Saturday, August 30, 2008

Miss Congeniality

Vice in Go-Go Boots?
Published: August 31, 2008

Maureen Dowd loves to watch old movies, particularly chick flicks. Who knew?

The guilty pleasure I miss most when I’m out slogging on the campaign trail is the chance to sprawl on the chaise and watch a vacuously spunky and generically sassy chick flick.
McCain's pick of Sarah Palin as his running mate delights her because it reminds her of a Sandra Bullock classic.
So imagine my delight, my absolute astonishment, when the hokey chick flick came out on the trail, a Cinderella story so preposterous it’s hard to believe it’s not premiering on Lifetime. Instead of going home and watching “Miss Congeniality” with Sandra Bullock, I get to stay here and watch “Miss Congeniality” with Sarah Palin.
It makes her so giddy that she needs to change only two words in the two parts of her Dowdversion®.
It’s easy to see where this movie is going. It begins, of course, with a cute, cool unknown from Alaska who has never even been on “Meet the Press” triumphing over a cute, cool unknowable from Hawaii who has been on “Meet the Press” a lot.
In addition to the Movie With Maureen®, Palin's Lifetime story also reminds Dowd of a quixotic television show set in Alaska which lets Maureen coin a nickname for Sarah's supporters (personally, I prefer Palindrones).
Palinistas, as they are called, love Sarah’s spunky, relentlessly quirky “Northern Exposure” story from being a Miss Alaska runner-up, and winning Miss Congeniality, to being mayor and hockey mom in Wasilla, a rural Alaskan town of 6,715, to being governor for two years to being the first woman ever to run on a national Republican ticket. (Why do men only pick women as running mates when they need a Hail Mary pass? It’s a little insulting.)
Oh, and the "Hail Mary pass" sports metaphor: Already claimed by Senator Charles Schumer, Ed Rollins, Jonathan Capehart, Marc Ginsberg, William Greider of The Nation, and about every blogger known, including Dowd Report contributor yellojkt. And for future reference I'd stay away from "game-changing" as well. It's been done.

The rest of the column is just lame fantasizing about how this chick flick will end. It only ensures that Maureen isn't going to get any script polishing gigs anytime soon. Besides, with a story this great, real life, as opposed to reel life, is going to be dramatic and hilarious enough.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What To Do In Denver When You Are Bitter

High Anxiety in the Mile High City
Published: August 26, 2008

Sensing that she doesn’t have much longer to bash the Clintons, Maureen Dowd unleashes all the stops. Projecting more than she usually does, she finds bitterness and hatred everywhere.

There were a lot of bitter Clinton associates, fund-raisers and supporters wandering the halls, spewing vindictiveness, complaining of slights, scheming about Hillary’s roll call and plotting trouble, with some in the Clinton coterie dissing Obama by planning early departures, before the nominee even speaks.
And Maureen continues to Cassandra the Subtle Sabotage Strategy my noting that Hillary is trying to keep her base energized.
At a press conference with New York reporters on Monday, Hillary looked as if she were straining at the bit to announce her 2012 exploratory committee.

“Remember, 18 million people voted for me, 18 million people, give or take, voted for Barack,” she said, while making a faux pro-Obama point. She keeps acting as if her delegates are out of her control, when she’s been privately egging on people to keep her dream alive as long as possible, no matter what the cost to Obama.
And Hillary gives her fellow senator, Joe Biden, a compliment even more ambiguous than “clean and articulate”.
Hillary also said she was happy about the choice of Joe Biden because he added “intensity” to the ticket. Ouch.
And when Dowd gets her dander up, the Movies With Maureen® allusions fly. In addition to the Hitchcockian title (and the “high” in “High Anxiety” must refer to the altitude and not any recreational pharmaceuticals), Maureen latches onto the chick-flickie call out by Hillary.
She thanked her “sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits,” and slyly noted that Obama would enact her health care plan rather than his.
But the really big movie moment compares the Clintons to the Corleones.
Obama’s pacification of Bill made his supporters depressed and anxious that he was going to be a weaker candidate than they had hoped and fearful that, as in Obama’s favorite movie, “The Godfather,” every time Democrats try to get away, the Clintons pull them back in.
But the best line from the column is gone. Missing from the current online version is this demonic aside that appeared in the dead trees edition (omitted text in [brackets]):
But this Democratic convention has a vibe so weird and jittery, so at odds with the early thrilling, fairy dust feel of the Obama revolution, that I had to consult with Mike Murphy, the peppery Republican strategist and former McCain guru.

“What is that feeling in the air?” I asked him.

“Submerged hate,” he promptly replied.

[Ah, yes, now I recognize that sulfurous aroma.]
Also gone was a line comparing Bill Clinton to a murderous mythical beast:
[Bill Clinton is brooding in his hotel suite at Brown Palace Hotel, like the outcast Grendel lurking on the outskirts of the town where young Beowulf lived.]
That parenthetical aside had inspired this less than inspired photoshoppery on my part. Now it has been retconned out of existence.

Having witnessed some editorially reining in of Maureen’s more incendiary invective, perhaps one day we will learn how she really feels.

Obamawulf versus Clinton Grendel

The following passage from Maureen Dowd's High Anxiety In Denver column was deleted sometime during the night. The original can still be found here.

Bill Clinton is brooding in his hotel suite at Brown Palace Hotel, like the outcast Grendel lurking on the outskirts of the town where young Beowulf lived.
Inspired by this now purged description I propose this movie poster:

And if Bill is Grendel, then Obama is Beowulf, the warrior hero that slays the monster:

Coming to a voting booth near you.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Joe and Mo

Twenty-one years ago, Joseph Biden’s presidential ambitions were cut short in part by two news stories by Maureen Dowd suggesting that Biden's famous rhetorical skills were not necessarily his own.

On September 12, 1987, Dowd wrote an article about Biden being excessively inspired by British Labor Party Leader Neil Kinnock:

The Neil Kinnock commercial did not lead to electoral success last May in Britain, but the 10-minute spot of the Labor Party leader's passionate speeches, against a cool soundtrack of Brahms, raised his approval rating by 19 points and became an instant classic.

On this side of the Atlantic, many Presidential campaign strategists of both parties greatly admired the way it portrayed Mr. Kinnock, who subsequently lost to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, as a man of character. Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, a Democratic hopeful, was particularly taken with it.

So taken, in fact, that he lifted Mr. Kinnock's closing speech with phrases, gestures and lyrical Welsh syntax intact for his own closing speech at a debate at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 23 - without crediting Mr. Kinnock.

Dowd then compares the two speeches:
Neil Kinnock's commercialJoe Biden's speech
In the commercial, the Briton began, "Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university?" Then pointing to his wife in the audience, he continued: "Why is Glenys the first woman in her family in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Was it because all our predecessors were thick?"

Senator Biden began his remarks by saying the ideas had come to him spontaneously on the way to the debate. "I started thinking as I was coming over here, why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university?" he said. Then, pointing to his wife, he continued: "Why is it that my wife who is sitting out there in the audience is the first in her family to ever go to college? Is it because our fathers and mothers were not bright? Is it because I'm the first Biden in a thousand generations to get a college and a graduate degree that I was smarter than the rest?"
In his speech, Mr. Kinnock, an orator of great eloquence, rhetorically asked why his ancestors, Welsh coal miners, did not get ahead as fast as he. "Did they lack talent?" he asked, in his lilting rhythm. "Those people who could sing and play and recite and write poetry? Those people who could make wonderful beautiful things with their hands? Those people who could dream dreams, see visions? Why didn't they get it? Was it because they were weak? Those people who could work eight hours underground and then come up and play football? Weak?"
Senator Biden's Irish relations, it would seem, were similar, though they seemed to stay underground longer.

"Those same people who read poetry and wrote poetry and taught me how to sing verse?" continued Mr. Biden, whose father was a Chevrolet dealer in Wilmington. "Is it because they didn't work hard? My ancestors, who worked in the coal mines of Northeast Pennsylvania and would come up after 12 hours and play football for four hours?"
A week later, another front page New York Times article by Maureen Dowd detailing Biden’s frequent unattributed borrowing of phrases from Robert F. Kennedy, showing that he could steal from politicians on both sides of the Atlantic. Dowd cleverly positions the plagiarism charges this way:
Senator Biden has given Robert F. Kennedy credit as ''the man who I guess I admire more than anyone else in American politics.'' But Mr. Biden has not always given him credit for the words he used first.
Dowd then gives an example that seems pretty clear cut:
Robert F. Kennedy, 1968Joseph Biden, February 3, 1987
"The gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play," Senator Kennedy said. "It does not include the beauty of our poetry, or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.

"It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile, and it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans."
"We cannot measure the health of our children, the quality of their education, the joy of their play," he said, after opening his speech by declaring that he wanted to tell the audience "what is on my mind."

"It doesn't measure the beauty of our poetry, the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate, the integrity of our public officials.

"It counts neither our wit nor our wisdom, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country," Mr. Biden continued, to applause. "That bottom line can tell us everything about our lives except that which makes life worthwhile, and it can tell us everything about America except that which makes us proud to be Americans."

Dowd’s primary source for the second story was an aide in the Reagan White House that was also a major RFK groupie.
At the White House, N. Jeffrey Lord, associate director in the office of political affairs, was watching as Senator Biden spoke. A devout Robert Kennedy fan as a youth who keeps a print of the Jamie Wyeth portrait of John Kennedy in his office at the Reagan White House, Mr. Lord had listened to a memorial record of Robert Kennedy's speeches so often that he knew them by heart.
Lord had an axe to grind because he was miffed at the treatment Robert Bork had received in front of Biden’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings. When the Kinnock accusations came out and were quickly brushed aside, Lord decided to push the Kennedy plagiarism in to the spot light and the conduit he chose was Maureen Dowd. In his words from an American Spectator article:
I picked up the phone and did what Robert Redford did in that old Three Days of the Condor movie. When all is lost, spill your guts to the New York Times. In my case, I went to then-reporter (and now NYT columnist) Maureen Dowd. We'd never met. She drove Reaganites crazy. But she had been covering Biden, and I liked her writing. So Mo Dowd it was.

Her voice was careful at first. Cautious and skeptical in the way of a liberal reporter getting a call from a Reagan White House type. I explained my tale. Told her of my RFK and JFK-worship as a teenager and how I memorized all those hours of RFK speeches. When I told her that I could prove beyond question that Biden had simply been lifting RFK's words whole cloth she burst out laughing, saying something to the effect that this was just too good to be true. It seems (as I recall this all these years later) that the Biden staff had been irritated by the good Ms. Dowd as well. They had even gone to the point of making her life difficult as she sought to cover the Bork hearings. Maureen would love my records and would promise to return them in the mint condition in which I still had them. Telling her specifically which speech of RFK's had been used, and when and where Biden had done this, I delivered my treasured albums unto the New York Times. And waited.

It didn't take long.

Within days Ms. Dowd had a front page story, appearing on September 16, 1987. It appeared above-the-fold just under the photo of Judge Bork defending himself in front of Biden's Senate Judiciary Committee, flanked by ex-President Gerald Ford and Senator Bob Dole.
Dowd quoted unnamed Democratic sources that were more than willing to use these revelations against Biden:
Members of rival Democratic camps, who did not want to be quoted by name, said the question of Senator Biden's appropriating passages from another's speeches was a legitimate campaign issue. ''The suggestion that the issue is who uncovered the plagiarism is a red herring,'' said one such staff member. ''The core of Joe Biden's credibility is that he is a self-proclaimed and unique visionary orator. It's like finding out General Haig never served in the Army.''
Biden withdrew from the presidential race a week later.

Since that time additional instances of plagiarism came to light including one in law school that resulting in Biden failing and having to retake a course. For the past twenty years Joe has kept his nose clean and has gone from young rising star to elder statesman.

Politics makes for strange bedfellows and even stranger feuds and enemies. With Biden now on the ticket it will be interesting to see how Dowd plays this old run-in from early in their careers.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Ultimate Get Out Of Jail Free Card

The "Get Out of Jail Free" card is held until used and then returned to the bottom of the deck. If the player who draws it does not wish to use it, then they may sell it, at any time, to another player at a price agreeable to both.
-Official Monopoly® Game Rules

Too Much of a Bad Thing
Published: August 24, 2008

According to Maureen Dowd, John McCain’s years of being tortured as a POW in Vietnam has given him the ultimate hall pass as she states in the following Dowdversion® (the only trademarked Dowd Rhetorical Device used in this very solemn column):
I was startled, but it brought home to me what a powerful get-out-of-jail-free card McCain had earned by not getting out of jail free.
Maureen then compiles a list of the things that having been held and abused for five years gets you a free pass on.

Divorcing your wife to marry an heiress.
My mom did not approve of men who cheated on their wives. She called them “long-tailed rats.”

During the 2000 race, she listened to news reports about John McCain confessing to dalliances that caused his first marriage to fall apart after he came back from his stint as a P.O.W. in Vietnam.
“A man who lives in a box for five years can do whatever he wants,” she replied matter-of-factly.
Pimping your wife in front of thousands of bikers.
The Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, the pastor who married Jenna Bush and who is part of a new Christian-based political action committee supporting Obama, recently criticized the joke McCain made at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally encouraging Cindy to enter the topless Miss Buffalo Chip contest. The McCain spokesman Brian Rogers brought out the bottomless excuse, responding with asperity that McCain’s character had been “tested and forged in ways few can fathom.”
Being late to a debate.
When the Obama crowd was miffed to learn that McCain was in a motorcade rather than in a “cone of silence” while Obama was being questioned by Rick Warren, Nicolle Wallace of the McCain camp retorted, “The insinuation from the Obama campaign that John McCain, a former prisoner of war, cheated is outrageous.”
Liking bad pop music.
As Sam Stein notes in The Huffington Post: “The senator has even brought his military record into discussion of his music tastes. Explaining that his favorite song was ‘Dancing Queen’ by Abba, he offered that his knowledge of music ‘stopped evolving when his plane intercepted a surface-to-air missile.’ ‘Dancing Queen,’ however, was produced in 1975, eight years after McCain’s plane was shot down.”
Maybe if Dubya and Cheney had known what a great all-purpose excuse being a POW was, they wouldn’t have been so eager to avoid military service.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Subtle Sabotage Strategy Conspircacy Revealed

Two Against The One
Published: August 19, 2008

We haven’t had a good fictional conservation from Maureen since the end of May when Barrack was vetting Bill. Today, Dowd’s tortured paranoid imagination takes us to a secret Senate causcusing closet where McCain and Hillary are prematurely celebrating the defeat of Obama.

They grin at each other as they lift their celebratory shots of brutally cold Stolichnaya.
Vodka being a long-standing Dowd shorthand for the chumminess between the two senators. Here at Dowd Report we dissected the Dowd obsession with drinking here, but the original appearance of the Estonain shot contest was back in October of 2006.

Dowd then notes that McCain’s current campaign echoes the themes that were field tested against Obama in the primaries:
“Oh, John, you know I love you and I’m happy to help,” Hillary says. “The themes you took from me are working great — painting Obama as an elitist and out-of-touch celebrity, when we’re rich celebrities, too. Turning his big rallies and pretty words into character flaws, charging him with playing the race card — that one always cracks me up. And accusing the media, especially NBC, of playing favorites. It’s easy to get the stupid press to navel-gaze; they’re so insecure.”
The article in The Atlantic that detailed strategies the Clinton campaign considered but rejected as being against the pale might as well have been placed on the RNC doorstep wrapped in a bow. It’s no coincidence that these came out in a way that made Hillary look high-minded for not using them while at the same time placing the attacks in the public sphere.

While hammering at Hillary is the main focus of the column, Dowd does slip in two Too Thin To Win™ swipes:
“I’m looking toward the future now, a future that looks very bright, once we send Twig Legs back to the back bench.”

“…My gals know when I say ‘We may have started on two separate paths but we’re on one journey now’ that Skinny’s journey is to the nearest exit.”
And just in fairness, a brief reference to McCain’s shoewear is meant to show that he is not genuine populist, but a rich guy with better taste in pumps than Maureen.
“…While he’s up on his high-minded pedestal, you’ll scoot past him in your Ferragamos.”
Maureen also goes back to themes that she has mined. Compare the following part of this week’s column with a column from 2007:
Looking pleased, Hillary expertly downs another shot. “His secret fear is being seen as a dumb blonde,” she says. “He wants to take a short cut to the top and pose on glossy magazine covers, but he doesn’t want to be seen as a glib pretty boy.”
Here was Obama being discussed over a year ago:
For some of us, it’s hard to fathom being upset at getting accused of looking great in a bathing suit. But his friends say it played into this Harvard grad’s fear of being seen as “a dumb blond.” He has been known to privately mock “pretty boys” (read John Edwards, the Breck Girl of 2004).
It seems FictionalClinton reads OldDowd.

It’s in these fantasy columns that Maureen really lets the wretched rhetoric fly. Perhaps inspired by the Olympic diving competition, she goes for an unheard of degree of difficulty by combining an Alliteration Alert®, a Dowdversion™ and a stale Pop Cultural Reference all into one paragraph.
McCain lifts his glass to her admiringly. “If I do say so myself, while the rookie was surfing in Hawaii, I ate his pupus for lunch. Pictures of him pushing around a golf ball while I’m pushing around Putin. Priceless.
Let’s look at that in slow motion. Depending on how you count “pupus”, there are seven p-words in there, a rarely achieved level of alliteration. Then you have the “pushing golf balls/pushing Putin” parallelism. And finally “Priceless” evokes tired Mastercard commercial memories. Dowd is clearly going for the Gold in purple prose. But like any good diver, Dowd also adds one final twist to wow the judges:
There’s a knock on the door. Jesse Jackson sticks his head into the meeting.
The non-too-subtle message here is that both erstwhile presidential candidates, the senator from New York and Jesse Jackson, are not to be considered allies of Obama. This column is the most explicit example yet of Dowd advancing what is the Subtle Sabotage Strategy™: Hillary Clinton is running her own 2012 campaign independent of and in opposition to Obama.

Whether Dowd is proved out to a cranky Cassandra or a prescient predictor remains to be seen, but it is clear who Maureen sees as the real enemy of The One. Hint: Her husband helped Maureen win a Pulitzer.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Cheerleader In Chief

Russia Is Not Jamaica
Published: August 16, 2008

Maureen Dowd is often accused of not being tough enough on the current administration, but when she she focuses on them, she let’s loose with the whole arsenal. There are three sets of Alliteration Alerts® in this paragraph alone.

After eight years, the president’s gut remains gullible. He’ll go out as he came in — ignoring reality; failing to foresee, prevent or even prepare for disasters; misinterpreting intelligence reports; misreading people; and handling crises in ways that makes them exponentially worse.
It’s no secret that 43 has a rather leisurely approach to leadership, but Maureen takes him to task with the arithmetic of the vacation.
He has spent 469 days of his presidency kicking back at his ranch, and 450 days cavorting at Camp David. And there’s still time to mountain-bike through another historic disaster.
Bush's ill-timed foray to the Olympics (while tanks were rolling in Ossetia, Putin was sitting a few seats down from Dubya at the opening ceremonies) makes him look like a lecherous frat boy instead of a world leader, prompting Maureen to give him a new Rude Name®:
We knew we could count on the cheerleader in chief to be jumping around like a kid in Beijing with bikini-clad beach volleyball players while the Re-Evil Empire was sending columns of tanks into its former republic.
And for of those keeping track, that could be taken an emasculating swipe at Bush, but since he really was a cheerleader in college, you could argue it's a clean shot.

The rest of the column is a pretty hard to argue against synopsis of the missteps we have made against the putative socialist powers. Dowd does manage to scramble one metaphor to birds nest soup standards.
China has bought so much of America that we’d be dead Peking ducks if they pulled their investments out of our market, and Russia has transformed itself from a pauper nation to a land filled with millionaires — all through our addiction to oil.
When you are cataloging the mistakes of the Bush Administration, it's tough to find the humor, even if the president himself refuses to take the job seriously.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Un-Convention-al Wisdom

Yes, She Can
Published: August 12, 2008

Nothing gets Maureen Dowd’s dander up more than an attempt by the Clintons to remain in the spotlight as long as possible. It got her excited enough to fit not one, but two, Rude Names® into a single paragraph.

You can almost hear her mind whirring: She’s amazed at how easy it was to snatch Denver away from the Obama saps. Like taking candy from a baby, except Beanpole Guy doesn’t eat candy. In just a couple of weeks, Bill and Hill were able to drag No Drama Obama into a swamp of Clinton drama.
And she gets bonus points for sneaking in a reference to Barack’s weight or lack thereof.

We also get two Shakespeare allusions, both involving mad royalty that have had their thrones stolen from them.
Hillary’s orchestrating a play within the play in Denver. Just as Hamlet used the device to show that his stepfather murdered his father, Hillary will try to show the Democrats they chose the wrong savior.

Bill continues to howl at the moon — and any reporters in the vicinity — about Obama; he’s starting to make King Lear look like Ryan Seacrest.
And the Royalty Theme® is also alluded to in this quasi-quote:
She’s obviously relishing Hillaryworld’s plans to have multiple rallies in Denver, to take out TV and print ads and to hold up signs in the hall that read “Denounce Nobama’s Coronation.”
All of this is Cassandra Dowd raising the cry (as the column title implies) that Hillary is engaging the Subliminal Sabotage Strategy to submarine the Obama candidacy to clear the way for a future run.
Hillary feels no guilt about encouraging her supporters to mess up Obama’s big moment, thus undermining his odds of beating John McCain and improving her odds of being the nominee in 2012.
In support of this, Dowd references a YouTube video (found via the Sweetness and Light blog) where Hillary is disingenuously pandering to her PUMA (Party Unity, My Ass) patrons.

In a video of a closed California fund-raiser on July 31 that surfaced on YouTube, Hillary was clearly receptive to having her name put in nomination and a roll-call vote.
Dowd is on such a roll that she even outsources her Alliteration Alerts™. The first comes from the Hillary -hijacked portions of the party platform:
Obama also allowed Hillary supporters to insert an absurd statement into the platform suggesting that media sexism spurred her loss and that “demeaning portrayals of women ... dampen the dreams of our daughters.”
And the second comes from The Atlantic dissecting the mismanagement skills of Senator Clinton:
Besides the crashing egos and screeching factions working at cross purposes, Joshua Green writes in the magazine, Hillary’s “hesitancy and habit of avoiding hard choices exacted a price that eventually sank her chances at the presidency.”
But as Maureen keeps warning us, Hillary will be back. Whether we want her or not.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Breck Girl Blowout

Keeping It Rielle
Published: August 9, 2008

Maureen Dowd is no fan of John Edwards, the former candidate that admitted to having an affair with Rielle Hunter, and the bitterness goes back nearly a decade. With this recent revelation killing his campaign career permanently, Dowd gives his sex sex scandal an eviscerating post-mortem.

Eschewing her usual rhetorical excesses, she just goes for sarcastic this week. Most galling to her is his insistence that his adultery is not as despicable as it could have been because at least his wife was not currently in chemotherapy treatment when the affair occured.

The creepiest part of his creepy confession was when he stressed to Woodruff that he cheated on Elizabeth in 2006 when her cancer was in remission. His infidelity was oncologically correct.
But the Breck Girl wants a gold star for the fact that he sent his marriage into remission when his wife was in remission. That’s special.
Like many of Dowd’s Rude Names®, Breck Girl was originated not by her, but by an anonymous Bush campaign troll that unleashed it into the wild where it took root in Maureen’s stack of useful emasculating tropes. Here it is in its first appearance from June 2003:
[T]he Breck Girl, as the Bushies call John Edwards, merely musters limp trash talk: ''Mr. President: Bring it on.''
In June of 2004, she winces at the Republican habit of trying to effeminize their opponents:
I've been struck by the nasty Republican habit of portraying opponents as less than fully masculine. They called John Edwards the ''Breck girl'' and John Kerry French-looking.
Later in the 2004 campaign, in a hatchet piece on Theresa Heinz, she once again carries the Republicans' water with this whithering aside in a colunmn titled 'Breck Girl Takes on Dr. No' (with the Dr. No reference to Dick Cheney counting as our retro-classic Movies With Maureen® this week):
The Breck Girl is already getting under the Boy King's thin skin.

President Bush should have easily knocked a question about Mr. Edwards -- nicknamed the Breck Girl by Bush officials -- out of the park. But he whiffed.
In 2006, she again pinned the blame for the nickname on the hormonal Bushies:
In 2000 and 2004, G.O.P. gunslingers played into the Western myth and mined images of manliness, feminizing Al Gore as a Beta Tree-Hugger, John Kerry as a Waffling War Wimp With a Hectoring Wife and John Edwards as his true bride, the Breck Girl.
Perhaps John Edwards never really had much hope of having a second chance at the number two slot on the ticket. A year and half ago, Maureen hinted that Barack was disdainful of the preternaturally attractive Edwards:
[Obama] has been known to privately mock “pretty boys” (read John Edwards, the Breck Girl of 2004).
Edwards 2008 campaign floundered badly, and revelations of his high-priced grooming habits didn't help. Maureen Dowd tore into him for an entire column and made reference to the viral video that she name checks this week as well.
Following his star turn primping his hair for two minutes on a YouTube video to the tune of “I Feel Pretty,” Mr. Edwards this week had to pay back the $800 charged to his campaign for two shearings at Torrenueva Hair Designs in Beverly Hills. He seems intent on proving that he is a Breck Girl — and a Material Boy.
She ended that column with this prediction:
All the haircuts in the world may not save John Edwards from a blowout.
A blowout seems to be the least of what Edwards got from Rielle. Dowd hits on their semi-professional relationship that should have raised red flags at the time but is now excruciatingly painful in hindsight.

In one of the Web films Hunter directed, he actually flirts with the blonde, laughingly telling her that his address on morality is “a great speech” and complaining, “Why don’t you hear me give it live?”
That video is full of retrospectively ironic lines (and some very uncomfortable wide-stance crotch shots), but Dowd singles out this example.
In the Hunter video titled “Plane Truths,” Edwards is relaxing on his plane, telling the out-of-frame director: “I’ve come to the personal conclusion that I actually want the country to see who I am, who I really am, but I don’t know what the result of that will be. But for me personally, I’d rather be successful or unsuccessful based on who I really am, not based on some plastic Ken doll that you put up in front of audiences.” Ken couldn’t have said it better.
The Ken doll quote brings up some bad blood between Dowd and Edwards.
Back in 2002, Edwards sent me a Ken doll dressed in bathing trunks, Rio de Janeiro Ken, with a teasing note, because he didn’t like my reference to him as a Ken doll in a column.
That column was a brief aside in a longer piece about how Democrats need to toughen up their foreign policy.
As the Democratic Ken doll John Edwards flew off to Europe to meet with NATO officials -- the CliffsNotes version of foreign policy credentials -- John Kerry tried to shed his Ken-doll skin with a big speech in Cleveland, following his announcement that he's running.
So you can feel the venom when Maureen closes the column with this parting shot:
In retrospect, the comparison was not fair — to Ken.
That's right Maureen, just wash that man right out of your hair.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Cry-Baby McCain

Woe to the land that's governed by a child.
Richard III. 2. 3

McCain’s Green-Eyed Monster
Published: August 5, 2008

If you came to Maureen Dowd today expecting more petty nit-picking of Barack Obama, you are bound to be disappointed. Instead, she has pointed her laser wit at his Republican rival and found him lacking. Part of it she sees as an age versus youth case of envy which she casts into Shakespearean terms with references to Othello, Richard III and Richard Nixon (okay, the last one isn’t a Shakespearean tragedy, but it should be)
Not since Iago and Othello obsessed on the comely Cassio, not since Richard of Gloucester killed his two nephews, not since Nixon and Johnson glowered at the glittering J.F.K., has there been such an unseemly outpouring of boy envy.
And just to dig at McCain’s grumpy old man persona a little bit more, she compares him to Fred Mertz from the I Love Lucy show in her own version of Spy magazine’s Separated at Birth™

“Now somebody else is the celebrity,” the colleague continued, while John looks in the mirror and sees his face marred by skin cancer and looks at the TV and sees his dashing self-image replaced by visions of William Frawley, with Letterman jokes about his membership in the ham radio club and adventures with wagon trains.
Green is the color of envy and Maureen’s favorite shade is pea-green. Hillary turned this hue back in February when Obama’s star was rising. Now it’s McCain’s turn to drink the Hulk juice.
Now John McCain is pea-green with envy. That’s the only explanation for why a man who prides himself on honor, a man who vowed not to take the low road in the campaign, having been mugged by W. and Rove in South Carolina in 2000, is engaging in a festival of juvenilia.
Her thesis is that McCain, supposedly the straight talking-elder statesman is the one acting like a petulant child.
The Arizona senator who built his reputation on being a brave proponent of big solutions is running a schoolyard campaign about tire gauges and Paris Hilton, childishly accusing his opponent of being too serious, too popular and not patriotic enough.
At Sulzberger High, where Maureen Dowd is the Prom Queen, Obama is the valedictorian and McCain is the leather (flight) jacketed greaser making a jerk of himself.
For McCain, being cool meant being a rogue, not a policy wonk; but Obama manages to be a cool College Bowl type, which must irk McCain, who liked to play up his bad-boy cool. Now the guy in the back of the class is shooting spitballs at the class pet and is coming off as more juvenile than daring.
Maureen blames this change of character on a Rove minion that has taken over the campaign. Steve Schmidt even comes with his own Rude Name® that predates his appearance in a Dowd column.
McCain upbraids Obama for being a poppet, while he’s becoming a puppet. His mouth is moving but the words coming out belong to his new hard-boiled strategist, Steve Schmidt, a Rove protégé, nicknamed “The Bullet” for his bald pate.
The poppet/puppet play is a particularly effective Alliteration Alert® and to close the dressing down she gives Maverick, she goes the Dowdversion® route.
Schmidt has turned Mr. Straight Talk into Mr. Desperate Straits. It’s not a good trade.
But since nothing political can’t be backtracked to a Clinton, she brings out the b-words show that even the Big Dog is a little bitter.
Unlike his wife, Bill Clinton — the master of fake sincerity — still continues to openly begrudge his party’s betrothed.
I hope this latest column silences the DowdHaters that claim she only attacks Democratic candidates. Today she has really cut McCain down to size without once effeminizing Obama. She must be serious. And that's no kidding.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Price of Pride

Mr. Darcy Comes Courting
Published: August 3, 2008

Maureen Dowd opens todays column with a paraphrased parody of the premiere paragraph from Pride and Prejudice:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Barack Obama must continue to grovel to Hillary Clinton’s dead-enders, some of whom mutter darkly that they will not only not vote for him, they will never vote for a man again.
Not only is Jane Austen's classic the Movies With Maureen® pick this week, it is the central metaphor of the column. But first we have to fit in Maureen's favorite "B" words (which when discussing Clintonistas is not the b-word you would expect).
Obama met for an hour Tuesday with three dozen top Hillaryites at a hotel here, seeking their endorsement and beguiling their begrudging.
We last saw "beguiling" back when Michelle was fist bumping and before that when he was wearing a raspberry beret. "Begrudging" got a mention just recently (along with fellow b-word bedazzling), but it first showed up back in February when Obama first became threat to Hillary's coronation. And speaking of b-words, Hillary supporters were carrying McCain's water when a foul-mouthed rapper expressed his support for Barack a little too colorfully.
Before the Obama campaign even had a chance to denounce Ludacris, one of the rappers on the senator’s iPod, Hillary Inc. started to mobilize. Susie Tompkins Buell, a former Clinton bundler, told The New York Observer that Obama had to distance himself, given Ludacris’s new song rooting for Obama to “paint the White House black” and calling Hillary the b-word.
And with the bees behind us, we get a rare Triple Alliteration Alert®:
Despite Obama’s wooing, some women aren’t warming. As Carol Marin wrote in The Chicago Sun-Times, The Lanky One is like an Alice Waters organic chicken — “sleek, elegant, beautifully prepared. Too cool” — when what many working-class women are craving is mac and cheese.
Which also leads us into the food-obsessed portion of the column. Not only is Obama now not just The One (a McCainism that the GOP is trying to pin on Dowd), but he is The Lanky One, which makes Hillary the Chubby Pantsuited One.
In The Wall Street Journal, Amy Chozick wrote that Hillary supporters — who loved their heroine’s admission that she was on Weight Watchers — were put off by Obama’s svelte, zero-body-fat figure.

“He needs to put some meat on his bones,” said Diana Koenig, a 42-year-old Texas housewife. Another Clinton voter sniffed on a Yahoo message board: “I won’t vote for any beanpole guy.”
So to summarize, Hillary's PUMA hold-outs are bitter AND overweight. But we came for some silly movie analogies, and here they come:
The odd thing is that Obama bears a distinct resemblance to the most cherished hero in chick-lit history. The senator is a modern incarnation of the clever, haughty, reserved and fastidious Mr. Darcy.
Clever, haughty, reserved, and fastidious sounds like the law firm that will sue Dowd for defamation of character if Obama loses. But she makes her case by copiously quoting the ur-text of chick-lit.
Like the leading man of Jane Austen and Bridget Jones, Obama can, as Austen wrote, draw “the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien. ...he was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased.”

The master of Pemberley “had yet to learn to be laught at,” and this sometimes caused “a deeper shade of hauteur” to “overspread his features.”
And she covers haughty with the infamous primary debate put-down.
The New Hampshire debate incident in which Obama condescendingly said, “You’re likable enough, Hillary,” was reminiscent of that early scene in “Pride and Prejudice” when Darcy coldly refuses to dance with Elizabeth Bennet, noting, “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me.”
And it's not enough to note that Obama is a manor-borne elitist, the American public seems to be having a hard time warming up to him.
If Obama is Mr. Darcy, with “his pride, his abominable pride,” then America is Elizabeth Bennet, spirited, playful, democratic, financially strained, and caught up in certain prejudices.
And Dowd's definition of "prejudice" is far more precise than it was in the Regency era.
In this political version of “Pride and Prejudice,” the prejudice is racial, with only 31 percent of white voters telling The New York Times in a survey that they had a favorable opinion of Obama, compared with 83 percent of blacks.
For the column conclusion, Maureen goes all rhetorical question including this rare interlaced Alliteration Alert®:
So the novelistic tension of the 2008 race is this: Can Obama overcome his pride and Hyde Park hauteur and win America over?
What any fan of the romance genre can tell you is that the heroine never realizes that she truly loves the guy she has been diffident to for two hundred pages until the very last chapter. Only then do they commit to each other. Let's see what page of this drama Election Day falls on.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Give 'Em Hell, Maureen

Maureen Dowd has run into controversy over the quotes she uses in the past. Most recently when a military spokesman denied a quote of General Petraeus over the political make-up of the armed forces.

But the most bizarre kerfuffle I’ve run across is being fanned by David Rothman who runs a blog about e-books of all things. He was writing a book that used the famous quote from Harry Truman:

If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.
Only he couldn’t find that quote in any of the usual sources. It’s on dozen of quote sites, but none of those cite any original sources. The best he could do was this Maureen Dowd column from March 10, 1989, back when Poppy was the Bush in the White House.
Unlike Harry Truman, who liked to say, ''If you want a friend in Washington, buy a dog,'' Mr. Bush has always had great faith in the power of personal connections. Loyalty was a quality baked into him by his parents in Greenwich, Conn., and reinforced by Skull and Bones, the Yale secret society.
Only nobody knows when or to whom Harry Truman might have said it. Rothman went to the Harry S Truman Library where the best they could do is a line from the 1975 play Give ‘Em Hell, Harry featuring career Truman impersonator James Whitmore where the line is:
"You want a friend in life, get a dog!"
The quote is now popularly linked in the public imagination with Harry Truman. It’s used by pundits and presidents and even T. Boone Pickens. It was the inspiration for a Washington Life spread featuring power couples and their dogs. Somehow I doubt a single use by Maureen Dowd would catch on so ubiquitously. Rothman has found two citations in The Gray Lady herself that predate Dowd's column, so this phrasing had been around for a while.

So what are the possible explanations? The most likely one is that Dowd either saw the play or heard of it and the quote stuck. By the time she wrote the column, that play had been around for over a decade with constant tours and a movie version. It’d be unlikely that anyone in Washington had never seen the show at least once. It's likely that the phrase had been circulating around the Georgetown cocktail party circuit for years. Either consciously or unconsciously, she changed “in life” to “in Washington” and “get a dog” to “buy a dog.”

David Rothman is like a dog with a bone on this issue. He has tried to get a hold of Maureen to ask her where she heard the quote. He's tried to get to Clark Hoyt, the Times omsbudsman that gave Dowd a slapdown for her gender bending, involved but Hoyt couldn't get excited over a story so old. The story did get picked up by Jossip, but even the usual crowd of DowdHaters have been yawning.

Maybe Harry never said it and Dowd's paraphrase of a bio-play truly is the origin. By now the phrase has entered the zeitgeist and is unlikely to leave. If Truman never said it, what changes? Is Maureen supposed to dig some original source for an offhand portion of a fifteen-year-old column to save her reputation? Are we going to hound every writer that incorrectly quotes Harry Truman? Who is going to purge the dozens of quote sites that have gotten the same quote either from Dowd or from someone that got it from Dowd or perhaps even somewhere else?

But you can't prove a negative. You can't say for certain he never said it. It's not the type of saying that he'd use in a speech like his famous "Give 'em hell" speech, nor would it have physical evidence like his The Buck Stops Here sign. But does it even matter? If Mark Twain or Winston Churchill said half the things they are credited with, they would have never been silent. If Truman didn’t say it, he should have.