Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What Color Is Hillary's Parachute?

Begrudging His Bedazzling
Published: February 27, 2008

"Oh, Rhett, I want everybody who's been mean to me to be pea-green with envy!"
-Scarlett O’Hara, Gone With The Wind
Maureen Dowd opens her column with Hillary talking to perhaps the only person more famous for wearing pants suits than she is, talk-show host and main-stream media lesbian, Ellen Degeneres.
A huge Ellen suddenly materialized behind Hillary on a giant screen, interrupting her speech Monday night at a fund-raiser at George Washington University in Washington.

What better way for a desperate Hillary to try and stop her rival from running off with all her women supporters than to have a cozy satellite chat with a famous daytime talk-show host who isn’t supporting Obama?
The other talk-show host is, of course, Oprah Winfrey who is so famous for skyrocketing Obama into the celebrity stratosphere that she deserves an ambassadorship in the next administration if she can stand the paycut. And how, in the words of Dr. Phil, does that make Hillary feel?
Her sunshine-colored jackets hardly disguise the fact that she’s pea-green with envy.
Pea-green is the color of envy for Scarlett O’Hara as well as Maureen Dowd. When Dowd last invoked Gone With The Wind, Hillary was seeing red. But Hillary also turned pea green with envy way back in the classic Hillzilla versus Obambi column in September when Barack first became a media darling.

Oddly enough, Dowd has used “pea-green” before with another famous renegade competing for public opinion, Osama (as opposed to Obama), in a column from 2002 titled Is "Osama Pea Green?".

Continuing with the theme of reruns in full Technicolor, Barack is still the Eddie Murphy-ish Golden Child that he was back on December 2, 2007, with no sign of the leaf seems to be flaking off his gilding.
Certainly, Hillary understands the perils of glitter. The coda of her campaign has been a primal scream against the golden child of Chicago, a clanging and sometimes churlish warning that “all that glitters is not gold.”
And in the feature presentation of Movies With Maureen®, Hillary will be played by Sally Field as the multi-personality psychotic Sybil:
After saying she found her “voice” in New Hampshire, she has turned into Sybil. We’ve had Experienced Hillary, Soft Hillary, Hard Hillary, Misty Hillary, Sarcastic Hillary, Joined-at-the-Hip-to-Bill Hillary, Her-Own-Person-Who-Just-Happens-to-Be-Married-to-a-Former-President Hillary, It’s-My-Turn Hillary, Cuddly Hillary, Let’s-Get-Down-in-the-Dirt-and-Fight-Like-Dogs Hillary.
And would it be subliminal racism if Hillary brings up classic Spike Lee movies in the context of Obama?
At a rally on Sunday, she tried sarcasm about Obama, talking about how “celestial choirs” singing and magic wands waving won’t get everybody together to “do the right thing.”
Because someone out there is trying to remind the public that Obama is, gasp, African-American, and none too subtly. Maureen even links it to a classic movie of political paranoia:
Hillary and her top aides could not say categorically that her campaign had not been the source on the Drudge Report, as Matt Drudge claimed, for a picture of Obama in African native garb that the mean-spirited hope will conjure up a Muslim Manchurian candidate vibe.
Whether or not the Clintons are behind the lackluster smear job, it’s the attacks that draw the most convoluted Dowdversion® metaphor out of Maureen:
By threatening to throw the kitchen sink at Obama, they simply confirmed the fact that they might be going down the drain.
As part of the Hillary death spiral, people are finally noticing the free easy ride that Obama has gotten from The Media, so much so that even Saturday Night Live and Maureen Dowd have noticed.
Hillary and her aides urged reporters to learn from the “Saturday Night Live” skit about journalists having crushes on Obama.

But Hillary should learn from a later SNL bit, where Tina Fey in an endorsement of Hillary proclaims that “Bitch is the new black!” But the slogan works for the Clinton campaign in another way. After all, black is the color you wear to funerals.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

But Does He Lactate?

¿Quién Es Less Macho?
Published: February 24, 2008

¿Quién Es Más Macho?:
A Spanish-language game show in an old Saturday Night Live skit. Bill Murray played the host, and contestants were asked to guess which of two actors was more macho (I believe Senor Montalban consistently came out on top.) In the end, immigration agents arrested everybody.
Maureeen Dowd does not want to discuss Republican candidate innuendo as long as there is still Democratic candidate infighting, so she eschews soiling where she sleeps by jumping on the Times’ sexed up lobbyist scandal and instead goes once more to the Hillary/Obama well and makes this observation:
And when historians trace how her inevitability dissolved, they will surely note this paradox: The first serious female candidate for president was rejected by voters drawn to the more feminine management style of her male rival.
This unleashes her longest torrent yet in the feminization of Barack. Lets sort the various adjectives, adverbs, and witty phrases by gender. We at the Dowd Report have added a new shade to the quote palette and are highlighting phrases that feminize Barack in pink. First we have Hillary as a cigar chomping war monger and Obama as a dainty seamstress.
Hillary was so busy trying to prove she could be one of the boys — getting on the Armed Services Committee, voting to let W. go to war in Iraq, strong-arming supporters and donors, and trying to out-macho Obama — that she only belatedly realized that many Democratic and independent voters, especially women, were eager to move from hard-power locker-room tactics to a soft-power sewing circle approach.
Which sets up this weeks Dowdversion® where she twists a metaphor beyond recognition:
Less towel-snapping and more towel color coordinating, less steroids and more sensitivity.
Only in DowdWorld is hanging out with the Heisman Trophy winner an emasculating sign of wimpiness. In her mind, Barack even throws (or refuses to throw) like a girl (video available here):
At the University of Texas on Thursday morning, Obama proved that he was not a cowboy in overdrive like W. when he demurred at throwing a spiral because his pass might not be as good as the Longhorn stars’.
Dowd also exhibits her Pride and Prejudice to get off a cheap pun:
At first in Austin, Hillary did not channel Jane Austen. She tried once more to cast Obama as a weak sister on his willingness to talk to Raúl Castro.
The Democratic Party is often called the “Mommy Party” and Dowd takes the metaphor literally:
Among her other cascading woes, it turns out that Hillary is not able to manage her political family’s money. Like a prudent housekeeper, Obama spent the cash he raised — including from his continuing relationships with small donors — far more shrewdly, on ads rather than on himself.
Hillary on the other hand is a hard living breadwinner that can’t control the purse strings and Dowd updates the drunken sailor metaphor for the 21st century:
Hillaryland spent like a hedge fund manager in a flat-screen TV store. Her campaign attempted to show omnipotence by lavishing a fortune on the take-no-prisoners strategists Howard Wolfson and Mark Penn, and on having the best of everything from the set decoration at events to Four Seasons rooms. In January alone, they spent $11,000 on pizza, $1,200 on Dunkin’ Donuts and $95,384 at a Des Moines Hy-Vee grocery store for get-out-the-vote sandwich platters.

But total domination in the snack arena does not cut the mustard.
And speaking of not cutting it, Maureen has mentioned Hillary Clinton in her last eleven columns (January 20 was touch and go with only two sentences, but it still counts). Your guess is as good as ours as to when this Hillarobsession of Dowd's will take a breather.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

BlogWatch: Cattle Prattle

Photo: Ben Sklar/Getty Images

Bob Somerby, noted DowdHater® and author of the Daily Howler accuses Maureen Dowd of mangling a quote Hillary made in El Paso, Texas, last week.
Let's be frank: The Times op-ed page is an intellectual sewer. Yesterday, Dowd was at it again. After some brain-dead Hopi humor, she lodged this hiss-spitting claim against her favorite target: "Hillary says Obama is 'all hat and no cattle.'" But The Dim One was playing her readers a tad. Here's what Clinton actually said, last Tuesday night, in Texas. We'll cite Beth Fouhy's AP report, since the Times didn't even report the comment:

FOUHY (2/13/08): She slipped into a "you all" and criticized Bush, the former Texas governor. "There's a great saying in Texas," she said, "all hat and no cattle. Well after seven years of George W. Bush, we need a lot less hat and a lot more cattle."

Huh! She had criticized Bush—but Obama worked better. So the Times let their crazy girl type it.
First off, the full speech is available on the New York Times website, so there goes that weird slam, but more importantly, is Dowd so crazy as to mix up W and Obambi like that? Let's read the paragraph following that cattle remark and figure out who Clinton is really talking about:
And we're going to sweep across Texas in the next three weeks, bringing our message about what we need in America, the kind of president that will be required on day one to be commander-in-chief to turn the economy around. I'm tested. I'm ready. Let's make it happen. (APPLAUSE) You know, there's a great saying in Texas -- you've all heard it -- "all hat and no cattle." Well, after seven years of George Bush, we need a lot less hat and a lot more cattle. Texas needs a president who actually understands what it's going to take to turn the economy around, to get us universal health care, to save hardworking Americans homes from foreclosure at the abusive practices of the mortgage companies.
The key phrase here is "the next three weeks." Hillary is not running, now or ever, against George Bush; she's running against Barack Obama who she is trying to portray as inexperienced and full of hot air, i.e. all hat and no cattle.

Is Muareen Dowd off-base is implying this spin to the comment. Anne E. Kornblut of the Washington Post was there and reported the event this way:
"You know, there's a great saying in Texas -- you've all heard it, 'All hat and no cattle,'" Clinton told a massive audience here. "Well, after seven years of George Bush, we need a lot less hat, and a lot more cattle." She continued, in an apparent swipe at both Bush and Sen. Barack Obama, the candidate gaining momenum in the Democratic race: "Texas needs a president who actually undersdtands what its going to take to turn the economy around, to get us universal health care."
John Kelso of the Austin Statesman also saw a shot at Obama in those words:
At a campaign stop in El Paso, she took a shot at President Bush, and perhaps Obama, by using the expression "all hat and no cattle." Obama could respond by saying she's "no hat and all pants suit."
Newsweek reported the quote this way:
"There's a great saying in Texas. You've heard it: all hat and no cattle. After seven years of George Bush we need a lot less hat and a lot more cattle," Clinton told the crowd, in a barely veiled swipe at her opponent. "Texas needs a president who actually understands what it's going to take to turn the economy around, to get us universal health care, to save hard-working Americans' homes from foreclosure."
And the well-respected Economist clearly saw the saying as an attack on Hillary's primary opponent:
Her quip on Tuesday night—that Mr Obama is "all hat and no cattle"—will provide the subtext of everything she says.
And the key word there is "subtext." A good candidate never explicitly calls out his or her opponent by name when a well crafted innuendo will do. So, no, Hillary's hat and cattle comment was not explicitly aimed at Obama but only the most blinded partisan would not realize who the jab was clearly aimed at.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Kettle Coloring Contest

To Catch a Thief
Published: February 20, 2008

Sometimes Maureen Dowd’s pop cultural references are a little obscure, like last column’s “caged bird sings” call-out. Other times she tosses big fat softballs.

Lenny and Squiggy were nowhere in sight.

But Hillary was doing her best to come across as a “Laverne & Shirley” factory girl as she headed away from not-a-chance Wisconsin and on to gotta-have Ohio.
No sooner does she mention Lenny and Squiggy than I am humming the Laverne and Shirley theme. And then three paragraphs later she is using the theme song as the true inner voice of the Clinton campaign. Dowd Report contributor yellojkt did a similar idea a few weeks back with a Billy Joel tune, but Dowd gets the idea down just right:
“Give us any chance, we’ll take it.
Give us any rule, we’ll break it.
We’re gonna make our dreams come true.
Doin’ it our way.”
And by “doin’ it our way,” Dowd means lying, cheating and scheming just like any silly caper the slightly slutty Laverne/Bill can talk the uptight but ambitious Shirley/Hillary into. In this episode, they accuse the Obama camp of stealing words from other well-spoken black politicians:
The Clinton camp has spent days trying to undermine Obama’s chief asset, the elegant language that has sparked a generational boom.

“We’re seeing a pattern here,” Hillary enforcer Howard Wolfson said, in a conference call with reporters Tuesday. Yeah, we are. She’s losing, and looking for anything to bruise Obama.

Obama swiped a couple distinctive riffs about words and aspirations — his supposed specialty — from his pal Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts, thereby violating the new cardinal rule not only of politics but of life: Don’t do anything you don’t want to see on the top favorites of YouTube.
Maureen finds the perfect metaphor for this petty pilfering that manages to also mildy emasculate Obama:
He had credited Patrick in the past, and Patrick had channeled Obama when he ran for governor in ’06, so basically they’re like two roommates sharing clothes. Or two politicians sharing a strategist. Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, worked for Patrick in the gubernatorial bid.
And Dowd points out that in this kettle coloring contest, the Clintons have plenty of smudges on their face which leads to the Movies With Maureen® of the week, an Alfred Hitchcock classic about two jewel thieves after the same prize:
The Clintons are known political cat burglars. They pilfered Republican jewels in the ’90s, and Hillary has purloined as much as she can stuff in her pantsuit from her husband and Barack Obama.

She changed to Change. She co-opted “It’s time to turn the page” and “Fired up and ready to go.” She couldn’t wait to shoplift the words “yes” and “can” from Obama’s trademark “Yes, we can!” — (which he appropriated from Caesar Chavez) — even though she was cagey enough to put them in separate slogans, “Yes, we will!” and “Americans still have that can-do spirit.”

Bill, master thief, got in on the act, too. After Obama said that his election would tell the world that America is back, Bill said that Hillary’s election would tell the world that America is back.
And echoing earlier themes, Maureen takes a few cheap shots at the other spousal candidate for going off-message while getting in one last brewery pun:
The attribution problem might be small beer compared with Michelle Obama’s comment in Milwaukee on Monday: “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change.”

It’s a discordant note for the stylish, brainy 44-year-old Princeton and Harvard Law School grad. Cindy McCain showed that Republicans would jump right on a line like that, and twist it into something that sounded extremist and unpatriotic.
But even this little cat-fight hiss gets turned around into a back-handed stab at the Clintons:
Given the way the Clintons unfairly turn the tables, we’re only moments away from Hillary asking Obama: “Can’t you control your spouse?”
Which is a episode we will have to tune in for next week as Labama and Billary fight over superdelegate Carmine "The Big Ragoo" Ragusa only to confuse him with Tony "The Landlord" Rezko. Hilarity ensues.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Our Doubt Is Our Passion

Captive to History’s Caprice
Published: February 17, 2008

We work in the dark, We do what we can, We give what we have, Our doubt is our passion, And our passion is our task, The rest is the madness of art - Henry James
Maureen Dowd waxes unexpectedly philosophical this week as she wonders what we know about any candidate. And she does it with alliteration:
The passionate palaver about Hillary versus Barry rages on, with each side certain it is right about our fate if we end up with a President Obama or another President Clinton.

But is she right, that he’d be a
callow leader, too trusting of Republicans, dictators and terrorists? Is Bill right, that voters should not be swayed by eloquence and excitement? (Unless he’s running.)
"Callow" is also bit of a pun on "cattle" as Dowd reminds us of Hillary's entanglement with Refco but not of Barack's buddy Rezko. It was through Refco that she made her hundred to one long shot.
Hillary says Obama is “all hat and no cattle.” You’d think she’d want to avoid cattle metaphors, so as not to rile up those with a past beef about her sketchy windfall on cattle futures. She could simply say he’s all cage and no bird.
Because Maya Angelou, author of "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings" has endorsed Hillary instead of the less experienced Obama.

But as they say in the commodities market, past performance is no indicator of future results. Dowd goes down the list of poor presidential decisions from The Bay of Pigs to Monica's Thong (not that I'm making any comparison there). She even mentions her beloved Poppy throwing away his popularity with a lippy "Read my hips."

Maureen also comes up with a new Rude Name® for The Big Dog in the only outright movie allusion of the week, making him the Tarantino-esque Overkill Bill while at the same time throwing in a Nixonian Hillary prediction:
Hillary could be ready on Day 1 — to make up her Enemies List and banish Overkill Bill to a cubbyhole in the Old Executive Office Building. But it’s Day 2 that I’m really worried about.
But the biggest pun is used on a hope-filled Kennedy legacy line that Barack has adopted:
Maybe we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. Or maybe we are not.

Perhaps when Barack Obama uses that trippy line, he is just giving false Hopi, since the saying, which he picked up from Maria Shriver’s New Age-y L.A. endorsement speech, is credited to Hopi Indians.
The full Hopi prayer also includes these lines:
The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves!
Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
We are the ones we've been waiting for.
Perhaps that is advice as good for us as it is for our next president, whoever it might be.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Penn Is Mightier Than The Sword

A Flawed Feminist Test
Published: February 13, 2008

Links have been going around the blogosphere to a clip of Penn Jilette, the heavy loquacious half of magic act Penn and Teller, telling an offensive joke about Hillary:

Maureen Dowd proves she knows her way around the web and puts the joke in this context:
In a webcast, prestidigitator Penn Jillette talks about a joke he has begun telling in his show. He thinks the thunderous reaction it gets from audiences shows that Hillary no longer has a shot.

The joke goes: “Obama is just creaming Hillary. You know, all these primaries, you know. And Hillary says it’s not fair, because they’re being held in February, and February is Black History Month. And unfortunately for Hillary, there’s no White Bitch Month.”

Of course, jokes like that — even Jillette admits it’s offensive — are exactly what may give Hillary a shot. When the usually invulnerable Hillary seems vulnerable, many women, even ones who don’t want her to win, cringe at the idea of seeing her publicly humiliated — again.

Dowd shares some empathy with Hillary:

I know that the attacks against powerful women can be harsh and personal and unfair, enough to make anyone cry.
And then pulls the rug out:
But Hillary is not the best test case for women. We’ll never know how much of the backlash is because she’s a woman or because she’s this woman or because of the ick factor of returning to the old Clinton dysfunction.
Maureen rehashes the basis for several other tasteless jokes with this rather concise summary of what many are thinking but only a few say out loud:
It’s not yet clear which prejudice will infect the presidential contest more — misogyny or racism.
We do get one sports metaphor in the column.
Those close to Hillary say she’s feeling blue. It’s an unbearable twist of fate to spend all those years in the shadow of one Secretariat, only to have another gallop past while you’re plodding toward the finish line.
And only the most churlish would suggest any subliminal racism in comparing Obama to a stallion.

Preemptively, Maureen is washing her hands of any culpability in the failure of the Clinton Restoration, using a rather broad royal "we."
If Hillary fails, it will be her failure, not ours.
But maybe the Clintons will pull it out like they have done so many times before. After all, they are The Aristocrats!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Dowd-Free Digest

To save time and since there was no new Dowd column this weekend, here's a guide to the other NYT columnists from the past couple of days:

Digest David Brooks: Dubya has so screwed up Iraq and the economy, there is no way the Democrats can fix it, so you might as well just stay the course.

Digest Bob Herbert: Obama's got the momentum, but it's still a long, long battle.

Digest Roger Cohen: Obama is not Muslim. He just acts that way sometimes.

Digest Bill Kristol (from yesterday): Stop voting. Obama won.

Digest Paul Krugman (also from yesterday): Obama isn't playing nice and says mean things about Hillary.

Digest Frank Rich (from Sunday): If you think the Democratic primary race is ugly now, wait until Hillary starts playing the race card.

Digest Nicholas Kristof (from Sunday): Women make better leaders when we don't bother electing them.

Digest Gail Collins (from Saturday): We don't have Mitt Romney to kick around anymore.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Dowd Alert: St Mary's College

According to Southern Maryland Online, Maureen Dowd will be giving a speech tonight at St. Mary's College of Maryland in (appropriately enough) St. Mary's City, Maryland.

Dowd will speak as part of the College's Margaret Brent Lecture Series. Her talk is titled "Political Follies." It will offer a seasoned journalist's take on the most interesting political blunders of recent times. As a veteran of four presidential campaigns and now covering a fifth, Dowd's commentary on the American political process promises to be timely and razor sharp.

The lecture is scheduled for 8 p.m. in the Auerbach Auditorium of St. Mary's Hall on the college campus. This event is free and open to the public.
While St. Mary's is a little too far for yours truly to travel, I hope to catch some news reports of proceedings. Since the so-called Potomac Primary is Tuesday, perhaps some candidates would like to show up to steal some thunder.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Earth Tone Al

Al Gore in earth tonesThere is no new column by Maureen Dowd today, so it’s a good chance to ransack the New York Times archives and put to rest some canards about Dowd. As the Democratic primary season warms up, the blogging masses are already heating up the tar and plucking the chickens to scapegoat Maureen for sabotaging the election as she allegedly did in 2000 to Al Gore. The Dowd Report is on the record about her lack of culpability in Gore’s inept tin-eared campaign.

Every time Dowd’s name is mentioned in the blogosphere, one particular smear gets Pavlovianly raised: Maureen Dowd tagged Gore as “Earth-Tone Al” by relentlessly ridiculing him on his fashion choices. The truth is more nuanced and Dowd’s role is far littler than her rabid haters would have us believe.

No blog has worked harder to document the media’s supposed culpability in Gore’s defeat than the Daily Howler. For the truly wonkish, feel free to wade through the exhaustive multi-part series that excruciatingly documents the obsession over the press’s obsession with Gore’s wardrobe. I intend to focus on Dowd’s contribution, but first a little background is required.

One of the campaign advisors Al Gore hired for his 2000 run was Naomi Wolf. This was reported in the November 1, 1999 issue of Time magazine by Jessica Reeves which was the first connection of "eart tones" with Gore and Wolf:

Oh, those elusive women voters: So crucial, so mercurial, so drawn to earth tones. It's a good thing Al Gore has secured the services of feminist commentator and author Naomi Wolf to guide him through the minefield of the second sex's voting patterns. Gore 'fessed up this weekend to hiring Wolf for a reported initial salary of $15,000 a month — although her pay was recently cut to $5,000 a month — calling her a "valued advisor." The best-selling author of "The Beauty Myth" and "Promiscuities" is said to advise Gore on issues ranging from escaping his "beta-male" caste to adopting a more "reassuring" wardrobe palette in order to heighten his attractiveness to women (hence the recent influx of greens and browns).
A week later, a much more detailed Time article by Michael Duffy any Karen Tumulty became Ground Zero of the Earth Tone meme. Here are a few of the more relevant quotes:
You won't find her anywhere on the Al Gore campaign roster. Nor is she listed in the internal campaign budget, where she appears only as "consultant." Yet the mere mention of her name has a way of rendering campaign officials nearly speechless. One offered only that she was "helping out" on "outreach." Another adviser downplayed her as a "wardrobe consultant."

Sources tell TIME that since Gore 2000 set up shop in January, Wolf has been paid a salary of $15,000 a month--all quietly funneled through a web of Gore-campaign subcontractors--in exchange for advice on everything from how to win the women's vote to shirt-and-tie combinations.

Wolf made her first foray into presidential politics in 1995, as an adviser to Clinton's own once secret consultant, Dick Morris.
Dick Morris is often cited as being the secret back-stabbing source behind the accusation of Naomi Wolf as being just a fashion consultant.

By now, the Gore/Wolf connection is all over the news with pieces in the New York Times and Slate detailing her very out of the mainstream new-agey opinions. Maureen Dowd's November 3, 1999 column cites both earlier Time articles:
Time magazine revealed that Al Gore hired Ms. Wolf, who has written extensively on women and sexual power, as a $15,000-a-month consultant to help him with everything from his shift to earth tones to his efforts to break with Bill Clinton.

"Wolf has argued internally that Gore is a 'beta male' who needs to take on the 'alpha male' in the Oval Office before the public will see him as the top dog," write Time's Michael Duffy and Karen Tumulty.

Of course, when a man has to pony up a fortune to a woman to teach him how to be a man, that definitely takes the edge off his top-dogginess.
So let's see how Dowd is to blame for the Wolf whistle-blowing. One, Dowd just cites previous reporting and makes no new claims about Wolf’s role in the Gore campaign. Two, the real issue wasn’t whether Wolf gave Gore fashion advice, it was that Gore went to such a far-out flake for any advice whatsoever.

When it comes to real reporting, Maureen Dowd sat down with Al Gore and had this synopsis in her November 10, 1999 column:
So Al and I are dishing about clothes.

I figured if I covered politics long enough, I'd have uncomfortable moments when a president or vice president would want to hash over something I didn't know much about, like helium reserves or the money supply.

Nah. With this White House, I'm safe. The deeply important issues are sex and clothes.

I ask the vice president about his new color palette. He's in his casual uniform, a blue shirt to bring out his eyes, a heathery brown sweater, khakis and black cowboy boots.

"Tipper picks out my clothes," he says quickly, before I have a chance to mention That Woman Naomi.
There you have it. Al Gore less than categorically denies that Naomi Wolf gave him wardrobe advice. Of all the media frenzy over the beta-sheep in Wolf’s clothing, Dowd actually got the word from the horse’s mouth. But more importantly, HE WEARS EARTH TONES!

It’s tough to deny that in the 2000 campaign, the very phrase “earth tones” became shorthand for “obsequious pandering in an attempt to portray a folksy, feminist-friendly regular guy and not at all a stiff robotic wonk.” Maureen Dowd herself stayed fairly far away from this broad brushing. For the next year, “earth tones” appears in her columns only a couple of times. On November 24, 1999, Dowd uses the phrase to kick-off coverage of Hillary Clinton’s presidential senatorial campaign:
We knew she was running when she showed up in earth tones.

Like Al Gore, Hillary Rodham Clinton stepped onto the stage in New York all toasty-looking in a brown suit. ''So the answer is yes,'' she said with a huge smile, like a blushing fiancee.
On May 17, 2000, she uses a call out in one of her trademarked faux-soliloquies to suggest maybe he needs to act tougher instead of softer:
Do women prefer bad boys? Is that what this is all about? Fine. I can be a bad boy. I can do a bad, bad thing.

Note to self: Drop the earth tones. Buy a black leather jacket.
She goes to that well again on August 23, 2000 with this Fake Al Gore thought:
What do I have now that I didn't have before? Which new me works best for me? Were they wowed by Wednesday's earth tones or Thursday's business attire? Do they prefer Al the Lover to Al the Fighter? L.A. Al must not revert to D.C. Al!

I must focus-group myself. The important thing is not to panic. There's a throb in my deltoid. I'll pop an Altoid. But I need a factoid.
In both cases, the emphasis is on Gore’s over-emphasis on honing his image to broaden his appeal, particularly with women. This image stuck and George Bush successfully used Gore’s poor choice in consultants against Gore. As noted by Maureen Dowd on October 25, 2000 near the eve of the election and nearly a year after the first murmurings of Wolf’s influence, W is able to paint Gore as an emasculated slave of soothsayers:
And W. is still milking the flap over Naomi Wolf's alpha-male advice to Mr. Gore, the spectacle of a woman instructing a man how to be a man.

At the Al Smith dinner, Mr. Bush joked that he had run into a woman coming off the elevator at the Waldorf, "I think her name is Naomi or something like that," who had suggested that he wear more earth tones, less white tie.

"Can you imagine a grown man," he asked to the roar of the crowd, "paying $15,000 for somebody to tell you what to wear?"
If anything, Dubya owes Dick Morris for handing him this character defining faux pas.

Let’s recap. Time Magazine reports that Gore pays Wolf fifteen grand a month for consulting, which may or may not include fashion advice. Maureen Dowd comments on the kerfuffle and makes a handful of off-hand references to “earth-tones” in the context of nearly a hundred columns and over 80,000 words. That hardly qualifies as relentless harping.

Gore ran the most incompetent election campaign by an incumbent vice-president since Nixon in ’64 and lost in the closest election ever. Dowd didn’t hire Wolf. And whatever Gore paid for her wisdom, it seemed to have backfired fatally. Let's start blaming the naked emperor for listening to the fashion advice (metaphorical or actual) of ridiculous consultants and not blame the commenter in the crowd that sees through the pretense.

Democrats seem to like to kill the messenger when it's the principal that is the problem. So quit blaming Dowd for noticing the hole Gore dug himself into.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

BlogWatch: Coffee and Cigarettes

We have two Dowd related kerfuffles in the blogosphere today, proving that irrational Dowd Haters will latch onto anything in an attempt to make Maureen look silly or incompetent.

The first comes from the New York Post (Dowd’s employer’s rival just in case you can’t smell any ulterior motive). They rehash a column by Times of London (another NYT rival) writer Michelle Henery who describes a chance encounter with Dowd like this:

". . . She was in my face, smiling warmly, greeting me like a long-lost friend. My mind went into overdrive trying to figure out why the world-renowned, Pulitzer Prize-winning, New York Times uber-columnist . . . was speaking to me. The shock . . . left me momentarily speechless, but in those few seconds Maureen's sweet smile turned into embarrassed confusion and she scampered off."
Now even by Michelle’s account, Maureen did not address her by name, but that doesn’t prevent Henery from playing the we-all-look-alike card:
Henery continued, "The next day I e-mailed a group of American friends, asking whose doppelganger I was. They all agreed: 'She must have thought you were Michelle Obama.' "
The column ends with Henery making a joke about not being able to keep her red-headed journalists straight.
"Maureen, no hard feelings. When you came up to me, I mistook you for Arianna Huffington."
Well played. Dowd completely denies the incident ever happened and Times of London has since deleted the column. Gawker managed to obtain head shots of the two Michelles so that readers can judge for themselves the resemblance if any.

Disappearing columns or at least portions of them are at the heart of the second brouhaha. The following paragraph was in the online version of Dowd's latest column (explicated here) Wednesday morning and some early print editions.
Even though Obama stopped smoking when he started running for president, he has lost five pounds racing around the country. Just like Hollywood starlets, he works out religiously and he can make a three-course meal out of a Nicorette.
This paragraph has now Orwellianly disappeared from any official source, but like Mark Twain’s lies, it has circled the world while everyone else was putting on their shoes. Blogs have jumped on this as some sort of insidious reprimand on the part of the Times.

Digby speculates:
Did her editors finally step in and say she'd gone too far? Can we hope for more?
The Daily Howler (aka The Dowd Hater) goes even farther and suggests:
Who knows? Even the Times may have finally noticed a fact: Maureen Dowd is a gender-nut crackpot.
Humor site 23/6 gives us a technical definition of a typical Dowd rhetorical device:
Classic Dowd Pointless Antiphonal Wordplay (CLADPAW) involves combining a political reference with a pop cultural reference in the first clause of the sentence, and then recombining the two in a pointless way in the second clause, often with the addition of some kind of homophone, homonym, or pun. Turns out, it's as satisfying as it sounds.
They then offer up a poll with three choices for the most over the top sentence in the column with the choices being:
"Tuesday’s voting showed only that the voters, like moviegoers, don’t want a pat ending. Hillary and Obama will battle on in chiaroscuro."

"Better the devil you know than the diffident debutante you don’t."

"The big question is: Can he go from laconic to iconic to bionic?"
In a McCain-thin margin (which is a good bit wider than an Obama-thin cigarette), The laconic/ironic/bionic choice is leading. Bob Somerby of The Howler (see link above) disagrees calling it “moronic.”

Everybody is entitled to their opinion. You can call Dowd a crypto-racist for a case of mistaken identity in a crowded room or you can (as Molly Ivor of Whiskey Fire does) accuse her of
dealing in the most meaningless and shallow terms, makes all the Dem candidates unelectable.
She then spins the theory that in order to have more juicy topics to write about Dowd deliberately trashes only Democrats. She then places full blame for Bush's election and the subsequent debacle in Iraq on Dowd's line about Gore lactating. And Maureen gets accused of having a "particular shallow, divisive, and damaging form of psychosis." Wow! If only Times columnists had that kind of power, we wouldn't need elections or candidates.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Dark Side And The White Knight

Darkness and Light
Published: February 6, 2008

Not in the least; everybody allows that Lady Sneerwell can do more with a word or a look than many can with the most labored detail, even when they happen to have a little truth on their side to support it.
-School For Scandal, 1777
The Dowd thesaurus had been taken out of mothballs and Heading 421 in particular is burning from the furious page flipping. We can’t get to them all, but let’s get a sampling:
Don’t become so paranoid that you let yourself be overwhelmed by a dark vision.

But her pitch is the color of pitch

Darkness seeking darkness. It’s an exhausting specter, and the reason that Tom Daschle, Ted Kennedy, Claire McCaskill and so many other Democrats are dashing for daylight and trying to break away from the pathological Clinton path.
Note the use of pitch(shill)/pitch(tar), as in "pitch black" and in "tar and feather", giving three levels of allusion. The pathological/{dark} path pair is also well played. We even get an art lesson:
Even though Hillary reasserted her strength, corraling New York, California and Kennedy country Massachusetts, she and Obama will battle on in chiaroscuro.
From Wikipedia:
Chiaroscuro (Italian for clear-dark) is a term in art for a contrast between light and dark.
And according to Dowd, never has the contrast been clearer. And we get a nice Alliteration Alert® AND a new Rude Name® with Diffident Debutante. A nice opposite to Debate Dominatrix.
Better the devil you know than the diffident debutante you don’t. Better to go with the Clintons, with all their dysfunction and chaos — the same kind that fueled the Republican hate machine — than to risk the chance that Obama would be mauled like a chew toy in the general election. Better to blow off all the inspiration and the young voters, the independents and the Republicans that Obama is attracting than to take a chance on something as ephemeral as hope. Now that’s Cheney-level paranoia.
We also get the boxing metaphor we last saw in November back in action:
For much of the campaign, when matched against Hillary in debates, the Illinois senator seemed out of his weight class. But he has moved up to heavyweight, even while losing five pounds as he has raced around the country. The big question is: Can he go from laconic to iconic to bionic?
And on “laconic/iconic/bionic” the rhyming dictionary bursts into flames. Flames from a fire-breathing dragon{lady}:
But, if he wants to be president, he will still have to slay the dragon. And his dragon is the Clinton attack machine, which emerged Tuesday night, not invincible but breathing fire.
Obama is clearly Dowd's white knight.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

More Mean Girl Movies

There Will Be Blood
Published: February 3, 2008

I have a competition in me.
I want no one else to succeed.
There Will Be Blood (2007)
It time for another night of Movies With Maureen®. While movie allusions are a common feature of Maureen Dowd columns, sometimes the combination of too much late night MSNBC and Starz causes her movie mania to go into overdrive. The last time was as part of her Dubya of Arabia coverage. This time her film focus is on the Democratic nomination race.

She starts out by invoking the love/hate relationship between Rick and Captain Renault in Casablanca.

And so it is with Barack and Hillary. Thursday night was not the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Just a beautiful, dare we say, fairy tale.
The fairy tale of course being Bill Clinton’s take on Barry’s Iraq policy. Dowd also echoes her invocation of Seven Days in May back in December by saying that with Bill in the East Wing, the Oval Office will be off-limits to any Veep usurpation.
There won’t be any Dick Cheney-style coup in Hillary’s White House.
But if Bill is the Big Dog, Hillary is the ultimate toothy terror, Bruce The Shark from Jaws, devouring anything in her path to the presidency. Obama will need more than a few rides on Teddy’s sailboat to sink her ambitions.

Team Obama refers to the Clinton campaign as “Jaws” because “just when things are quiet, they keep trying to come back and capsize the boat.”
The movie Mean Girls (which is a MoDo metaphor explored fuller earlier this week) was based on a parental advice book called Queen Bees and Wannabes which posits that in any social pecking order there is only room for one Alpha Hillary and she will lie, gossip, and scheme as much as necessary to keep her standing as Queen of the Cafeteria.

Maureen then gives a very lengthy anecdote about a showdown that takes place on a runway rather than at recess, but there are just as many accusations of back-stabbing, vicious gossiping, insincere apologies, and arguing over who said what to whom and when as any Lindsey Lohan movie.

Hillary sent word to Obama that she wanted to talk to him. Obama’s aides figured that she wanted to make a pro forma apology for the comments of Billy Shaheen, the Clinton co-chairman in New Hampshire, who had told The Washington Post that Republicans would pounce on Obama’s confessions of cocaine and marijuana use in his late teens. Shaheen would step down the next day, but Camp Obama did not think the slam was a mere slip of the tongue.

In front of her plane, Hillary apologized to her rival about Shaheen. Obama replied that he was concerned at the pattern of insinuations and attacks from her supporters and that a message needed to be sent from the top that sharp attacks were not, as Hillary had put it, “the fun part.”
Mean Girls use proxies and lackeys to do their dirty work and the Clintons are no exception.
He brought up another recent example: the Clinton volunteer in Iowa who had been asked to leave after forwarding sleazy e-mail falsely claiming that Obama was a Muslim.
The rest of the story involves physical contact that almost starts a cat-fight complete with name-calling and hair-pulling. But the Mean Girls/Queen Bee call-out also segues into the Clinton Royalty Metaphor® of the week with jostle/joust just close enough together to trigger an Alliteration Alert®:
As Queen Bee of the Clinton hive, Hillary has created a regal force field that can be breached only with permission, so something that wasn’t even a jostle was perceived as a joust.
This recap of the animosity between former colleagues is meant to show that any show of congeniality on the part of the candidates is just Oscar-worthy acting.
But on Thursday, when he leaned down to whisper and put his hand on her shoulder, she looked up at him with a glowing smile. They really should have taken home gold statuettes.
And for Dowd, Super Tuesday will have all the glamour and drama of the Academy Awards.