Saturday, June 28, 2008

Hilarity In Unity

“It’s Over, Lady!”
Published: June 29, 2008

Let's get all the hilarity out of the way and count every nitty gritty "ity" word used in today's Maureen Dowd column:

Unity(1) was spared the banality(2) of unanimity(3).

Carmella Lewis, with her Hillary T-shirt and Hillary placard, came all the way from Denver to make sure there would be plenty of
ambiguity(4), duality(5) and ferocity(6) in Unity.
Hillary beat Maureen to the Alliteration Alert®, so Dowd goes and quotes it:
Just as Hillary was testing out the unfamiliar familiarity(7) “Barack and me” Friday and talking about “his grace and his grit,” Carmella began loudly booing and waving her sign.

amenity(8) did not stop the disunity(9).
And the Movies With Maureen®; goes back to West Side Story:
Standing between the Sharks and the Jets, David Axelrod took pity(10) on an older friend of Carmella’s who was suffering from aridity(11) in the Unity humidity(12).
And it's not a campaign column without a swipe at the Big Dog.
But the former president can’t stand being a loser, so he’s taking it out on the winner. When it comes to Bill, there’s a lot of vanity(13) but very little humility(14) in Unity.
And in this week's inexplicably tin-eared call-out, is there perhaps a less appropriate Tom Wolfe allusion to the grandson of a Lau tribesman than flack catching with the mau-maus?
It’s hard to fathom why Obama should be mau-maued into paying off the debt that Hillary and Bill accrued attacking and undermining him...
And with that we can go back to questioning Maureen's sanity(∞).

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Rove's Richie Rich Rant

More Phony Myths
Published: June 25, 2008

The crush that almost died as a result of Barack’s bitter comment (way back in April) is back. Nothing raises the hackles of a woman in love more than seeing her beau picked on.

The bully in this case is Karl Rove using last elections playbook and trying to paint Obama as a Kerry-esque elitist. Dowd had her own daydreams about Obama and sees as more of a college professory wonk. Let’s compare the two competing images of Obama.

Rove's RantDowd's Dream
“Even if you never met him, you know this guy. He’s the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by.”He might be smoking, but it would be at a cafe, hunched over a New York Times, an Atlantic magazine, his MacBook and some organic fruit-flavored tea, listening to Bob Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks” on his iPod.
Dowd uses the opening to open both barrels on Karl’s former boss (or his lackey depending on how you see that power relationship going):
He’s not Richie Rich, saved time and again by Daddy’s influence and Daddy’s friends, the one who got waved into Yale and Harvard and cushy business deals, who drank too much and snickered at the intellectuals and gave them snide nicknames.
Maureen is indulging in just a little pot calling a kettle a namecaller with the slam on snide nicknames but you get the point, which is the hypocrisy of people with patrician lines like the Scion of Prescott pretending to be common folk.
Haven’t we had enough of this hypocritical comedy of people in the elite disowning their social status for political purposes? The Bushes had to move all the way to Texas from Greenwich to make their blue blood appear more red.
Just having Rove call Obama an elitist has her seeing red, but Dowd sees nothing wrong with a little elitism:
Everyone who ever became president was in the elite one way or another, including Andrew Jackson.
And after holding back the vocabulary for a few weeks, we have three contenders for Crossword Puzzle Clue Of The Week®. The first entry is a word meaning "to outline" that is not often seen outside deconstructionist literature classes:
But even as the Republicans limn him as John Kerry, as someone who is too haughty and too “foreign,” Obama is determined not to repeat what Kerry thinks was a big mistake: not having enough money to compete against the Republicans in 2004.
Our second entry is not quite as obscure, but its interchangeable meaning, coupled with a cringe-inducing brand-name Dowdversion that brings up rather frightening mental images. The less we connect Obama with loincloths, the better.
For some of Obama’s critics, it’s a breathtaking bit of fungible principles, as though Gandhi suddenly donned a Dolce & Gabbana, or Dolce & Mahatma, loincloth.
Finally, we have a word that implies that it the Republicans that are living the pampered life:
Conservatives love playing this little game, acting as if the “elite” Democratic candidates are not in touch with people like themselves, even though the guys doing the attacking — like Rove, Limbaugh, O’Reilly and Hannity — are wealthy and cosseted.
There is one noticeable Andre The Giant-sized rhetorical thud in the column:
The cheap populism is really rich coming from Karl Rove. When was the last time he kicked back with a corncob pipe to watch professional wrestling?
Given that Barry has admitted to drug use in the past, it’s probably best we stay away from references to pipes of any variety.

But Maureen has worked herself up into a fury and lets the rhetorical questions fly:
Rove’s mythmaking about Obama won’t fly. If he means that Obama has brains, what’s wrong with that? If he means that Obama is successful, what’s wrong with that? If he means that Obama has education and intellectual sophistication, what’s wrong with that?
And if a NYT columnist wears her heart on her sleeve for the guy she wants to win the election, what’s wrong with that?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Blog Watch: Feeding Frenzy

Updated: 6/25/08 (correction in italics)

Nothing brings out the bloodlust better than an angry mob with torches and pitchforks. Time and time again, we have seen a certain pack mentality develop once there is some blood in the water. Once the feeding frenzy starts, the metaphors mix endlessly until the piranhas have nothing left to chew on but themselves.

As noted here, Media Matters recently brought up the issue of Maureen Dowd’s long-standing use of effeminizing words for male Democratic figures (particularly Barack Obama, and to a lesser degree, John Edwards) and masculine terms towards Hillary Clinton.

About the same time, the National Organization of Women named Dowd to their Election Media Hall of Shame and began a letter writing campaign to the New York Times. This led to a June 22nd column by Times Public Editor (read ombudsman) Clark Hoyt to investigate:

Peggy Aulisio of South Dartmouth, Mass., said, “A real review of your own stories and columns is warranted.” I think so too. And I think a fair reading suggests that The Times did a reasonably good job in its news articles. But Dowd’s columns about Clinton’s campaign were so loaded with language painting her as a 50-foot woman with a suffocating embrace, a conniving film noir dame and a victim dependent on her husband that they could easily have been listed in that Times article on sexism, right along with the comments of Chris Matthews, Mike Barnicle, Tucker Carlson or, for that matter, Kristol, who made the Hall of Shame for a comment on Fox News, not for his Times work.
The case against Maureen and her defense are summarized thusly:
“I’ve been twisting gender stereotypes around for 24 years,” Dowd responded. She said nobody had objected to her use of similar images about men over seven presidential campaigns. She often refers to Barack Obama as “Obambi” and has said he has a “feminine” management style. But the relentless nature of her gender-laden assault on Clinton — in 28 of 44 columns since Jan. 1 — left many readers with the strong feeling that an impermissible line had been crossed, even though, as Dowd noted, she is a columnist who is paid not to be objective.
Despite the defense of her putative boss Andrew Rosenthal, Hoyt finds Dowd worthy of a wrist slap:
Politically correct is never a term one would apply to Dowd’s commentary.
Even she, I think, by assailing Clinton in gender-heavy terms in column after column, went over the top this election season.
Media Matters immediately went back on the offensive citing Dowd’s “nobody had objected” phrase and then copiously quoting notorious Dowd critics Bob Somerby, Taylor Marsh and Molly Ivors. In her defense, these are bloggers that might be below Dowd's radar. Media Matters didn't find any mainstream media sources that match those folks for sheer DowdHatred.

Piling on, bloggers have been cackling with glee at the sight of a bastion of the New York Times Op/Ed page getting her knuckles rapped with a ruler. Her is just a partial list of blogs that jumped in to take a kick at the prone body:

Michael Calderone at Politico
Egregious Moderation
broadsheet at Salon
Greg Sargent at Talking Points Memo
digby's Hullabaloo
Conde Nast Portfolio

And those are the tip of the iceberg. I really wish I had time to go through and select the most vituperative missives, but that may have to wait for another day. If you have seen a particularly vicious Dowd Driveby inspired by Hoyt's public flogging, let me know in the comments or at the tip-line. The only blogger I've come across to come to her defense is ATLmalcontent. It seems to show some sort of lockstep at work.

I’m sure Maureen Dowd will survive this bushwhacking. For every critic, there is a silent observer that agrees with her often pithy punditry. And it would be a shame to see Dowd start to pull her punches. After all, she told Clark:
“From the time I began writing about politics,” Dowd said, “I have always played with gender stereotypes and mined them and twisted them to force the reader to be conscious of how differently we view the sexes.” Now, she said, “you are asking me to treat Hillary differently than I’ve treated the male candidates all these years, with kid gloves.”
And that just isn’t going to happen.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Crushing On Carla

Note: Some photos in this post may not be work-safe.

The Carla Effect
Published: June 22, 2008

Maureen Dowd is back from her Euro-Junket with George and she returns with a crush on the wife of prominent politician. No, not Michelle, Laura, Cindy, or even Bill, but Carla Bruni. Maureen fauns over the French vixen that has won the heart (among other organs) of Nicolas Sarkozy. This is a story too good to just let words paint, so we bring a special illustrated edition of Dowd Report today.

If an American first lady, or would-be first lady, described herself as a “tamer of men” and had a “man-eating” past filled with naked pictures, Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton, sultry prone CD covers, breaking up marriages, bragging that she believes in polygamy and polyandry rather than monogamy, and having a son with a married philosopher whose father she had had an affair with, it would take more than an appearance on “The View” to sweeten her image.
Carla Bruni was a model who posed for many “tasteful” nude pictures before becoming First Madame. When you do a GoogleImages search for Carla Bruni with SafeSearch off, it's harder to find pictures of her with her clothes on than off. Trust me on this. The photo below recently sold at auction for $91,000 dollars to a Japanese horndog collector.

One of Carla’s album covers where she is fully clothed, but just as sultry (and a little bit chilly):

And this is all in contrast to the rather tame fist-bumping Michelle does with the cacklers on Baba Wawa’s estrogen-laden talk-fest where bloggers get their undies in a wad because the potential First Lady likes to wear clothes sans sleeves.

Or if Michelle gave an interview, as Carla did in a new book, “La Véritable Histoire de Carla et Nicolas,” revealing that she fell in love with her husband for his many fertile brains.

One chapter of the book is called “Le Diable s’Habille en Carla,” or “The Devil Wears Carla.” And the most repeated anecdote is the one where Carla slyly teases the French justice minister, Rachida Dati, a Sarko protégé, as they pass by a bed in the Élysée: “You would have loved to occupy it, wouldn’t you?”
Rachida Dati (left) and Carla in formal wear.

According to British tabloid Telegraph, the incident is meant as a dig at the rather glamorous Dati for not being able to close the deal with Nicolas while Carla snuck in and snatched the brass ring, er, wedding band.
At the funeral of Yves Saint Laurent in Paris, Sarkozy got some catcalls when he got out of his car, while Carla, a former model for the designer, who calls herself “nothing more than a folk singer,” got applause and oohs and aahs.
The applause and gasps may be more for her rather daring choice of formal mourning wear that does not seem to include underwear.

As far as folk singer goes, she does like to strum the guitar even if her lyrics are more Kurt Cobain than Edith Piaf.
It’s hard to imagine the decibel level on Fox News if Michelle Obama put out a CD this summer, as Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is, with songs featuring lyrics like “I am a child/despite my 40 years/despite my 30 lovers/a child”; and this song, “Ma came”: “You are my junk/more deadly than Afghan heroin/more dangerous than Colombian white. .../My guy, I roll him up and smoke him.”

Carla, sensing the potential explosiveness of the songs has declined to tour until her hubby is out of office.
The magazine Le Point had a cover with Carla’s gleaming face and the headline “La Présidente,” with a picture inside of Sarko standing docilely behind his wife, as she sat at his desk and offered that assured feline gaze to the camera.

Alas, my navigation skilz for the French language magazine web archives were not l33t enough to find the feline gaze picture mentioned, so the cover picture will have to do.
Just as Carla charmed the Queen of England and Princes Charles and Philip with her demure French schoolgirl look, she charmed George and Laura Bush on their visit, inviting Laura 30 minutes early for a girls’ tête-à-tête, and then sitting next to the American president and keeping him entertained with a spirited conversation in English, one of her three languages and sort of his one language.
The barely pregnant Carla wowed the Royal Family on their recent visit.
At a press availability the next day, W. interrupted his own boring observation about “the importance of the Doha Round” to smilingly tell his pal Sarko: “It was a great pleasure to have been able to meet your wife. She’s a really smart, capable woman, and I can see why you married her. And I can see why she married you, too.”
Phony caption: “Come on Nikki, can’t we just swap for one night?
Those librarians can surprise you.”

No matter what Dubya thinks, Carla sure has had an effect on Maureen. She seems smitten with this sexually and politically liberated wife of a world leader. As Maureen states:
The French are different from you and me.
And as the French say: Vive la Différence!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

By George, By Jeeves

American President Pleads Guilty to Hopeless Idealism
Published: June 18, 2008

Maureen Dowd continues her European romp with Dubya and the next stop is Britain where we still have an ally, for the time being. Like the langoustes of the last column, she obsesses over the menu:

Maybe he was excited by the prospect of sharing some Gloucestershire beef, Yorkshire pudding and fruit trifle with a world leader more unpopular than he is.
Dubya’s relationship with recent prime ministers has been complicated and Maureen trots out a pack of canine metaphors.
Britain is still smarting about being cast as poodle to W.’s pit bull
Which she then randomly mixes the metaphor into Dubya as some sort of avian predator.
If Mr. Brown had any thought of promoting himself as the anti-poodle with some arm’s length body language, W. swiftly disabused him. He spread his wingspan to draw in Gordon and Sarah, and then clasped Gordon so heartily around the shoulders that the Brit was forced to grab W.’s waist in a shy embrace as they entered the building.
In another attempt to draw a parallel, she reaches for British farce and compares Bush and Brown with P. G. Wodehouse’s comic duo:
Poppy Bush was often compared to Bertie Wooster, and W. seems to have found his own stiff-backed Jeeves. Mr. Brown agreed to send more troops to Afghanistan, put more sanctions on Iran and decide on Iraq troop withdrawals based on conditions on the ground.
First off, Maureen, that was YOU that compared Poppy to Bertie. From a 1995 column titled “The Impression of Green”:
The last Administration was run by Bertie Wooster of Kennebunkport and filled with Top-Sidered Anglophiles.
That aside, in the Jeeves stories, the genial doofus Bertie is constantly having his hare-brained schemes pulled out of the fire by his preternaturally clever manservant. Dubya IS a unaware self-involved bumbling idiot, but Gordon Brown is hardly any genius in disguise and none of their plans have turned into surprise successes. Like most Dowd metaphors, I’m not sure it stands up to much scrutiny beyond its initial quasi-literary recognition value.

Dowd did unveil a new RudeName® for the veep, presumably inspired by the water-drip torture of the continuing leaks over who authorized what in our quest to extract a pound of aggressively interrogated flesh from the enemy combatants we captured.
Or perhaps after working with Torquemada Cheney all these years, W. simply feels more at home in a monarchy.
Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, but this metaphor was a little more left-field than usual. Dowd Report correspondent yellojkt did the Torquemada thing much better back when befuddled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was still around.

But Cheney is invoked in the column to rebut one of Dubya’s favorite strawmen:
He said … “There is some who say that perhaps freedom is not universal,” he asserted, adding that he rejected as elitist the notion that “maybe it’s only, you know, white-guy Methodists who are capable of self-government.”
The subject-verb agreement mangled “some” in this case are as nebulous as most of Maureen’s anonymous sources, but she gets in one last zinger.
If there’s one thing W. and Cheney have proved, beyond a sliver of a shadow of a doubt, it’s that at least two white-guy Methodists are not capable of self-government.
Maybe spreading democracy, like charity, should begin at home.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Cowboy Diplomacy

Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose,
Nothing don't mean nothing honey if it ain't free, now now.
And feeling good was easy, Lord, when he sang the blues,
You know feeling good was good enough for me,
Good enough for me and my Bobby McGee.
-Kris Kristofferson
W. Regrets Almost Nothing
Published: June 15, 2008

George Bush went to France and Maureen Dowd got to tag along. I hope it goes better for her than their trip to Saudi Arabia did. Today’s column has a Paris dateline so she must be there. W is making a greatest hits tour of Europe, but it’s not exactly selling out to packed houses.
A Bush organizer asked people sitting in the back of the hall to move to the front, so the empty seats would not be visible on TV.
President Bush gave the keynote speech of his European farewell tour extolling the virtues of liberty.

Paris responded with a yawn. (Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to say.)
The Dowdversion on the song made famous by Janis Joplin also recalls its cowboy poet author, Kris Kristofferson. And speaking of cowboys, for this piece Maureen breaks out all sorts of cowboy metaphors.
He reiterated a rhetorical sop to those who yearn for a scintilla of remorse, telling The Times of London that his gunslinging talk made him seem like a “guy really anxious for war,” and that phrases like “dead or alive” and “bring them on” “indicated to people that I was, you know, not a man of peace.”

In Old Europe, they’ve moved on, assuming that the American president has done all the damage that he can do. The blazing hostility toward W. has faded to indifference and a sort of fatigued perplexity about how les imbeciles de regime cowboy got into office, and how America could have put the world through all this craziness.
We are going to ignore the Movies With Maureen® potential of “blazing hostility” and go on to the faux French which loosely translates as “idiot cowboy administration.” Maureen dips into her nun-taught French one more time to use a phrase which means “No regrets.
On the illicit rush to war, W. ne regrette rien.

Alluding to the Edith Piaf classic "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" is triply ironic because the song has its roots in French Foreign Legion lore as France tried vainly to hang onto its empire. From Wikipedia:
Piaf dedicated her recording of the song to the French Foreign Legion. At the time of the recording, France was engaged in a military conflict, the Algerian War (1956–1962), and the 1er R E P (Premier Regiment Etranger de Parachutistes, First Regiment Foreign Paratroopers) — who had backed a temporary putsch by the French military against the civilian leadership of Algeria—adopted the song when their resistance was broken in April 1961.
Dowd claims that Dubya is trying to play on France’s sympathies as one failed imperial power to another:
He enthused that “German asparagus are fabulous,” and wryly told a Paris audience that “my hair is a lot grayer,” assuming that the French, with their history of foiled colonialism, would know why. He seemed, all these years later, intent on spiritual absolution.
The parallels between France and the US in Algeria, Vietnam, and elsewhere would seem to be a cautionary tale that Dubya is deaf to, but Maureen sees a deeper drama happening.
In this case, the words, while dime-store Western, were not the problem. The actions were the problem. W. was really anxious for war. He felt that if he could change Middle East history, he could jump out of his father’s shadow forever.
Because his dad failed to march to Baghdad, Bush the Younger is determined to stick by his own course of action.
A Democratic lawmaker who saw the president in the Oval Office recently and urged him to bring the troops home from Iraq quickly recounted that W. got a stony look and replied that 41 had abandoned the Iraqis and thousands got slaughtered. “I will never do that to them,” 43 said.

Sounds like Oedipal déjà vu all over again.
And Greek tragedies, even when translated into French and set in the Old West, never end well.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Pulling Punches

Mincing Up Michelle
Published: June 11, 2008

The mean people in the punditry class are attacking a powerful outspoken female figure and Maureen Dowd is rushing to her defense. Not Hillary, silly. Michelle.

It’s good news for Obama that Hillary’s out of the race. But it’s also bad news. Now Republicans can turn their full attention to demonizing Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama is the new, unwilling contestant in Round Two of the sulfurous national game of “Kill the witch.”
The fire and brimstone images are in direct contrast to the Saint Barack language she usually uses. Dowd is defending the distaff Obama, but when Dowd comes to your rescue, she brings gasoline to the bucket brigade. She provides a link to an anti-Obama site.
There are creepy Web sites, like, dedicated to painting Michelle as a female version of Jeremiah Wright, an angry black woman, the disgruntled, lecturing “Mrs. Grievance” depicted on the cover of National Review.

On that site and others around the Internet, the seamy rumors still slither that there’s a tape of Michelle denouncing “whitey,” a rumor that Barack Obama disdained last week as “scurrilous.”
"Still slither is as close to a decent Alliteration Alert® as we are going to get today. That mythical tape (and if it does exist, it is now stored next to Dubya’s Air National Guard records and the Ark of the Covenant) is described on that site as such:
For about 30 minutes, Michelle Obama launched into a rant about the evils of America, and how America is to blame for the problems of Africa. Michelle personally blamed President Clinton for the deaths of millions of Africans and said America is responsible for the genocide of the Tutsis and other ethnic groups. She then launched into an attack on "whitey", and talked about solutions to black on black crime in the realm of diverting those actions onto white America.
I’m sure the anti-Obama wingnuts are thanking Michelle for the link. Dowd continues to map out the whisper strategy they will use on Michelle:
In their narrative of how Hillary lost in The Times on Sunday, Jim Rutenberg and Peter Baker said that Mark Penn argued that Hillary should subtly stress Obama’s “lack of American roots.”

That’s a good preview of how Republicans will attack Michelle, suggesting that she does not share American values, mining a subtext of race.
But Michelle is as all-American as Oprah. A success story that mirrors other successful politicians and their wives. We have had Ivy League educated power couples before. Some even were radical protesters in their campus days, but Maureen gets in a little dig:
She’s a devoted daughter, wife and mother who has lived the American dream, from the humble South Side of Chicago to Harvard Law School. Hey, isn’t it totally unAmerican to complain that being a black woman in the ’80s at a class-conscious, white-bread college, Princeton, was somewhat uncomfortable?
Maureen also brings up a Faux News incident:
E.D. Hill, the Fox anchor who said that the celebrated fist pump between Michelle and her husband the night he snagged the nomination could be called a “terrorist fist jab,” apologized Tuesday.
To prove that she is still hep to the various non-traditional handshakes of today’s youngsters, she slips in some lingo to burnish her bonafides.
The dap or pound, as it’s also called, was a natural and beguiling moment…
From the Wikipedia article on dap greetings (and who could doubt Wiki's credentials), there is this tidbit:
Daps are also used by underground terror cells as greetings or calls to action.
Hmm… Maybe that Hill fellow gal has a point. Or perhaps he she just has a Wikipedia editing account.

With Hillary out of the way, expect a lot more anti-feminist ire aimed at the urbane but often off-message Michelle. And be sure that Maureen will be there to discern what it means. Right now Dowd is pulling her punches as the Obamas enjoy their post-primary honeymoon, but the time will come when the gloves come off.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

No Duh

Media Matters, the liberal watchdog group aimed at exposing conservative bias and founded by several Clinton supporters, has come out with a shocking revelation:

A Media Matters for America review of Maureen Dowd's New York Times columns between January 1, 2007, and June 8, 2008, reveals that Dowd has frequently characterized this election cycle's leading Democratic candidates -- Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and former Sen. John Edwards (NC) -- using gendered language, specifically characterizing Clinton as masculine, and Obama and Edwards as feminine.
Shocking, huh? They could have read my blog and figured that out. For two entries I even went to the trouble of highlighting the effeminizing words in pink.

Their "expose" then goes on and highlights every instance where Obama is portrayed as anything less than John Wayne macho and every case of Hillary being called The Man or anything remotely masculine.

And the point of this seemingly pointless exercise? I'm not quite sure. They do note that Dowd discussed Republican candidates far less often and, except for Rudy Giuliani's penchant for dressing in women's clothes, in less gender stereotyped terms. John McCain did get called McDiva and Mike Huckabee escaped her dress-up games altogether.

I have bookmarked the article as a useful shortcut to all sorts of perceived slurs and innuendos that they were nice enough to footnote in small print by candidate and column date. Or you could just keep reading Dowd Report and we will keep you abreast of all the sexist tirades that continue to drive the humorless Media Matters mavens insane.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Et Tu, MoDo?

Watch Out, Meryl Streep!
She’s a Master Thespian.
Published: June 8, 2008

Maureen Dowd comes not to praise the Clinton campaign, but to bury it.

…through humiliation and pain, she has shown herself to be a skilled survivor. She said she embraces the old saying, “Fake it till you make it.”
With Hillary singing her swan song, the Movies With Maureen® is no longer Elizabeth and Essex like it was back in March, but Norma Rae:
…as a presidential candidate, she morphed from Queen Elizabeth I to Norma Rae, as Newsweek put it.
Let’s put the Newsweek quote into context.
While Clinton veered between playing Queen Elizabeth I and Norma Rae, Obama and his team chugged along with a superior 50-state campaign strategy, racking up the delegates.
There is a bigger metaphor here. Queen Elizabeth was reluctant monarch who went on to rule her country during one of its greatest eras. Norma Rae was a hardscrabble working woman who organized her coworkers in a seemingly hopeless struggle. Hillary in the course of the campaign had gone from the heir apparent to the the scrappy underdog only without the strings-swelling happy ending.

To belabor the Royalty Metaphor®, Hillary is about to be marginalized as the leader of a constituency that the Democratic Party needs rather than becoming its standard bearer.
She will help Obama be king, if he lets her be queen of the women.

…she started her presidential campaign wearing an off-putting ermine robe of entitlement and presumption.
And the "ermine robe of entitlement" leads us to this week's Alliteration Alerts®:
After the roiling rollout of the Clinton administration, a sad and unnerved Hillary sought answers from self-help gurus like Jean Houston.

She still doesn’t believe Obama can win, but she knows she can move ahead only as a beguiler, not a begrudger.

Or maybe Hillary’s grit and gall allowed them to easily envision her cuffing generals and dictators.
But Maureen keeps her eye on the big picture and surmises:
I don’t believe Hillary’s campaign will cause a backlash. As long as her Denver Liberation Army doesn’t cause Obama to lose, it may well be good for women.
And while the DLA RudeName® conjures images of strident, comfortable shoe-wearing Clintonistas marching on the convention, Dowd manages a few more wisps of faint praise:
Hillary thrillingly proved herself the best debater and the toughest candidate while being shorter and having the higher voice.

She didn’t lose because she was a woman. She didn’t lose because America isn’t ready for a woman as president. She lost because of her own — and her husband’s and Mark Penn’s — fatal missteps.
And with that less than elegant oratory, the last nail is hammered into the coffin of the courageous but outfought Clinton campaign. Now it's Hillary's turn to see if she can win awards in the supporting roles because her supporters really like her.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

No Happy Ending

She’s Still Here!
Published: June 4, 2008

Part of the drama of the primary season has been watching Maureen Dowd scramble every Tuesday night to stick some news peg into her Wednesday column. Her sportswriter training taught her a valuable tip about writing on deadline: Have all the post-game analysis written before the players take the field. That way all you have to do is stick the scores in the right place and file the article before last call.

The “winner” of the final primary has been a foregone conclusion for a while and pundits have been waiting for the Kabuki theater to play out. The only suspense has been what will Hillary say. And if you were expecting a gracious concession, you’d be disappointed. Here is Dowd’s sigh of exasperation with one final none-too-subtly disguised Obambi:

He thought a little thing like winning would stop her?

Oh, Bambi.

Whoever said that after denial comes acceptance hadn’t met the Clintons.

If Hillary could not have an acceptance speech, she wasn’t going to have acceptance.
And the acceptance line is first of several Dowdversions®. The much better one is:
But even as Obama was trying to savor, Hillary was refusing to sever.
As befits a valedictory farewell, several common Dowd themes are recalled, dusted off, and buffed up. If Bill Clinton is The Big Dog, then Hillary is a yappie Jack Russell Terrier that refuses to admit to being outmatched:
Barry has been trying to shake off Hillary and pivot for quite a long time now, but she has managed to keep her teeth in his ankle and raise serious doubts about his potency.
And potency is just one of a few emasculating asides. Seriously, can anyone else get away with calling Barrack a sistah?
Hillary’s camp radiated the message that Obama was a sucker who had played by the rules on Florida and Michigan, and then reached an appeasing compromise, and that such a weak sister could never handle Putin or I’m-A-Dinner-Jacket.
And Maureen will use that Iranian rhyming slang until her last dying day.

Another common theme is Obama as Magical Negro, although perhaps with a devilish twist:
As he was reaching the magic number of delegates, she was devilishly stealing the spotlight.
We get yet another random Movies With Maureen® reference to Gone With The Wind :
She did not bat her eyelashes at him and proclaim him Rhett Butler instead of Ashley Wilkes.
In order to inject some actual analysis, she posits two theories about Hillary’s against all hope last ditch strategy:
Theory No. 1 is that it’s the Cassandra “I told you so” gambit: She believes intensely that he’s too black, too weak and too elitist — with all his salmon and organic tea and steamed broccoli — to beat her pal John McCain. But she has to pretend she’ll do “whatever it takes,” even accept the vice presidency, a job she’s already had and doesn’t want again, so that nobody will blame her when he loses on Nov. 4. Then she can power on to 2012.

Theory No. 2 is that it’s a “Bad stuff happens” maneuver, exemplified in her gaffe about the R.F.K. assassination, that she figures that at least if she moves a few blocks from Embassy Row to the Naval Observatory, she’ll be a heartbeat away from the job she’s always wanted.
Rather than dwell on the RFK analogy, I prefer to call this the We Are Marshall Strategy. Accidents happen and it is best to be prepared. Either theory relies on Obama listening to the demands that Hillary has earned a place on the ticket. And Maureen has a response:
“It would be,” said one influential Democrat, “like finding out there’s no tooth fairy.”
And Hillary knows all about fairy tales. She just can’t quite catch that happy-ever-after ending. In the meantime she is just sitting in the theater watching the credits roll wondering what happened to her script.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Gut Check

All your life you live so close to truth it becomes a permanent blur in the corner of your eye. And when something nudges it into outline, it's like being ambushed by a grotesque.
-Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead
Cult of Deception
Published: June 1, 2008

Maureen Dowd reflects on the revelations of Scott McClellan’s book What Happened (which should really include a question mark in the title) and comes up with this conclusion:
They say that every president gets the psychoanalyst he deserves. And every Hamlet gets his Rosencrantz.
Either they had a James Coburn marathon on Movies With Maureen® last night or Dowd has been reading Bush On The Couch by Justin Frank. Either way she concludes that McClellan is Rosencrantz to Bush’s Hamlet, a former friend tasked with betraying the hero. Only in the Shakespearean version, the tables get turned and Rosencrantz gets the shaft.

In the nearly equally famous Tom Stoppard play, Rozencrantz (and mirror image Guildenstern) stumble around cluelessly never quite realizing the significance of the events around them. Either way, calling McClellan Rosencrantz is not quite a compliment.

Behind alliteration, one of Maureen Dowd’s favorite rhetorical devises is the Dowdversion®, a sentence with a parallel structure but with a twist or a pun in it. At the top of the column she tries three with little success.
So now comes Scott McClellan, once the most loyal of the Texas Bushies, to reveal “What Happened,” as the title of his book promises, to turn W. from a genial, humble, bipartisan good ol’ boy to a delusional, disconnected, arrogant, ideological flop.
The first one isn’t bad with lots and lots of adjectival opposites but no real panache. She moves on (while calling McClellan a bit of a dunce) to this one:
Although his analytical skills are extremely limited, the former White House press secretary — Secret Service code name Matrix — takes a stab at illuminating Junior’s bumpy and improbable boomerang journey from family black sheep and famous screw-up back to family black sheep and famous screw-up.
This one is better because the twist is that there is no twist. Dubya always has been and always will be a moronic loser besmirching the proud patrician Bush line. He aspires to be Jeb but only ends up making Neil look like the honest one.
How did W. start out wanting to restore honor and dignity to the White House and end up scraping all the honor and dignity off the White House?
This is the worst of the bunch with the only difference between the two being changing "restore" to "scraping". These three rhetorical retorts are not her best work and you can almost see the scratch-out lines as she keeps trying to come up with one worthy of her reputation.

Instead she goes with her gut and appropriates a recent best seller that insists that first instincts are best and that second guessing is counterproductive.
It turns out that our president is a one-man refutation of Malcolm Gladwell’s best seller “Blink,” about the value of trusting your gut.

Every gut instinct he had was wildly off the mark and hideously damaging to all concerned.

It seems that if you trust your gut without ever feeding your gut any facts or news or contrary opinions, if you keep your gut on a steady diet of grandiosity, ignorance, sycophants, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, those snap decisions can be ruinous.
She ties the metaphorical meaning of gut with the word diet to mention PBJ sandwiches, Dubya’s favorite food. By doing so, she infantilizes Bush and makes him seem like a petulant school kid, which many other kiss-and-tell tomes have done as well.

The faint praise that Dowd throws McClellan’s way is that he finally did the right thing for the most petty of reasons.
We already know What Happened, but it feels good to hear Scott say it. His conscience was spurred by hurt feelings.

In Washington, it is rarely the geopolitical or human consequences that cause people to turn on leaders behaving immorally. The town is far more narcissistic and practical than that.
Dowd then compares him to Colin Powell and George Tenant, two other insiders turned pariah for the crime of leaving the administration inner circle. She claims that they didn’t jump off the Bush bandwagon out of any ideological or philosophical awakening, but because they caught on that they were being manipulated and used. McClellan’s camel straw was that Bush knew that Scooter Libby had dissembled about Victoria Plame and didn’t care.
And that was even before “the breaking point,” when he learned the worst about his idol — that the president who had denounced leaks about his warrantless surveillance program, who had promised to fire anyone leaking classified information about Plame, was himself the one who authorized Dick Cheney to let Scooter leak part of the top-secret National Intelligence Estimate.

“Yeah, I did,” Mr. Bush told his sap of a press secretary on Air Force One. His tone, the stunned McClellan said, was “as if discussing something no more important than a baseball score.”
Clearly, Dowd doesn't think highly of McClellan's skills. And the last Dowdversion® of the day is the most damning:
[Bush] was always wrong, but always very clear.
And that is clearly how Scottie the Press Secretary got duped for so long. He never quite knew what was so wrong about what he did. And he clearly never realized in his gut that he was being used and discarded like a bit player who thinks that the world has grown honest.