Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Maureen and the Obamanauts

Cyclops and Cunning
Published: July 30, 2008

Maureen Dowd is still hooked on mythology and references a Daily Show bit about Obama slaying dragons.

At home, Jon Stewart was poking fun at the grandiosity of the “Obama Quest” and “the Obamanauts.” He showed film clips of “our hero” in chain mail fighting off dragons and a Cyclops in his crusade to come home and rule over Dreamerica.
She is also trying to get Obama to play her literary allusion game by tricking him into comparing himself to brave Ulysses:
By happenstance, on O-Force One I raised the matter of quests and Cyclops with the candidate. Having read that he had left the trail in early June to go back to Chicago and see his daughter Malia perform in The Odyssey for theater class, I wondered if that rang any bells on this trip? The hero on a foreign journey, battling through obstacles to get back home, where more trouble would wait?

“The whole sort of siren thing, the Cyclops, that’s interesting,” he said.
Note how cleverly Barack evades making any confirmation or denial of the validity of the analogy. Since he won’t open up to her, she uses the Icarus myth that he told a different reporter.
Unlike an idol, Bobby Kennedy, Obama does not see himself in terms of Greek myth, although he did tell The Times’s Jeff Zeleny on the trip that he knew the risks of “flying too close to the sun.”
And to truly mix the milieus, she throws in a newly appropriated and repurposed term Obamanaut (the phrase has been informally floating through the ether for several months now) as a portmanteau of Obama and Argonaut as in Jason And The Argonauts, today's Movies With Maureen®.
The Obamanauts were so pleased with navigating their complex thicket of global photo-ops — without even one embarrassing picture of Obama hugging an Arab — that they weren’t as wary with the press.
Maureen then lurches into a pointless anecdote whose only purpose is to reveal Obama’s choice of alcoholic beverage is not the beer he swigs on the campaign trial. This is important because Dowd has chronicled the vices of the other candidates.
The senator left his briefing books behind for a rare instance of mingling with his journalism posse at a Berlin restaurant as he sipped a rare “very dry” martini with olives.
It seems Obama is not familiar with the ways of international diplomacy and failed to get his hosts gifts even though they brought him White House warming presents.
I said he could be forgiven for not knowing the customs of a trip that had never taken place before — a mere presumptive nominee of one party being feted like a president. Or, given W.’s repellant effect on Old Europe and Obama’s pheromone effect, better than a president.
And the mention of Barack smelling nice is going to have to do as today’s Veiled Gay Slur®. It’s a stretch, but people expect and look for these small asides so that they can take umbrage at the continued existence of Maureen Dowd.

And speaking of pointless anecdotes, another involves Obama learning the German analogue of one of Maureen’s favorite phrases.
His meeting with Angela Merkel taught him a whole new expression.

“When we were talking about Iran,” he told me, “it turns out that carrots and sticks in German is sweetbread and whips, which I thought was a little more evocative.”
The mention of whips really drew a twinkle in Maureen’s eye, since she had once written a column about Hillary and Barack using nothing but bondage metaphors. She also name checks Borat's other alter-ego showing that she is in tune with all the top satirists.
I said it sounded like a skit with Ali G, sitting on a settee, talking to Madam Chancellor, the “Iron Frau,” about whips.

“That’s the equivalent German expression,” he continued, with an amused smile. “That was a little cultural lesson. Sweetbread and whips. I thought, man, we’re in Berlin ...”
But Obama stops himself before saying anything revealing, which makes him a smart man. And Maureen admires that with yet another tortured take on the Icarus myth.
Odysseus’s heroic trait is his cunning intelligence. Given his inability to get lift off, even flying close to the sun, Obama will need all he can muster.
And if he keeps taking language lessons from foreign heads of state, he may become a cunning linguist as well.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Burned By Her Source

The New York Times today printed a correction to her Cocky/Chiefy column which said:

In her column last Wednesday, Maureen Dowd wrote that a Democratic lawmaker privately asked Gen. David Petraeus why there weren’t more Democrats in the military, and he replied, “There are more than you think.” Col. Steven Boylan of the general’s public affairs office in Baghdad, which was not contacted for comment, says the quotation “is in error as he never made nor would make such a statement.”
Since she is quoting Petraeus by name and he (indirectly) denies the quote, the other person involved must have been the un-named "Democratic lawmaker". According to CBS News, the other legislators on the trip were Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Chuck Hagel, R-Neb. Since Hagel is a Republican, that leaves Jack Reed as Dowd's source.

I understand why General Petraeus has to refute an off-the-record comment that is embarrassing to military, but Reed needs to go on the record on whether he was ever told this or not. I doubt he will and will instead leave Dowd twisting in the wind. And the DowdHaters will have more ammunition to use in their jihad against her. We here at Dowd Central will have an open competition for the blogger that comes up with the most vociferous denunciation of Dowd's latest faux pas. Have at it folks.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Who Needs A Cigarette?

Stalking, Sniffing, Swooning
Published: July 27, 2008

Maureen and Barack are getting pretty chummy on the campaign trail. After a particularly chummy press conference with French president Sarkozy she asked about the post-coital bliss:

“You must want a cigarette after that,” I teased the candidate after the amorous joint press conference, as he flew from Paris to London for the finale of his grand tour.
The scene was so steamy that Maureen began filming it in her head:
It could have been a French movie.

Passing acquaintances collide in a moment of transcendent passion. They look at each other shyly and touch tenderly during their Paris cinq à sept, exchange some existential thoughts under exquisite chandeliers, and — tant pis — go their separate ways.
Maureen never passes up a chance to show off some French. In this case, “cinq à sept” literally means “five to seven” and refers to the time for informal socializing in France. And “tant pis” has the connotation of wistful regret. And this leads us to a special Franco-American Movies With Maureen®.
Sarko, back to Carla Bruni. Obama, forward to Gordon Brown. A Man and a Man. All it needed was a lush score and Claude Lelouch.
Claude Lelouch is the famous French director of Un homme et une femme (A Man and a Woman) which explains the politirotic allusion between the two leaders. The second feature on the bill is suggest by Barack himself as he recounts how he got stalked in the hotel gym.
In Berlin, the tabloid Bild sent an attractive blonde reporter to stalk Obama at the Ritz-Carlton gym as he exercised with his body man, Reggie Love. She then wrote a tell-all, enthusing, “I’m getting hot, and not from the workout,” and concluding, “What a man.”

Obama marveled: “I’m just realizing what I’ve got to become accustomed to. The fact that I was played like that at the gym. Do you remember ‘The Color of Money’ with Paul Newman? And Forest Whitaker is sort of sitting there, acting like he doesn’t know how to play pool. And then he hustles the hustler. She hustled us. We walk into the gym. She’s already on the treadmill. She looks like just an ordinary German girl. She smiles and sort of waves, shyly, but doesn’t go out of her way to say anything. As I’m walking out, she says: ‘Oh, can I have a picture? I’m a big fan.’ Reggie takes the picture.”

The original article by the blonde reporter and her picture can be found on the Bild website. The money quote is:
I put my arm around his hip – wow, he didn’t even sweat! WHAT A MAN!
But it was a different woman that Obama, or at least his staff, missed out on meeting. And we know that Maureen has a crush on the French First Chanteuse as well.
[Obama] did not get to meet his fan, Carla Bruni. “She wasn’t there,” he said. “Which I think disappointed all my staff. That was the only thing they were really interested in.”
For one column there sure is a lot of sweating and heavy breathing in this Obama-Sarkozy-Bruni-Dowd lovefest. Perhaps if and when Barack is a head of state he can arrange a more formal ménage à tête à tête. Because that sure would make an interesting French movie.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Obama Road Trip

Barack Obama's overseas tour is gaining as much notice for the outsized press entourage as it is for the trip itself. Howard Kurtz is the Washington Post navel-gazing media reporter and his dispatch today either consciously or unconsiously echoes the central metaphor of Maureen Dowd's Labors of Hercules column:

After saying little in public during a weekend in Iraq and Afghanistan, Barack Obama met with traveling reporters near Jordan's Temple of Hercules, a gladiator standing his ground against the media hordes.
A little later in the column Maureen Dowd herself makes and indirect appearance as Obama specifically mentioned her by name for some reporter repartee:
Singling out New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd yesterday, Obama said: "What are you guys going to do in Berlin? Huh? Dowd? You got any big plans?"
My guess is just stare dreamily at The One on his world tour.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dowd For Veep

Somebody please explain how Maureen would help the McCain ticket? I guess the gist of the cartoon is that the media is so in the tank for Obama (which is entirely different from Dukakis in the tank) that the only way to get them to quit fawning over Barack is to offer them highly placed positions in the McCain Cabinet.

Besides, Dowd would make an awful vice-president. It's the president's job to make up silly names for his associates.

The Second Coming

"My only advantage as a reporter is that I am so physically small, so temperamentally unobtrusive, and so neurotically inarticulate that people tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests. And it always does. That is one last thing to remember: writers are always selling somebody out."
-Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem
Is ‘The One’ Cocky or Commander in Chiefy?
Published: July 23, 2008

It seems that Maureen Dowd did manage to stow away aboard Barack Obama’s press plane or…
O-Force One, as The Chicago Sun Times mockingly calls the candidate’s freshly branded 757, with the captain’s chair embroidered with “Obama-’08/President.”
The psycho-sexual freight of anything called O-Force is not something I really want to touch so it’s good we have Lynn Sweet to blame for this phrase. Not that Maureen isn’t hard at work on the English language. We get our Crossword Puzzle Clue Of The Week® with “lacunae” which is a fancy –schmacy word for “gaps”:
The media behemoth slouching after the senator is scouring his every word, expression, bead of sweat, basketball shot and accessory — are those hiking boots too Bremer? Are the sunglasses too rapper? Will he leave enough time for his glittery groupie, Carla Bruni? — for hints of imperfection that would foretell lacunae in presidential judgment.
Since the column dateline is Jerusalem (aka the NYT Derry, NH field office) the use of slouching invokes either Joan Didion’s use of the phrase “slouching towards Bethlehem” which in and of itself is an allusion to Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming” below:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
The apocalyptic imagery of Yeats is mocked, along with Obama with further ironic asides about his exalted image:
The One, as McCain aides sardonically call Obama, glided through Afghanistan, Iraq and Jordan, girding his messianic loins for the inevitable kvetching he would face in Israel as skeptical Jews “try to get a better sense of what’s in Obama’s kishkes.”
Dowd helpfully explains the Yiddish-ism:
So said Nathan Diament of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, in The Daily News, defining “kishkes” as Yiddish for gut.
But it is ‘loins’ that evokes another uncomfortable adjective:
At moments, Obama was acting as though he were already “on a coin,” as Jon Stewart would say. But cocky or not, he needs to swoop up to conquer so Americans can picture him in the role.
But it's not just Americans taken with Obama. He crosses cultural and religious lines.
The One left them swooning in Jordan. A member of the king’s inner circle who attended the chicken-and-rice dinner with King Abdullah and Queen Rania said that Obama had gone a long way toward assuaging their fears that he would be so eager to run away from his paternal family’s Muslim roots and to woo skeptical American Jews that he would not be “the honest broker” they long for after W.’s crazed missionary work in the Middle East.
And with missionary zeal, we can await the Second Coming of The One.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Labor Pains

Ich Bin Ein Jet-Setter
Published: July 20, 2008

Every now and then Maureen Dowd has to remind us that she too has a high school diploma by making some allusion to a circa 1965 staple of scholastic knowledge. This week she must have stumbled upon an old copy of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology.

Or she just may have fallen asleep during a Movies With Maureen® Steve Reeves Marathon (and I’m thinking Reeves since I doubt she knows who Kevin Sorbo is), because she is dreaming of Obama as a well-oiled heavily-muscled hero. After all, he does work out a lot:

…back home in Chicago, he worked out three times on Wednesday. An Associated Press report jokingly compared his fitness regime to that of Mr. Universe and marveled at “a distinct lack of visible sweat on the Illinois senator.”
And all this is reminding Maureen of that hunky hero of yore.
Because Obama started from scratch a year and a half ago in his amazing presidential odyssey, he has to swiftly and convincingly perform the political equivalent of the Labors of Hercules.

Cleaning the Augean stables in a single day seems like a cinch compared with navigating the complexities of Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Palestine and Jordan in a few short days.
And while Dowd is well known for her alliteration and movie references, her most distinctive rhetorical device is the Dowdversion®, two parallel clauses with either a twist or a pun connecting the two. We have several classic examples today.
Even if Obama is treated as a superstar by W.-weary Europeans, some Obama-wary Americans may wonder what he’s doing there…
See the alliterative weary/wary change-up. But not all rise to this level of pithy. Some are a little lazier and more obvious:
Since he’s already fighting the perception that he’s an exotic outsider, he can’t be seen as too insidery with the Euro-crats.
The outsider/insidery link is just a little forced. But when she is on top of her game, a Dowdversion® can work on several levels:
Instead of obtaining the girdle of the Amazon warrior queen Hippolyte, Obama has to overcome the hurdle of the Amazon warrior queen Hillary.
This one is a two-fer because we get the rhyming girdle/hurdle pair with the even more alliterative Hippolyte/Hillary comparison which completes the current events tie-in. And it masculinizes Senator Clinton as an Amazon warrior in a completely defensible literary allusional way. Take that Clark Hoyt.

The next Dowdversion® is more explicitly tied to Herculean labors motif:
Instead of slaying the nine-headed Hydra, he must bedazzle three European countries without causing Middle America to begrudge his popularity with a bunch of foreigners.
This one is a particulary significant call-back because begrudge and bedazzle are two of Dowd’s favorite words. In April she admired Hillary for…
…the gusto with which she bedazzled her résumé and then bedazzled some more when she got caught bedazzling.
In February she wrote a column about Obama titled “Begrudging His Bedazzling” (DowdReported here) where she declared:
Bedazzling beats begrudging.
But the use of 'bedazzling' predates the current campaign. Back in 2000, she wrote a column about how boring and soporific Al Gore that was titled “Belaboring, Not Bedazzling”. And 'belaboring' brings us right back (in more than one way) to Hercules.

She only explicitly mentions five of the twelve labors. In addition to cleaning the Augean Stables, slaying the Hydra, and de-girdling Hippolyte ones mentioned above, she also compares speech making to stealing the Apples of the Hesperides. But the labor she uses to invoke Bill Clinton is the most puzzling:
Obama must capture his own equivalent of the Erymanthian Boar, deciding how much to grovel to get Bill Clinton in his corner, and he has to calculate whether the Big Dog will be help or hindrance, or both, as he was with his wife, and how to use him, if at all.
While many might think comparing Bill to a boar (or even a bore) is an apt analogy, in the Dowdverse, Clinton is the Big Dog, which would make the three-headed hell-hound Cerebus the better choice. But explicating that metaphor would cause problems with a family newspaper and would make Maureen struggle to think of what exactly Bill Clinton’s third head would be.

And on that note, we have to sign off by noting that the Kennedy allusion in the title really has nothing to do with the swords and sandals motif of the rest of the column except that since Barack is going to Berlin as part of his travels, it ties Obama in some way to the JFK mystique. By the Washington dateline, we know Dowd isn't risking foreign intestinal distress by being on the press plane. That means Maureen has to stay home and fantasize about Barack coming to our rescue, whip in hand.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

How To Attack Barack

May We Mock, Barack?
Published: July 16, 2008

Maureen Dowd takes the issue of the allegedly satirical New Yorker cartoon and asks the bigger question - What can we make fun of about Obama? The comma in the title is significant. It infers we need his permission to ridicule him.

This is a real concern because unless Hillary makes the lower half of the ticket, all of Dowd's Clinton material is staler than a week old bagel.

So this week, she explores the options:

Obama’s Dad Was A Furr-nur

Fortunately, Dowd has done some previous legwork on this topic while palling around with America’s top satirists (and the full article can be found here):

When I interviewed Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert for Rolling Stone a couple years ago, I wondered what Barack Obama would mean for them.

“It seems like a President Obama would be harder to make fun of than these guys,” I said.

“Are you kidding me?” Stewart scoffed.

Then he and Colbert both said at the same time: “His dad was a goat-herder!”
This angle hasn’t aged well. Since one of the major knuckle-dragging slurs is that Obama is a crypto-Muslim, any jokes about his dad have to be done very delicately if they aren’t going to just feed that insanity rather than debunk it. Hence why the New Yorker cover missed the mark.

Obama Has A History of Drug Abuse

Colbert and Stewart also saw the comic potential of this one:
When I noted that Obama, in his memoir, had revealed that he had done some pot, booze and “maybe a little blow,” the two comedians began riffing about the dapper senator’s familiarity with drug slang.

Colbert: Wow, that’s a very street way of putting it. ‘A little blow.’

Stewart: A little bit of the white rabbit.

Colbert: ‘Yeah, I packed a cocktail straw of cocaine and had a prostitute blow it in my ear, but that is all I did. High-fivin.’ ’
Maureen has already plowed this field pretty well. By our count she used 20 different drug references in her “Reefer Madness in Iowa” column back in December.

For the rabid right-wing, Cindy McCain’s struggle with prescription pills is problematic and do liberals really want to make drug laws an issue? Either way, it’s a tough topic to play without coming off hypocritical one way or another.

Obama Is Just Too Perfect
At first blush, it would seem a positive for Obama that he is hard to mock. But on second thought, is it another sign that he’s trying so hard to be perfect that it’s stultifying?


If Obama keeps being stingy with his quips and smiles, and if the dominant perception of him is that you can’t make jokes about him, it might infect his campaign with an airless quality. His humorlessness could spark humor.
Dowd sees this one failing as well because his supporters can be so self-righteous.
[Have] eight years of W. and Cheney [] robbed Democratic voters of their sense of humor?

[Obama] does not want the “take” on him to become that he’s so tightly wrapped, overcalculated and circumspect that he can’t even allow anyone to make jokes about him, and that his supporters are so evangelical and eager for a champion to rescue America that their response to any razzing is a sanctimonious: Don’t mess with our messiah!
Maureen has to tread this one lightly. She has already gotten her wrist slapped for implying limp-wristedness, so she has to stay away from anything the smacks of effeminization. While Obama may be Felix Ungar prissy, the into homophobia can't be crossed. Dowd has also tried the Saint Obama approach with indifferent success. Maybe he really is too good to be true.

Obama Is A Fussy Eater

Here is a well that Maureen has gone to several times. Most recently on Sunday. While it is really just a sub-set of the previous category, making fun of Presidential food choices goes back to Bush 41 and broccoli.
He’s already in danger of seeming too prissy about food — a perception heightened when The Wall Street Journal reported that the planners for Obama’s convention have hired the first-ever Director of Greening, the environmental activist Andrea Robinson.
Rampant political correctness has already hit the dinner plate:
The “lean ‘n’ green” catering guidelines, The Journal said, bar fried food and instruct that, “on the theory that nutritious food is more vibrant, each meal should include ‘at least three of the following colors: red, green, yellow, blue/purple, and white.’ (Garnishes don’t count.)
The trick to the tank-driving, internet-bragging, wind-surfing meme is that it has to be some mild personality tick that can be used to infer a larger character deficiency. If Barack’s primness can be exaggerated into runaway nanny-ism, the caricature has a chance of becoming a wedge. Otherwise, we may be looking on grim times.
Bring it on, Ozone Democrats! Because if Obama gets elected and there is nothing funny about him, it won’t be the economy that’s depressed. It will be the rest of us.
And by ‘us’, she means ‘her’. Because a politician without easily parodied peccadilloes promotes poor performance from punning pundits. We’re praying for you, Maureen.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Whine and Cheese

No Ice Cream, Senator?
Published: July 13, 2008

Maureen Dowd unleashes one of her most tortured metaphors in a long time as she goes horticultural on Obama:

Barack Obama may make it to the Rose Garden, but he’ll still be an orchid. For all his attempts to act like a sturdy American perennial, he’s a genuine hothouse flower, and everything he is and does is cultivated.
The Democrats are known as the Mommy Party, but Obama is bucking for Father Of The Year.
He has been trying of late to show off his dad cred — both as a potentially strong dad for the country and as a good dad to his daughters.
In the wake of blowback from his family interview, Obama is indulging in the three re's.
Refining the Iraq stance was fine. Reconsidering the eavesdropping position was sketchy. But he definitely went one “re” too far when he appeared on all three morning shows and revisited his decision to allow his daughters to be interviewed on “Access Hollywood.”
That footage was originally an "exclusive" on Wonkette, but can be seen below:

Dowd gets in a very subtle dig at the vapidness of the interview by saying this:
Maria Menounos, whose questions were as bubbly as her Pantene shampoo commercials, asked Michelle, “What is the most recent romantic thing you’ve done for him?”

She seems to be saying that real reporters don't shill for product. But then real politicians don't pimp their daughters. Maureen puts it more delicately and also gets in an Alliteration Alert®:
He may not have realized it while they were miking Malia and lighting the kids, but it clearly hit him midway through the interview.
And the embarrassing part according to Dowd is further revelations about his rather fussy eating habits. Maureen has been harping on his very non-Joe Voter diet for months, but now out of the mouths of babes, we know that Obama may be as all-American as apple pie, but don't ask him if he wants it ala mode.
He looked frustrated when Sasha revealed that “my dad doesn’t like sweets” and that he preferred “minty gum” to bubble gum. She then began singsonging “Everybody should like ice cream” before pointing a finger at the person who doesn’t: “Except Daddy!”
Which gives Dowd one more alliteration (finding the third is left to the reader as an exercise).
Whether Obama was irritated that he had slipped up and exposed his daughters or was annoyed that his kids were exposing more delicious details about his finicky, abstemious tastes, we’ll never know.
But to Maureen, the problem wasn't the slip-up, but the hand wringing. And she manages to sneak in five more re's.
While it’s a good idea not to repeat the experience, it was overkill for Obama to rebuke himself and recant his decision on the morning shows — right in the midst of other repositioning that spurred a harsh reaction among many supporters.


The self-pitying Bill and the self-flagellating Barack both need to take a cue from the Obama girls.

Asked by Ms. Menounos, “What could you guys do that Mommy and Daddy would get really mad at?” Malia and Sasha replied in unison: “Whining.”
But the real question for those that want to label Obama an out-of-touch elitist is what type of brie does he want with that whine?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Dowd Hoax Update

I'm proud to have played even a small part in the exposing of a fake Maureen Dowd column that has been circulating around the internet for the past week or two. Eventually this grass roots whisper campaign against Obama in the name of Dowd has been exposed by the mainstream internet organizations.

The PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter is feature of the St. Petersburg Times that ran an excellent summary of the story and quoted yours truly copiously:

Dowd fans spot a fraud: Column had no movie references

Dowd fans were quick to see the column didn't have the writer's unique voice.

"As far as pastiches go, it makes no effort to imitate Dowd’s style in the least," wrote someone named Mo MoDo on The Dowd Report, a blog that tracks the columnist's work. "There are no silly puns, alliteration, movie references, or odd nicknames. It’s just pure unsubstantiated allegations of campaign fraud."
They even named me ahead of their interview with Dowd herself:
Dowd says she hadn't heard of the bogus column until we called her about it. She said she stopped looking herself up on the Internet years ago, after someone showed her a fake photograph of her having sex with Bill Clinton.

She's surprised people believed the column was real. "It’s hard to believe that anybody would give it any credibility as mine. It’s about money – something I know nothing about."
See, Dowd herself agrees with me that Krugman would have been the better choice.

The Huffington Post also got Maureen on the record denying it.
A comically absurd Barack Obama smear email is making the rounds right now involving a fabricated column by famed New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd. The email, presented as a June 29 op-ed (replete with The Times' font, layout, and Dowd byline)

Dowd herself found the email an exercise in absurdity, not to mention -- quite possibly -- the first time she's been indirectly involved in a smear campaign.


"The line about it being the 'most shocking revelation,' I don't think I've ever said those words, except in a satire. Also, it is about money, which I never write about," she told the Huffington Post. "Sometime you try and protest things you hear about, but sometimes it's just not worth it... It is hard to track down and control these things, and anyone who reads my column knows that this wasn't me. I got to the second line and I knew it wasn't me."
Snarkmasters at Gawker also noted the rather sloppy imitation work.
Well, we gotta admit, the pretend rhetorical question is a kinda nice touch, there. But she's not calling him "O-Bambi" so it's obviously a phony. Also Maureen Dowd does not deal with money, numbers, or objective "facts."
Gawker also jump on Dowd's quote from the HuffPo article:
The best part of the whole thing is the real Dowd, on when she stumbled upon the email: "I got to the second line and I knew it wasn't me." The second line! She couldn't remember the lede from a column from last week?
Methinks Maureen is engaging in a little self-deprecating leg-pulling of her own.

Jossip states that anyone that fell for the hoax is a complete moron. And that the world is full of morons:
...thanks to the “comically absurd” (HuffPo’s words) email’s well-executed mock up of an actual Dowd column, complete with the Times‘ font and her byline, people on the receiving end of this email might actually believe it. And as HuffPo thought to do, clicking on over to the Times website to see if the column is for real isn’t an extra step most recipients would take

That’s why these smear email campaigns work..

Like spam, they’re very easy to fabricate and send, and even if a tiny percentage of recipients believe them — an herbal supplement really can increase my size by two inches? — they prove effective.

So while everyone playing a game of political inside baseball can wave their finger at the email and feel good about how they so easily flagged it as a fake, rest assured many Americans won’t.
And Jossip is dead right here. The phony column still appears even if it is quickly hooted down. Here is a heavily abridged transcript of a forum thread at RightNation.US:

USNRETWIFE (Jul 9 2008, 01:21 PM): More Obama financing subterfuge from our NWO friends from afar
{phony column snipped}

ilja (Jul 9 2008, 01:31 PM): Did Maureen Dowd really write this? Why is it not in the Times if she did? This is wild if it's true. I can't wait to hear more.

USNRETWIFE (Jul 9 2008, 01:40 PM): My mother sent it to me in an email. I searched it out as I didn't want to just post an email and I found it at the Vetern's Voice. I'd like to know more about this too.

catpat (Jul 9 2008, 01:44 PM): This is a hoax. I do not know how to do links so here are a couple url's: {links snipped}

USNRETWIFE (Jul 9 2008, 01:21 PM): Thank you.

And other bloggers are getting tired of it. Ed Cone (who seems like a pretty responsible pundit) called "Enough!":
Gentle readers: Please take the hooks out of your mouths and stop sending me the fake June 29 Maureen Dowd column purporting to reveal that Obama is being funded by the Chinese and other bogeymen.

The real Maureen Dowd is bad enough.
Since many of these people that have passed along this e-mail defend themselves with how "authentic" the e-mail looked, Ed Cone was nice enough to forward it to me it as it appeared. Here is a screen capture (click to embiggen):

An embedded NYT logo, Dowd's photo, and two links that don't actually go to the column being quoted are all it takes to dupe dozens and perhaps hundreds of gullible Obama haters. For future reference, this is what you see when you get forwarded a real column from the Times:

No pictures or logos, but lots of links and ads. Note that as of this morning, Dowd's column from Sunday (which was mostly transcribed relationship advice) is still in the Top 5 E-Mailed list. This may be why she is such a tempting target to spoofers.

Since I published my blogpost, I have been getting tons of traffic from Indy Conservative Hardball who had instantly retracted the hoax and replaced it with this:
It's great to see that a liberal columnist like Dowd has her groupies... or desk jockey's that have nothing better to do with their time but as to scan the Net for any mention of their "patron saint".

To my readers, I apologize for the posting...
To the guys at the Dowd report who had a post up defending Dowd within 27 MINUTES of my posting, thanks for the link. And thanks for the somewhat increased traffic.
No, THANK YOU. My traffic over the past few days has gone up by an order of magnitude. While much of it has come from ICH, an increasing percentage is from YahooMail accounts and similar tough to trace sources. My working theory is that as this hoax column continues to make the rounds of habitual e-mail forwarders, those in the know are replying back with refuting links, including mine.

These hoaxes circulate surreptitiously forever spreading half-truths and lies which people read and believe. The best disinfectant is the bright light of the truth, so please expose and rebut this malicious abuse of the name and reputation, such as it is, of Maureen Dowd.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Sexy Librarian

Dreams of Laura
Published: July 9, 2008

It’s summer beach reading time and Maureen Dowd has an advanced review copy of a book the rest of us don’t get to buy until September. The book is the thinly veiled story of the current First Lady.

The cover of this fantasy version of Laura Bush’s life, “American Wife,” is alluring, a woman’s shapely figure in a white gown, with white opera gloves and a diamond ring.
The author is not Anonymous, or Eponymous or Pseudonymous, yet there is the air of a “Primary Colors” stunt about this political roman à clef, which is timed to come out during the Republican convention.
Joe Klein of Time magazine was the "Anonymous" that wrote Primary Colors, the novel not-very-loosely based on the 1992 Clinton campaign. Rather than wince and grimace at the fictionalized sex scenes of the similar Bush-based book, Dowd finds the story vibrant and exciting.
Still, it’s not a salacious tell-all, and words like “smear” and “gossip” are misplaced. It’s a well-researched book that imagines what lies behind that placid facade of the first lady, a women’s book-club novel by a young woman named Curtis Sittenfeld who has written two best sellers, including “Prep.”
Dowd precisely pins down a feeling many people get from Laura Bush’s persona:
You don’t get any fingerprints from Laura Bush. When you look into her eyes during an interview, you feel as if she is there somewhere, deep inside herself, miles and miles down.
But then Maureen awkwardly scrambles for a metaphor that never quite docks:
But there’s only one vessel that can ferry you past Laura’s moat, and that’s fiction. Ms. Sittenfeld has creatively applied her crayons to all the ambiguous blanks in the coloring book.
In defending lightly fictionalized versions of real people, Dowd invokes Flaubert, proving once again that she took high school English:
For “Madame Bovary,” Flaubert partly drew on the real-life story of Delphine Delamare, a village doctor’s unhappy wife who had lots of lovers and a premature and humiliating death.
In addition to Flaubert, she also gets to name check her American Lit reading list:
How could a novelist not be drawn to such a tragedy? It’s easy to imagine all that guilt, shame, conscience, fear, sex and nightmares in the hands of Eudora Welty or Larry McMurtry.
And of course, we get a Movies With Maureen® double feature with both Marion The Librarian and Donna Reed.

And the story of the quiet, pretty librarian who could suffer the fate of being an old maid if not rescued by the dashing hero is a favorite American narrative — from “The Music Man” to “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
But Laura Bush’s real life has a history of tragedy beyond having to be married to Dubya.
During her husband’s presidential runs, many reporters shied away from asking Laura Bush about the freakishly horrible accident she had when she was 17. Hurrying to a party, she ran a stop sign in Midland, Tex., one night on Farm Road 868 and ran into a car that turned out to be driven by the golden boy of her high school, a cute star athlete she was believed to have had a crush on. He died instantly of a broken neck.
Which lets Maureen quote a Laura Bush biographer about the incident:
As Ann Gerhart wrote in “The Perfect Wife”: “Killing another person was a tragic, shattering error for a girl to make at 17. It was one of those hinges in a life, a moment when destiny shuddered, then lurched in a new direction. In its aftermath, Laura became more cautious and less spontaneous, more inclined to be compassionate.”
But going back to the fictionalized version, part of the fun of this type of book is finding the real-life counterparts. Maureen practically cackles over the portrayal of matriarch Barbara Bush:
The Barbara Bush doppelgänger, dubbed “Maj,” for Her Majesty, is as tart as ever. “When she turned her attention to me,” Alice says of Maj, “I always felt, and not in a positive way, as if we were the only ones in the room and total vigilance were required.”
And in prose, we are able to look inside the heads of people we can only watch from the outside in real life.
In the novel, Alice, tormented by the choices her husband has made about the war that she’s stood by, blurts out to a grieving father that she thinks the war should end. In life, we can only wonder how Laura feels.
And since we may never know, we will have to settle for looking into Laura's eyes through the East Wing window.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

BlogWatch: Hoax Dowd Column Making The Rounds

Updated 7/8/08, 8:50 AM PST (updated text in italics)

There is a hoax column out in the blogosphere purporting to be an expose by Maureen Dowd on Barack Obama’s internet fund raising. Several blogs have reprinted it in toto and it has also appeared on several random message boards. It starts with this:

Published: June 29, 2008

Certainly the most interesting and potentially devastating phone call I have received during this election cycle came this week from one of the Obama’s campaign internet geeks. These are the staffers who devised Obama’s internet fund raising campaign which raised in the neighborhood of $200 million so far. That is more then twice the total funds raised by any candidate in history – and this was all from the internet campaign.
It then goes on to allegedly detail that the Obama campaign has been getting internet contributions from Middle Eastern and Chinese sources.

As far as pastiches go, it makes no effort to imitate Dowd’s style in the least. There are no silly puns, alliteration, movie references, or odd nicknames. It’s just pure unsubstantiated allegations of campaign fraud.

None of the blogs provide a direct link to the hoax column. If they have a link at all, it’s to the NYT Maureen Dowd main page which obviously doesn’t include this column. The date of the fake column would have been the day the 'It’s Over Lady!’ column was published which had nothing to do with Obama or campaign financing.

What has us at Dowd Central scratching our head is that if you want to plant phony accusations at Obama, why attach Maureen Dowd’s name to it? For a fake veneer of authenticity, it seems to be a puzzling choice. Krugman as the resident Clinton supporter and the far wonkier number cruncher would have been a more plausible target.

The earliest source I could find for the hoax column is a June 29 post on a reader blog at the Arizona Republic website. The writer is unaffiliated with the newspaper and has been getting a lot of commenter pushback. It has also been posted by a particularly scurrilous anti-Obama site that published it on July 3rd, but this phony column has probably been around before that. The blogs that have reprinted it usually put in one or two lines of introduction or commentary but make no attempt to even verify if such a column even exists.

Hypocricy Rules does identify it as a hoax. Another blog, Liberal Common Sense also calls “Bullshit!” in a post correctly if not succinctly titled 'Like Maureen Dowd would write anything anti-Obama':
If you needed proof that people will believe anything without doing any fact checking here is your evidence:

{fake column snipped}

Seriously people, there are enough reasons to not support him based on the truth that you should at least do your homework before posting crap like this on the internet, it's not that difficult to take a few seconds to verify that not only did Maureen Dowd not write this, but it's not true.
But the bloggers who are passing this around uncritically (Indy's Conservative Hardball has since retracted the post) and pasting it into the comments of places like Free Republic don’t care. They just love that a liberal bastion like Dowd is blasting Obama, whether she really did or not.

Sometimes a story is just too good to check and rumors circle the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.

See this post for an update.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Why I'm Single - Part XLVIII

An Ideal Husband
Published: July 6, 2008

It never ends.
-Kay Corleone
The Godfather: Part III
So  that she can have the long weekend off, Maureen Dowd brushes off some unpublished notes from Are Men Necessary? and adds the following news peg to make it seem timely:
There’s the Christie Brinkley/Peter Cook fireworks on Long Island and the Madonna/Guy Ritchie/A-Rod Roman candle in New York.
Nothing like a few bad Fourth Of July puns to keep it topical. She then turns over the column to a Catholic marriage expert she describes thusly:
Father Pat Connor, a 79-year-old Catholic priest born in Australia and based in Bordentown, N.J., has spent his celibate life — including nine years as a missionary in India — mulling connubial bliss.
A full thirteen paragraphs of the column are direct quotes from the good father, which sure gives both Maureen and us textual scholars at Dowd Central little to do this week.

She even subs out the Movies With Maureen® to him:
“Take a good, unsentimental look at his family — you’ll learn a lot about him and his attitude towards women. Kay made a monstrous mistake marrying Michael Corleone! Is there a history of divorce in the family?
In other words, don't marry a mobster. Good advice, padre.

But the last quote is the money shot because it provides the rationalization that Dowd needs to realize that despite the fact that millions of couples do meet and marry successfully, she can feel she has dodges a bullet:
“After I regale a group with this talk, the despairing cry goes up: ‘But you’ve eliminated everyone!’ Life is unfair.”
Life is unfair. The rest of us have to take a precious vacation day to get extra time off. Maureen Dowd gets to literally phone it in with her priest.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Manchurian Reruns

The Wrong Stuff
Published: July 2, 2008

With the campaign season past the primary boost phase, we might expect some new metaphors for the new/old left/right campaign we have, but instead we get Movies With Maureen® reruns. First up is The Manchurian Candidate:

In the warped imagination of some on the left and right, this is a race between two Manchurian candidates, the Vietnam Manchurian candidate and the Muslim Manchurian candidate.

We last saw a reference to this Frank Sinatra/Angela Lansbury classic back in February:
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.

The twist for this column is that both McCain and Obama are refighting the Vietnam War, only this time it's all interservice friendly fire. Obama has lined up a regiment of veterans to fight by proxy the war hero image of McCain.
Wes Clark joined the growing ranks of troublesome Obama associates when he meowed that just “riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down” is not a qualification to be president. He made McCain sound like a drone aircraft.
And the mere mention of aviation, gets Maureen misty for the good ole days of Pappy Boyington Bush.
This is not even about Obama. It’s the old business of grunts resenting flyboys. Bob Dole made a crack long ago about patrician Poppy Bush flying over the infantry.
But we also get a bonus Movies feature, but again, it's a rerun.
But as Obama offers himself as an avatar of modernity, the horizon fills with Swift boats against the current, and he is, Gatsby-like, “borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
The Great Gatsby is probably just behind Gone With The Wind as Maureen's favorite overworked metaphor. Hillary Clinton was Daisy Buchanan and now Barack Obama is in the Robert Redford role. Let's see if that metaphor plays out as well.

I'm just disappointed that with the Tom Wolfe movie allusion in the title of the column that Maureen didn't dredge up Obama's old reverend and go for a Wright Stuff pun as well. But it's a long campaign. We still have time.