious assets.
Interestingly, one of Berkshire Hathaway’s holdings is Cort, so Warren can rent us some furniture when we have sold it all off overseas.

In the contractual obligatory jab at Hillary, she has this to say about Bill Clinton’s former Treasury Secretary and current Hillary advisor:
(While the great sage Bob Rubin was advising Hillary Clinton on sound fiscal policy, he seemed to be asleep at the Citigroup switch.)
Rubin engineered a bailout of Mexico when its currency was bordering on collapse. It’s interesting to see him on the other side of the loan counter. But echoing a new book about Dubya’s Daddy Issues, Dowd wonder’s if Bush 43’s problems aren’t from his contrarian orneriness.
It is striking that the Bush scion, who has tried so hard to do the opposite of his father, also ends up facing the prospect of a recession in his final year in office.

Maybe if the president had spent the trillion he squandered on his Iraq odyssey on energy research, we might have broken the oil addiction.
You have a tag sale by slashing prices and we are financing our adventurism in the Middle East by selling off the family jewels.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Middle East Movies With Maureen

Faith, Freedom and Bling in the Middle East
Published: January 16, 2008

Maureen Dowd accompanied George Bush on his whirlwind tour of the Middle East last week and the opulence of her New York Times financed sick leave vacation brought out her inner Samantha Brown. She gushed over the extravagance of the Saudi royal family:

The $3 billion, seven-star, 84,114-square-foot pink marble hotel — said to be the most expensive ever built — would make Trump blush. It glistens with 64,000 square feet of 22-carat gold leaf, 1,000 chandeliers, 20,000 roses changed every day, 200 fountains, a dome higher than St. Peter’s, an archway larger than the Arc de Triomphe, a beach with white sand shipped in from Algeria and a private heliport. The rooms, scattered with rose petals, range from $1,598 to $12,251.
She also called out a famous MTV house-envy series with its bling-bedecked rappers.
Arab TV offered an uncomfortable juxtaposition: Al Arabiya running the wretched saga of Gaza children suffering from a lack of food and medicine during the Israeli blockade, blending into the wretched excess scenes of W. being festooned with rapper-level bling from royal hosts flush with gazillions from gouging us on oil.
W.’s 11th-hour bid to save his legacy from being a shattered Iraq — even as the Iraqi defense minister admitted that American troops would be needed to help with internal security until at least 2012 and border defense until at least 2018 — recalled MTV’s “Cribs.”
But the basic cable host Dowd desperately wants to be is Robert Osborne. Her columns are peppered with old movie references. She compares Dubya to a bumbling Woody Allen movie character.

Like the slick Hollywood guy in “Annie Hall” who has a notion that he wants to turn into a concept and then develop into an idea, W. has resumed his mantra of having a vision that turns into freedom that could develop into global democracy.
And it wouldn’t be an article about Arabia without an allusion to the Lawrence thereof:

At a dinner last night in the king’s tentlike retreat, where the 8-foot flat-screen TV in the middle of the room flashed Arab news, the president and his advisers Elliott Abrams and Josh Bolten went native, lounging in floor-length, fur-lined robes, as if they were Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif.
Or to Arabian heroes:

Here in Saudi Arabia, the king draped W. with an emerald-and-ruby necklace that could have come from Ali Baba’s cave.
And the Anthony Quinn film festival continues with the dancing Greek and for alliterative purposes, the sword swinging Mexican.

The president’s grandiose room included a ballroom, in case Mr. Bush wanted to practice the tribal sword dancing he has been rather sheepishly doing with some of his hosts, something between Zorba and Zorro.
Visting the Holy Land made the Decider-In-Chief think about his favorite philosopher.

Asked by ABC’s Terry Moran what he was thinking when he stood on the site where Jesus performed miracles at the Sea of Galilee, W. replied: “I reflected on the story in the New Testament about the calm and the rough seas, because it was on those very seas that the Lord was in the boat with the disciples, and they were worried about the waves and the wind, and the sea calmed. That’s what I reflected on: the calm you can find in putting your faith in a higher power.”
But Dowd thinks that W. might be hoping for too much. In which case, maybe another inspirational true story may be more appropriate.

Clearly, the man believes in miracles.
See you at the movies and save us the aisle seats.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Get Well Soon

The mystery of the missing Sunday column is solved. While in the press enoturage with Dubya's week-long Middle East blitz, Maureen Dowd developed a stomach flu and required the help of Dubya's personal physician to beat the bug. Michael Abromowitz of the Washington Post gave the full story including more information than we needed to know:

Once she arrived in Jerusalem last Tuesday (the day of the New Hampshire primary), Dowd fell sick - and started second-guessing her decision to leave the campaign trail for the presidential bubble abroad. She was suffering some kind of stomach bug that left her nauseous, weak and feeling feverish.

"I'm not sure it was a New Hampshire fever or Jerusalem food poisoning," Dowd said.

Presidential aides, including press secretary Dana Perino, made clear early on that Dowd could see Dr. Richard J. Tubb, the Air Force brigadier general who oversees the White House medical office and takes care of the president at home and abroad.

But Dowd declined. With no medication, she tried to soldier on by grabbing whatever rest she could in her hotel room--not easy to do in a trip of constant movements. By the time the presidential entourage moved to Bahrain from Kuwait on Saturday, she felt even worse. She was so sick, in fact, that she could not write her regular Sunday column.

Dowd finally decided to take up the White House on its offer.

A young press aide, Carlton Carroll, helped arrange for Dowd to visit Tubb at the Emirates Palace, the over-the-top $3 billion luxury hotel where the president and his aides were staying. The hotel is so vast that Dowd and her escorts got lost twice in the marble and gold hallways. She finally found herself in a fully-staffed doctors' office with a trunk full of various medications, a solicitous nurse and a super-competent White House physician.

Tubb gave her a few tablets of Cipro and some Pepto-Bismol and told her to check back with him the next day. She turned down Tubb's offer of an IV (so there was no chance of an "accidental" poisoning, she joked).
In order for Maureen to be near the doctor in case of a relapse, they made room for her on Air Force One instead of the press plane. Dowd was grateful and gracious for the assistance.
"I was thinking that if I ran into Bush, I would have to apologize for it not being a fatal disease," Dowd said. "He was very generous to share his doctor--even if he didn't know it."

Dowd said Tubb and the rest of the White House staff who helped her were "fantastic"--and nobody complained about her columns.

"That's not the time they take you to task," Dowd said.
The one part of the article that is raising eyes in the media at places like mediabistro and Gawker is the $20,000 bill for a journalist to travel with the prez.

The only people who might be complaining about the whole affair could well be Dowd's editors, who may end up paying for one the most expensive columns in her illustrious career. The Middle East trip could well cost upwards of $20,000 for each journalist along. With no column last Sunday, Dowd was doing the math Tuesday afternoon to figure out how much each word of her Wednesday column would cost the Times.

"I am not sure my bosses will think this is money well spent," she acknowledged. "The only thing to come out of it so far is a Washington Post item."

She did file a Rich-sized travelogue today, but that still comes to more than ten bucks a word.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Dowd's Dateline: Rosenthal's Rebuttal

The low key buzz over the Dowd Dateline Debate reached such a hum that Andy Rosenthal gave an interview to the New York Observer to clarify New York Times policy on datelines and assistants.

“It’s driving me out of my fucking mind,” Times editorial-page editor Andy Rosenthal told Media Mob this afternoon.

"[Dowd] reported the column in New Hamsphire. The fact of the matter is, paticularly when covering a campaign which is a very high-speed story, it’s incredibly unusual for the reporter to be in the same place as the dateline when the story is filed. What do you do, stay in Des Moines while a candidate travels to New Hampshire? Oh, don’t go to Ramallah with the President because you have a Jerusalem dateline on your story! I mean this is just ridiculous! This is a complete invention, this controversy."

"Datelines are kind of an anachronism," he said. "It’s a little bit of an affectation."

As for the assistant, Mr. Rosenthal said it's common for assistants to collect quotes for columnists without a reporting credit.

"Has Greg Sargent ever heard of leg-work? If somebody wrote a blog post saying that all the reporters from the New York Times are Martians, would we have to respond to that too? This is no less ridiculous. It’s just ridiculous!"
This expletive-laden explanation did not assuage Sargent who stuck to his guns in a follow-up:
This is a straightforward representation issue. Because of the combo of the dateline and the uncredited reporting, readers of the Dowd column came away with the belief that she went to the victory party and talked to voters, when she didn't.
Rachel Sklar at Huffington Post gives datelines some mystical holy power:
What does the reader assume by seeing "DERRY N.H." in all caps and bold type at the top of the column? Well, obviously, that the story was written there, that the reporter had written his or her thoughts right at the scene. And why are datelines important? Well, for one they maximize information provided to the reader, but there's another: The dateline puts the reporter at the scene, which makes a statement about the publication's resources, level of reporting, and commitment to the story. Upshot: Datelines are selling points. So a misleading, not-quite-correct dateline is a bit like false advertising.
In Sklar’s mind, somehow news magically disappears if not written down immediately as it is witnessed. But in expressing umbrage, she manages to explain that the Derry dateline means that Dowd isn’t claiming she was at the victory party.
She mentions Hillary's victory party in Manchester (where apparently an assistant collected the quotes used), and herself watching Hillary's on-air tear-up on TV from the comfort of her office. She refers to an event in Salem, to Bill Clinton in Henniker. Otherwise, that's it. Derry is not mentioned.
The bigger point is that if Dowd wanted to lie about where she had been, why not name someplace more newsworthy? If anything Maureen was scrupulously honest about where she had been and where she hadn’t. And Adam Clymer, a former NYT political reporter tells the Observer that this sacred ground interpretation of a dateline is horsefeathers:
Oh, for crying out loud! The Times dateline rules are that you have had to have been in the place you use as a dateline, not that you have to be in it when you write. There is no evidence at all that the rules were not followed.
The real journalists, as opposed to the easily outraged bloggers, seem to be taking Dowd's side. Mike Peterson editor of the Franklin Journal in a comment at journalism oriented Poynter Online takes the side of Dowd by saying:
Maybe it's just the impact after a long week in the trenches, but this entire thing sounds like a lot of j-school theorizing and reminds me of that crack about an economist being like a guy who knows a hundred ways to make love, but doesn't have a girlfriend. As far as I can tell, Dowd spent some time in NH and, yes, she had a stringer pick up some quotes for her. That justifies the dateline but doesn't require sharing the byline and, as your fifth grade teacher would say, maybe if you spent less time worrying about what Maureen is doing and a little more time working on your own projects, you could have a nice trip to Jerusalem, too.
With all this huffing and puffing, a couple of points are agreed upon:
  • The New York Times admits to everything Sargent’s sources claimed, but fails to see any violation of policy or reader trust.
  • Everybody thinks datelines are kind of silly in an electronic world, but if you’re going to have them, make them mean something.
  • Nothing in the column was factually incorrect or fabricated.
  • A lot of people like to see Maureen Dowd and/or the New York Times taken down a notch no matter how petty the point.
I wish people would expend this much scrutiny on real scandals.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Happy Birthday!

Today is Maureen Dowd's birthday. Let's hope that wherever she is, she isn't getting spanked too hard or her birthday candles are setting off the sprinkler.

Update: mediabisto also wished Dowd a happy birthday. They just didn't know where to send the card.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hillary Meets The Lazio Effect

On Meet The Press today, Tim Russert asked Hillary Clinton to respond to criticism aimed at her by female commentators about her playing the victim card. She bobs and weaves masterfully. Here is that segment:

Russert quoted from Maureen Dowd's November 4, 2007 column which I discussed in "You Go Gallfriend". The quote as read on-air has a interesting omission:

If the gender game worked when Rick Lazio muscled into her space, why shouldn’t it work when Obama and Edwards muster some mettle? If she could become a senator by playing the victim… surely she can become president by playing the victim now.
Those three ellipses removed the phrase “after Monica,”. I wonder what discussion went into deciding that Monica Lewinsky is not relevant to a discussion of Clinton's political career benefiting from her image as a victim.

Rich's Reruns

There was no new Maureen Dowd column today but Frank Rich asks the question “Haven’t We Heard This Voice Before?” and the answer is “Yes, we have, Frank. Twice a week in Maureen Dowd’s column.” At Dowd Report contributor yellojkt's blog, Foma*, he did a Pundits on Parade post which noted that Charles Krauthammer has a tendancy to echo themes touched on by George Will earlier and better. Frank Rich is Maureen Dowd’s Chuckie K. Critics of the liberal slant of the New York Times like to conflate Dowd and Rich into one double headed hydra and columns like his today don’t help that image.

I’ve always had a theory about Rich’s lateral move to the Opinion page. When he was the nations premiere theater critic, his scathing sarcastic reviews could close a show faster than any other voice. Since the Times gets a large advertising income stream from the full color Broadway show ads in the Sunday arts and style section, his constant naysaying must have annoyed the powers that be. By putting him out to pasture on the columnists’ page, he could have an outlet for his negativity and not annoy Great White Way advertisers.

One of the problems with only writing weekly is that when the news happens on Tuesday like it did with the New Hampshire primary, the ground has been pretty well plowed by the weekend. But this would be forgivable he brought any new context or slant on the week’s events, but he doesn’t. It’s a hackneyed replay of the conventional wisdom that has been expressed already by every pundit on the planet.

Even his opening movie allusion is perhaps the lamest ever not found in a high school newspaper:

She had me at “Well, that hurts my feelings.”
While Maureen Dowd is name-checking classic movies by Hepburn and Kubrick, Rich is using Tom Cruise as his cultural touchstone. And so much else that he writes is a pale imitation. On Tuesday, Dowd succinctly invoked the Lazio Effect in one sentence:
She won her Senate seat after being embarrassed by a man.
Rich with twice and many words to fill feels he has to spell it out for his slower readers:
To use family-newspaper language, [Obama] behaved like a jerk — or, to be more precise, like Rick Lazio, the now-forgotten adversary who cleared Mrs. Clinton’s path to the Senate by boorishly waving a paper in her face during a 2000 debate.
And that is part of his problem. With one super-sized column a week (and you are free to make your own extra large Rich remark, it’s too low hanging of a softball lob for me to take a swing at), he often wanders around or shoehorns more than one topic in each column. At the end of this week’s column, he runs out of steam and starts to mine old Dowd columns.
Every politician employs pollsters, but Mrs. Clinton, tellingly, has one, Mark Penn, as her top campaign strategist.
Dowd had an entire column about Penn’s role in the campaign back in October. Rich then rambles on for several paragraphs about Penn with this portion in the middle:
Add to this habitual triangulation the ugly campaigning of the men around her — Mr. Penn’s sleazy invocation of “cocaine” on MSNBC, Bill Clinton’s “fairy tale” rant falsifying Mr. Obama’s record on Iraq — and you don’t have change.
Maureen did a hilarious skewering of the use of “cocaine” as a talking point by the Clinton campaign a month ago. Rich ends with this admonition:
It would be good for both her campaign and the presidential race in general if Mrs. Clinton does find her own voice. We’ll know she has done so when it doesn’t sound so uncannily like Bill Clinton and Mark Penn.
And when Rich doesn’t sound so uncannily like a longer-winded Maureen Dowd, maybe he can justify 1500 words every Sunday. I’d rather read reruns of Dowd’s columns. Even the old ones are funnier and fresher than Rich’s rehashes.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Dowd Dateline Debate

Lots of blogs find fault with one phrase Maureen Dowd uses in a column and nitpick it. Mega-blog Talking Points Memo has taken issue with, of all things, the dateline. Yes, that little location the reporter claims they were when they reported the article. It seems Dowd had to leave the Clinton un-pity party early and allegedly an uncredited assistant did the actual quote collecting since Dowd had to wing her way to the Middle East with Dubya on deadline. The umbrage goes as follows (added emphasis mine):

The piece reads as if Dowd was on the scene at Hillary's victory party, interviewing voters reacting to her win. But it turns out Dowd couldn't have been at the party at all -- instead, she'd already jetted half way around the world to cover the President's Middle East trip, I'm told. An eyewitness tells TPM that on Tuesday night he spied Dowd typing away at the reporters' media filing center in Jerusalem's Dan Panorama hotel.

If Dowd was nearly 6,000 miles away from these people on Tuesday night, how did the quotes get into her column? A reporter I know tells me that Dowd's assistant was floating around at the Hillary victory party that night. So it seems almost certain that Dowd's assistant did the reporting for her. But there's no other byline on the piece.
The article has a lot of arcana about dateline ethics, the long and short being that the reporter at some point has to have actually set foot in the location used. This would be a tempest in a teapot, but journalists have been flogged for similar faults before.

The TPM article was passed along uncritically by several other blogs such as DragonFlyEye.Net, Portfolio and mediabistro mostly on the schadenfreudistic strength of vague accusations of wrongdoing by a prominent Times columnist.

Spencer Ackerman goes further and cites the case of Rick Bragg who resigned in disgrace and makes this bolder accusation (which the TPM article no longer links to):
My boy Greg Sargent catches Maureen Dowd in -- why mince words? -- a lie. Dowd datelined yesterday's column Derry, N.H. But at the time, it turns out, she was in Jerusalem, covering the president's trip. Apparently, she was following her paper's lead. Greg confirmed that the paper allows such dateline manipulation as long as someone contributed on-the-ground reporting to a piece. In this case, that someone is Dowd's assistant, who is uncredited in the column. The Times says that's OK.

But it isn't. In the wake of the Jayson Blair scandal, a Pulitzer Prize-winner, Rick Bragg, resigned after it turned out he relied heavily on an uncredited stringer for a series with an Apalachicola, Florida dateline. That was the honorable thing to do when faced with such a misrepresentation. But Dowd's is worse. At least Bragg, in the words of the paper, "indeed visited Apalachicola briefly" for "his" piece. Dowd was half a world away from events she claimed to witness firsthand.
Ackerman cites Rick Bragg as the cautionary example, so it's worth examining. Rick Bragg was writing an article on the Gulf Coast and sent an unpaid informal stringer of his to Apalachicola, Florida for some reporting. Bragg eventually made it to Apalachicola but used the free lancer's reporting uncredited for most of the article. When this came to light it brought down a lot of scrutiny on other stories and Bragg resigned. Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post wrote a comprehensive article which included these items:
David Firestone, a former Atlanta correspondent now based in Washington, said stringers were used mainly "when you couldn't be in multiple places..."

[S]ome Times staffers say Bragg is being unfairly singled out for working within a system in which interns and assistants -- what the newsroom calls "legs" -- are regularly assigned to do extensive firsthand reporting but almost never receive credit.

In a statement, Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis said: "Like most newspapers, the Times has long relied on non-staff journalists to assist correspondents in their reporting, by conducting interviews, providing research assistance or helping to stake out the scenes of news events, especially when spot news is being gathered against a tight deadline." She said employees have been reminded that "such non-staffers should be used to supplement a correspondent's core reporting; they should not be used to substitute for that reporting."
A contemporaneous New York Times article added the following:
In an e-mail message to his colleagues on the national staff yesterday, Peter T. Kilborn, who is based in Washington, said: ''The interventions of editors and rare feeds from stringers notwithstanding, we dig stuff up ourselves and chase things down ourselves and put it together ourselves.''

Mr. Kilborn's comments were lauded, and amplified, in messages from other national reporters.

While the correspondents acknowledged that they relied periodically on researchers during breaking news, they said they had never gone as far as Mr. Bragg had: using a stringer to do almost all of the reporting on a feature article.
Let's analyze the kerfuffle to see if Sargeant and Ackerman are making a mountain out of a molehill or if we are facing the return of Jayson Blair.
  • Sargent quotes an unnamed sources that allege Dowd was somewhere else. The source saw her working on something but had no direct conversation with her about what it was.
  • Dowd met the test implied by the Times for using an assistant, she was on assignment elsewhere (and I think most readers of TPM would think tracking Dubya's misdeeds more important than attending a victory party). We have no idea who this assistant was and what his or her professional relationship to Dowd or the Times is.
  • Dowd was writing on deadline about breaking news. The election results came late Tuesday night and Dowd's column had to be posted by midnight.
  • The three people in the article were quoted by name. A real muckracker could easily track these folks down and determine when and by whom they were interviewed.
  • The quotes used were anecdotal filler supporting Dowd's thesis that the emotional event energized her supporters. The story could stand without those three paragraphs. Here at Dowd Report Central we read a lot of commentary on her columns and nobody was citing these quotes as pivotal parts of the article.
  • Dowd did plenty of leg work in New Hampshire over the rather abbreviated campaign cycle. As noted here, multiple sightings of the celebrity pundit were made at an earlier event by Obama.
  • The only genuinely first person observation in the column was her observing fellow reporters commenting on Hillary's histrionics.
When you put this altogether we are looking at a rather mild case of a national reporter using resources available to her to fill out a piece that had to make deadline. It's not like Dowd was eating bon-bons on the beach while phoning in files.

We'll see if Dowd faces a feeding frenzy over what seems to be a heroic effort to get a column filed on time of if this is just a case of Dowd haters stirring the pot.

BlogWatch: Hillary and Hope

Maureen Dowd’s Crying Works column drew a lot of attention from the entire blogosphere top to bottom.

There’s a certain coterie of blogs that like to trash and abuse Maureen Dowd on a regular basis. Being the new kid in town I haven’t gotten to sit at the cool kids’ table like Digby, Whiskey Fire, and Echidne of the Snakes. They love to object to anything Dowd says just on principle and are often very fun to read even as they hysterically (in all senses of the word) get all indignant. They all had a blast with that column.

At a higher level are the Daily Kos and Huffington Post bloggers that take occasional potshots at Maureen Dowd. The posts themselves are often well reasoned but the commenters can sometimes be a little strident bordering on unhinged.

And then there are the professionals. People where blogging is part of their job description and not just so they can wear pajamas all day. These are guys (and gals) that get invited on television screamer shows, write magazine articles, and move and shake the national dialog. A post by one of these folk has a ripple effect as people blog about what they blogged.

Katherine Marsh of The New Republic had this to say:

What last night really showed is that Clinton herself played the gender card brilliantly (see today's Maureen Dowd column).
Another female pundit, Kathryn Jean Lopez of NRO quoted her favorite line from the column and had this to say:
"The People from Hope are Arguing Against Hope."

I'm not proud, but I'm honest: For as long as the Clintons are around — and they will be around for a long while — reading Maureen Dowd will be a guilty pleasure.
And the biggest bear on the block, Andrew Sullivan goes even farther than Dowd. He (an open Obama endorser) claims that the race is entirely about Hillary’s legacy and not any hope for a Democratic victory:
She gets the core narcissism at the heart of the Clinton machine:

There was a whiff of Nixonian self-pity about her choking up. What was moving her so deeply was her recognition that the country was failing to grasp how much it needs her. In a weirdly narcissistic way, she was crying for us. But it was grimly typical of her that what finally made her break down was the prospect of losing...

This is always about the Clintons. If the Democrats have to lose to McCain in November so Hillary Cliton can become the first female nominee for any major party, that's a price the country will just have to pay.
That is a heavy accusation. I rarely find an article claiming that Maureen is sugar-coating the situation and isn’t strident enough.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A Reel Tearjerker

Can Hillary Cry Her Way Back to the White House?
Published: January 9, 2008

"You can cry from now until the time the jury comes in and it won't make you right and it won't win you that silly case." - Adam's Rib (1949)
A movie meant to evoke tears is called a tearjerker and Hillary Clinton’s comeback was enough to bring tears to your eyes whether you were for or against her. On Monday, Hillary got all misty at a campaign stop and many pundits are pointing it out as a pitstop in her freefall against Obama. Maureen Dowd recalls this scene:
When I walked into the office Monday, people were clustering around a computer to watch what they thought they would never see: Hillary Clinton with the unmistakable look of tears in her eyes.
With politicians it is always a question of how genuine the emotion is, after all, Washington is Hollywood for ugly people.
Another reporter joked: “That crying really seemed genuine. I’ll bet she spent hours thinking about it beforehand.” He added dryly: “Crying doesn’t usually work in campaigns. Only in relationships.”
All this histrionics always makes Maureen nostalgic for the old movies.
As Spencer Tracy said to Katharine Hepburn in “Adam’s Rib,” “Here we go again, the old juice. Guaranteed heart melter. A few female tears, stronger than any acid.”
In Adam's Rib, Tracy and Hepburn were lawyers on opposite sides of the case. The Clintons are both lawyers as well but they are nominally on the same side even if it doesn’t always seem that way. But there are a lot of old movies being played out.
Bill churlishly dismissed the Obama phenom as “the biggest fairy tale I’ve ever seen,” but for the last few days, it was Hillary who seemed in danger of being Cinderella. She became emotional because she feared that she had reached her political midnight, when she would suddenly revert to the school girl with geeky glasses and frizzy hair, smart but not the favorite.
Cinderella has been filmed over 50 times in various ways and that is not counting fairy tale style sports stories like The Natural with Robert Redford. But who is the Natural in this telling:
All those years in the shadow of one Natural, only to face the prospect of being eclipsed by another Natural?
Barack is again portrayed as a prince, but not all that charming. Instead he is the evil Iceman while Hillary is the Top Gun not afraid to cry.
How humiliating to have a moderator of the New Hampshire debate ask her to explain why she was not as popular as the handsome young prince from Chicago. How demeaning to have Obama rather ungraciously chime in: “You’re likable enough.” And how exasperating to be pushed into an angry rebuttal when John Edwards played wingman, attacking her on Obama’s behalf.
Yet, in the end, she had to fend off calamity by playing the female victim, both of Obama and of the press.

At her victory party, Hillary was like the heroine of a Lifetime movie, a woman in peril who manages to triumph. Saying that her heart was full, she sounded the feminist anthem: “I found my own voice.”
On the woman-oriented Lifetime network, the heroines got brutally victimized for ninety minutes before triumphing at the last commercial break. It’s enough to make you cry.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Quoting Kristol

Maureen Dowd’s latest compatriot on the New York Times commentary page is Bill Kristol, noted neo-con and omnipresent Fox television fixture. While Bill is new to the Times, he is no stranger to Dowd. The two have a professional relationship dating back to the Poppy Bush administration when he was vice-presidential chief of staff a/k/a “Quayle’s Brain”, something you would think you want to keep off your resume.

Here is how she described him back in 1989:

For his chief of staff, Quayle recruited a skeptical William Kristol, the 36-year-old son of Irving Kristol, by promising an ''energetic'' Vice Presidency. Lauded by the Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan as a 'formidable intellect,' Kristol is a New York native with a Ph.D. from Harvard in political science, where he subsequently taught politics. He has worked as chief of staff for William Bennett at the Education Department and has a reputation around Washington as a savvy conservative manager. 'The Vice President felt that there would be no inconsistency between being loyal and discreet and helping make policy,' says Kristol, 'and it's turned out that way.'
After the changing of the guard in 1992 with the election of Billary, Kristol became more frequently quoted by name rather than on background. He supplied a bon mot that became of the earliest digs at Al Gore’s infamous stiffness:
Another unfortunate omen for Gore came during Clinton's first press conference as President-elect, when he invited his Vice President to join him on stage, but made no opening for him to say anything. Gore stood silently, staring somewhat vacantly into the middle distance with his arms straight at his side. He looked, said William Kristol, Vice President Quayle's chief of staff, "like an environmentally correct wooden Native American outside a cigar store."
Kristol was peripherally involved in the Sununu columns that caused John to curse her, leading to the recent exorcism of her condo. She caught up with Bill at the opening of the Bush I library to learn some new gossip:
But I learned something even spookier: John Sununu is Dan Quayle's new brain.

Bill Kristol was Dan Quayle's old brain. In the White House, he was the chief of staff in charge of educating the frisky Vice President.

'I'll cheerfully acknowledge that John's I.Q. is considerably higher than mine -- he always told me it was,' Mr. Kristol said of his old nemesis. Mr. Sununu was President Bush's chief of staff until his inflamed ego, bellicose temper and personal trips on military planes and a Government limo jaunt to a stamp auction tripped him up.
While Bill was a staple of her columns in the early 90s, they must have had a falling out somewhere along the line. In recent years, he has appeared in her columns only through indirect quotes from his ubiquitous opining on the Fox Network. In 2003, she referred to him parenthetically as “über-hawk Bill Kristol.”

In her book, Are Men Necessary?, Dowd emphasizes the need to stay civil with all your acquaintances since you never know when a former lover or old colleague will show up in a professional setting. Let’s wait and see if any sparks fly between Dowd and her old source.

Sunday, January 6, 2008


Ah, little lad, you're starin' at my fingers. Would you like me to tell you the little story of Right Hand-Left Hand - the story of good and evil? (He rises and flexs the fingers of his left hand) H-A-T-E! It was with this left hand that old brother Cain struck the blow that laid his brother low. (He raises his right hand) L-O-V-E. You see these fingers, dear hearts? These fingers has veins that run straight to the soul of man. The right hand, friends! The hand of love! Now watch and I'll show you the story of life.

These fingers, dear hearts, is always a-warrin' and a-tuggin', one agin the other. Now, watch 'em. Ol' brother Left Hand. Left hand, he's a-fightin'. And it looks like LOVE's a goner. But wait a minute, wait a minute! Hot dog! LOVE's a winnin'? Yes, siree. It's LOVE that won, and ol' Left Hand HATE is down for the count!
(movie synopsis and poster image from

Voting for a Smile
Published: January 6, 2008

The news around the New York Times Murderer’s Row is that Maureen Dowd has a new boyfriend and it isn’t former source L’il Billy Kristol. She has fallen, and fallen hard for a young buck of a Democratic candidate called Barack Obama. He has her so distracted that she is falling off her game. When visiting the caucus house, she barely fits in one pop cultural reference, and it’s about as old as the average Clinton supporter.
It was understandable that Hillary’s “Golden Girls” acolytes would freak out when they saw the throngs of young Obama hopemongers swarming the caucuses. As one Dodd supporter said, looking for her little Dodd corner, “I’m lost in the Obamas.”
Dowd is of course referring to the 1985-1992 series about four post-menopausal women sharing a house in Miami. Based on the relative demographics of the Iowa voters, Hillary has the Geritol set sewn up, but can’t get the support of voters that won’t be on life support if or when she runs for re-election. These frisky seniors still have some gumption as they trade sexual favors for votes.
“My wife told me I’d have to join them or I’d be sleeping on the couch tonight,” said Ed Truslow, a compact 68-year-old manufacturing representative.

A caucusgoer drily noted that it did not seem the most propitious harbinger for Hillary that the fateful evening began with a threat to withhold connubial bliss.
But the favor Maureen is seeking is the election of Obama. Like a teenage girl doodling hearts on her spiral notebook, she can’t help imagining how his name would sound with President in front of it. Maureen sees him as an alliterative lion feeding a desire for a certain feeling.
The Obama revolution arrived not on little cat feet in the Iowa snow but like a balmy promise, an effortlessly leaping lion hungry for something different, propelled by a visceral desire among Americans to feel American again.
She sees Barack as a slick suave operator willing to reawaken the hearts broken by the two last liberal losers and fulfill the voter’s hungers and yearnings.
But on Thursday, Obama’s vague optimism and smooth-jazz modernity came together in a spectacular fusion with the deep yearning of Democrats who have suffered through heartbreaking losses in the last two elections with uninspiring candidates.
The smooth jazz fusion image evokes a well-dressed Herbie Hancock type hipster wowing the ladies with his hot licks. One that wears “dark suits, stylish ties and dress shoes.”

As Dowd works up a head of steam she drops every sultry adjective available just short of “clean” and “articulate.”
Often unable to surf the electricity he sparked over the last year, Obama has now put on his laurel wreath and dropped his languid pose, tapping directly into what he calls the “fire burning” across the country — the dream of a cool, smart, elegant, reasonable, literary, witty, decent “West Wing” sort of president who won’t bankrupt us or endanger us or co-opt our rights or put a black hood on the Constitution.
That Abu Ghraib bondage image just adds to the sweltering. Maureen throws some cold water in her face and discusses Hillary’s attempts to co-opt Barack’s message, which forces the Dowdster to decide what is going to drive her from now on. Will it be her hatred for the Clintons or her new lust for the new kid on the election block? She answers:
Listening to Hillary and Obama evokes the famous scene in the classic “The Night of the Hunter,” when Robert Mitchum, whose fingers are tattooed with “LOVE” on his right hand and “HATE” on his left, has a wrestling match with his hands to see which emotion triumphs.

In the movie, love does, but it’s a close call.
It is indeed l-o-v-e. She claims not to do predictions, but I think we know what close call Maureen is hoping for in New Hampshire. Someone get this girl a fan for her hot flashes.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Dowd Spotting: Stalking Obama In Concord

Updated: 1/5/08

National Enterprise Reporter for the Washington Post and known alien abductee interviewer Joel Achenbach spotted Maureen Dowd at a standing room only Barack Obama rally in the Concord High School gymnasium in New Hampshire. He cornered her and got this exclusive:

Noticeable uptick in journalistic celebrity: There's MoDo! Please, give me a bon mot, Mo. [I asked her for a prediction and she said, "I don't predict, I just report."]
Since the last Dowd sighting was at his Apollo Theater tent revival, is there any doubt that the next mash note to Obama is on the way?

Update: David Weigel of Reason Magazine confirms the Dowd sighting with this anecdote:
There were whopping big media folks in the crowd--E.J. Dionne, Maureen Dowd, CBS's Bob Schieffer--but my favorite fellow travellers were a couple cameramen from a local news station. They sneered up at the risers where other cameramen had already gotten the good spots, including two tykes in red shirts reporting for Scholastic News. "This is the thing that kills me," one said, "wasting space on these cameras for that Nickelodian [sic] shit."
Not to nitpick, but David needs to brush up on the spelling of the names of tweener television networks.

BlogWatch: Steaming Piles

Launching vitrolic verbal volleys at Maureen Dowd is a bit of an cottage industry, but the greatest act of invective I have seen in a while comes from Melissa McEwen at Shakesville who rants thus:

Echidne pointed me to the latest steaming turd pile dropped on the pages of the Times by Maureen Dowd in place of an actual piece of journalism. In today's plopper, she wonders "Deign or Reign?" and cobbles together a jumbled mélange of folksy anecdote, selective quoting, and indiscriminate smears, held together with her usual adhesive of smug judgment and crazy, to arrive at the gobsmackingly insipid rhetorical: "Will Queen Hillary reign? Will Prince Barack deign? And who is owed more?"
And the best part is that she nailed the column. She uses Dowd’s whining about “entitlement” to springboard a discussion of other candidates that have felt they were owed a nomination only to get shot down in flames in the general election. She returns to Dowd's column to sum up:
In fact, I will assert she does know that, but has chosen to ignore it in order to make "Deign or Reign?" work. Not just the pithy title, but the entire churlish concept, wrapped around the idea that Clinton and Obama believe they are owed something they are not. Dowd has delivered the talking point for every "progressive" bigot who doesn't like the idea of some uppity bitch and uppity negro thinking they're fit to run the country. It's not their failure to be white men that leaves the bad taste in the mouth; it's just their sense of entitlement, you see.

Sure, good liberals like Dowd support equality. Just as long as no one actually wants to use it or anything.
Particularly harsh since Maureen has been writing Obama mash notes for quite some time while ignoring Haircut Edwards as much as possible.

No slouch when it comes to DowdBashing, Echidne’s critique of Maureen’s Iowa handicapping was how content-free it was:
It may be interesting, especially if you live inside the Beltway and live your life in those little social circles, but it offers nothing about how Clinton and Obama would govern, what their policies are and which of them (or of the other candidates) would be best for a particular voter. I know that some think we live in a post-modern era, but maybe we could at least deconstruct the candidates' policies instead of their private lives or the gossips about their characters?
McEwan’s diatribe inspired a lot of me-tooism, including the Carpetbagger Report and Lawyers, Gun$, and Money, but there was at least one dissenting opinion. Bat One of Say Anything had this to say:
Whenever I run across the name Maureen Dowd, I invariably think of my other favorite Fred’s brilliant column in which he describes Dowd as “the professional spinster of the New York Times”, and her writing as “… the self-absorbed clucking of aging poultry.”

But like the proverbial blind squirrel, even Dowd can occasionally stumble across something worth holding on to. Occasionally.


If the NYT’s signature liberal feminist finds the Clintons and the Obama’s tiresome in their arrogance and their presumptuousness, I can’t help wondering if even the average Democrat voter isn’t getting a bit bored and apathetic too.
Thanks for the kind words. I think.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Daisy Does Des Moines

Deign or Reign?
Published: January 2, 2008

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…
-The Great Gatsby
In the final day before the Iowa caucuses, Maureen Dowd fires a final salvo against the Big Dog and Daisy:
She is speaking in a soft, measured voice in these final days, so that, as with Daisy Buchanan, you have to lean in to listen. But is she really different than she was in the years when she was so careless about the people around her getting hurt by the Clinton legal whirlwind that she was dubbed the Daisy Buchanan of the boomer set?
The Daisy dubbing was done by Joe Klein, then of Newsweek, back in 1995 surveying the damage done by Clintons quelling bimbo eruptions. The Jazz Age metaphor took root and has been used by Gail Sheehy and Bob Woodward, and of course the Dowdster herself. Back in 1996, she dedicated an entire column called Gulp Fiction to the arc of the Clintons-Klein relationship.

In the most explicit terms possible, Dowd reiterates her long held thesis concerning the Clinton candidacy:
The underlying rationale for her campaign is that she is owed. Owed for moving to Arkansas and giving up the name Rodham, owed for pretending to care about place settings and menus when she held the unappetizing title of first lady, owed for enduring one humiliation after another at the hands of her husband.
In the interest of equal time and to add a veneer of reporting justifying hotel nights in Iowa for an Ames byline, she quotes a potential caucuser that switched from Obama to Edwards.
Across town, Nancy Hibbs, a 57-year-old nurse, came to listen to John Edwards give his son-of-a-mill-worker rant against corporate greed, complete with a sneer aimed at Obama that anyone who thinks you can “just nice” the carnivorous Republican fat cats into submission is in “Never-Never Land.”

Ms. Hibbs had decided after seeing Barack Obama a year ago that she would vote for him. She saw him again Monday night in Ames and felt even more certain that he was the one. After listening to Edwards for 40 minutes on Tuesday, she up and changed her mind, deciding to vote for him.
That is the first time Dowd has spent as much as a full sentence on John Edwards since early July. But she prefers to focus on the other two lawyer couples in the race.
The presidential anglers here are dancing on the head of a pin. The Democratic race — three lawyers married to lawyers who talk too much — is very tight and very volatile. Even the jittery pack of seasoned political operatives gazing into their BlackBerrys doesn’t seem to have a clue which way the Iowa snowdrifts are blowing.
Maureen is off her game. The angels/anglers dancing on the head of a pin is just baffling and you don’t need a Weatherman to know which way the snowdrifts blow. She does valiantly stretch the dancing anglers line to shoehorn in one pop cultural call-out:
But Bill very much wants to be in the White House again. He is going around the state relentlessly, giving a speech as tightly choreographed with Hillary’s as a “Dancing With the Stars” routine.
But the focus is on the Hillary/Obama showdown. Dowd mixes a royal metaphor to emphasize the sense of entitlement:
If elected, would the old Hillary pop up, dragging us back to the dysfunctional Clinton kingdom?
And if Hillary is Guinevere to Bill’s Lancelot, Michelle Obama is Lady MacBeth keeping Barrack’s courage screwed to its sticking place.
Oddly, Barack and Michelle Obama also radiate a sense that they are owed. Not for a lifetime of sublimation and humiliation, but for this onerous campaign, for offering themselves up to save and uplift the nation, even though it disrupted their comfortable lives.
She told a group gathered at a nursing home in Grinnell on Monday that “Barack is one of the smartest people you will ever encounter who will deign to enter this messy thing called politics.”

So it comes down to this: Will Queen Hillary reign? Will Prince Barack deign? And who is owed more?
Might I suggest a Dancing with Lawyers dance-off between the Big Dog and Lady Michelle?