Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Going Off Script

Screenplay by

Maureen Dowd
Revised third draft
© Oct. 29, 2008

Inspired by the success of former boyfriend Aaron Sorkin's guest turn as a columnist, Maureen Dowd tries her hand at screenwriting, complete in Final Draft style with courier font and everything. The title of course, connects the Meryl Streep movie about fashion writing with Sarah Palin's recently revealed shopping spree.

But first, let's meet the players:

NICOLLE WALLACE, a slender, preppie-looking blonde wearing a string of pearls...She is a top McCain adviser under STEVE SCHMIDT who has been seconded to SARAH PALIN.
Nicolle Wallace née Devenish is a White House Communications Director and current McCain campaign spokesperson.
TRACEY SCHMITT, another blonde sorority type in pearls, also a Bush person who became a McCain person who was then sent over to manage PALIN as her press secretary.
Formerly the spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.
(photo courtesy of Mediabistro)
And now for some highlights:


Steve’s freaking out. You know how he is about message discipline, much less completely losing a candidate. He’s got enough on his plate scaring the nursing-home Jews in Florida and painting Obama as a Palestinian Marxist Madrassa Child.

Steve Schmidt (no relation to Tracey) is McCain's senior campaign strategist, previously described by Maureen as "a Rove protégé, nicknamed “The Bullet” for his bald pate."


She’s probably at The Weekly Standard, plotting her shining city on the tundra with Fred Barnes and Bill Kristol. I can’t believe Barnes called me a coward because I tried to update that $30 Wasilla beehive that made her look like the girlfriend in an Elvis movie and upgrade her from pleather to leather.

Palin's rise to national prominence is often traced back to some kaffeeklatsches she had with the two prominent neocons during shoreleave from a Weekly Standard Alaska cruise.


Look, Tracey, maybe Sarah doesn’t know who Berlusconi is, but she does know who Valentino is. She saw those labels. She knew we were being sartorial socialists and spreading the wealth to Neiman’s and Saks. She liked being pampered like a movie star. We should have learned from W. If you can keep a war off budget, why can’t you keep a wardrobe off budget? I told the press if someone wants to throw me under the bus, my personal belief is that the most graceful thing to do is lie there.

Silvio Berlusconi is the prime minister of Italy and his name only sounds like a famous designer. We also get in this quote the Alliteration Alert® of "sartorial socialists" and the war/wardrobe Dowdversion®. Some nice really tight scriptwriting from Dowd. And the thrown under the bus metaphor is real.


I’ll be glad when this blind date from hell is over and I can get away from the dysfunctional Palin clan and back to walking my dog, Lily, in Central Park with my pinko liberal friends. I knew Katie would be brutal, but thank God I arranged that interview because now I can go back to my gig as a political analyst at CBS.

In the revolving door world of the punditocracy, Wallace was political analyst for the CBS Evening News until May 2008.


You betcha!
And scene.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Palin's Pretty Woman Shopping Spree

A Makeover With an Ugly Gloss
Published: October 26, 2008

Anyone thinking Maureen Dowd wouldn’t go off on the reports of Sarah Palin’s $150,000 shopping spree was sadly mistaken.

Politico broke the news that the Republican National Committee spent over $150,000 on a “Pretty Woman”-style shopping spree for Palin, including about $75,000 at Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis and nearly $50,000 at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York and St. Louis.
But the Julia Roberts "hooker with a heart of gold and credit card of platinum" movie isn’t the only Movies With Maureen® we get. She also returns to the My Fair Lady motif she mined back in the “My Fair Veep” column.
Instead, with the economy cratering and the McCain campaign running on an “average Joe” theme, dunderheaded aides, led by the former Bushies Nicolle Wallace and Tracey Schmitt, costumed their Eliza Doolittle for a ball when she should have been dressing for a bailout.
And it seems the Cockney flower girl make-over metaphor went as far as actually hiring Sarah a diction coach to make sure "the snow in Juneau falls mainly on the moose."
In The New York Times Magazine today, Robert Draper reveals that the campaign also hired a former New York stage and screen actress, Priscilla Shanks, to be her voice coach for the convention. The expense was listed in finance reports as Operating Expenditures and Get-Out-The-Vote consulting. Apparently getting out the vote includes teaching a potential vice president the correct way to pronounce “nuclear.”
And just to drum in the Palin-as-plaything point, Maureen extends the Barbie metaphor to breaking.
McCain advisers have been scathing about the “sexism” of critics who dismiss Sarah Palin as Caribou Barbie.

How odd then, to learn that McCain advisers have been treating their own vice presidential candidate like Valentino Barbie, dressing her up in fancy clothes and endlessly playing with her hair.
Dowd also deploys a pretty clever Dowdversion™ stealing VH1's "Best Week Ever" upgrade/downgrade bit.
The sartorial upgrade was bound to turn into a strategy downgrade, as Palin pressed her case as a homespun gal who was ever so much more American than the elite, foreignish Obama, while she was gussied up in Italian couture.
And some nice Alliteration Alerts® are buried in this line:
The Republicans’ attempt to make the case that Barack Obama is hoity-toity and they’re hoi polloi has fallen under the sheer weight of the stunning numbers:

The McCains own 13 cars, eight homes and access to a corporate jet, and Cindy had her Marie Antoinette moment at the convention.
To drive home the “let them eat cake” hypocrisy of the candidates, Dowd enumerates the convention night couture on parade.
Vanity Fair calculated that her outfit cost $300,000, with three-carat diamond earrings worth $280,000, an Oscar de la Renta dress valued at $3,000, a Chanel white ceramic watch clocking in at $4,500 and a four-strand pearl necklace worth between $11,000 and $25,000. While presenting herself as an I’m-just-like-you hockey mom frugal enough to put the Alaska state plane up for sale on eBay, Palin made her big speech at the convention wearing a $2,500 cream silk Valentino jacket that the McCain staff had gotten her at Saks.
Maureen also pays Palin two rather left-handed compliments:
She is so naturally good-looking, there is no need to gild the Last Frontier lily.
As a former beauty pageant contestant and sports anchor on TV, Palin already seemed on top of her grooming before the McCain campaign made her traveling makeup artist, Amy Strozzi, the highest-paid individual on the campaign for the first two weeks of October.
At the end of the column, Maureen makes a suspicious presidential succession assumption.
The conservative big shots who have not deserted Palin and still think she can be Reagan in a Valentino skirt are furious at those who have mishandled the governor and dimmed her star power. They mourn that she may have to wait now until 2016 to get rid of the phony stench of designer populism.

Makeovers are every woman’s dream. But this makeover has simply pushed back Palin’s dream of being president.
This scenario seems to assume that if the McCain/Palin ticket would win that McCain wouldn’t survive two full terms. Hoping for that sort of tragic upgrade is too much for even a Cinderella-in-go-go-boots to hope for.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Maureen's College Tour

The normally reticent Maureen Dowd has been doing more public appearances than usual lately. Near the end of September she made two appearances at Angelo State University. The first was to a select group of journalism and politics students and a second to the general public. An article on the Go San Angelo website offers plenty of bon mots, but the most relevant to this blogger was this:

Blogging - With so many people producing so much commentary on the Internet, originality becomes more difficult, she said.
Then on October 20, she made a joint appearance at the University of Nevada Las Vegas with fellow New York Times columnist Alessandra Stanley as part of the Moskow Distinguished Speaker Series. The article in the Rebel Yell (which is also the source of the accompanying picture) had this to say:
Dowd and Stanley touched on recent and current events, particularly the 2008 presidential campaigns of Seantors Barack Obama and John McCain, the "MBA presidency" of George W. Bush and media influence on politics.
Her trend of West Coast junkets continues next month with a trip to UC-Santa Barbara. The appearance is being puffed thusly:
The only female op-ed columnist at The New York Times, Dowd is known for her witty, incisive and often acerbic portraits of the powerful. She became a media celebrity for her withering attacks on President Bill Clinton’s infamous affair and his accusers.
Couldn't have said it better myself. More details including how to get tickets can be found here.

As always, here at Dowd Central we are always looking for quotes and sightings of the Times's loveliest twice-weekly op-ed columnist.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Colin's Courage

Moved by a Crescent
Published: October 21, 2008

Maureen Dowd in an abnormally subdued column pays tribute to Colin Powell's courage in overcoming his party affiliation to endorse Barack Obama.

But what sent him over the edge and made him realize he had to speak out was when he opened his New Yorker three weeks ago and saw a picture of a mother pressing her head against the gravestone of her son, a 20-year-old soldier who had been killed in Iraq. On the headstone were engraved his name, Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, his awards — the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star — and a crescent and a star to denote his Islamic faith.
That picture and the accompanying New Yorker article can be found here. The caption simply says:
Elsheba Khan at the grave of her son, Specialist Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan.
But Maureen digs a little deeper and quotes the year-old obituary from the Newark Star-Ledger.
His obituary in The Star-Ledger of Newark said that he had sent his family back pictures of himself playing soccer with Iraqi children and hugging a smiling young Iraqi boy.
This image was enough for Colin Powell to break ranks with his party and call-out often unsubtle religious bigotry being paraded on the campaign trail.
In a gratifying “have you no sense of decency, Sir and Madam?” moment, Colin Powell went on “Meet the Press” on Sunday and talked about Khan, and the unseemly ways John McCain and Palin have been polarizing the country to try to get elected. It was a tonic to hear someone push back so clearly on ugly innuendo.
Dowd deliberately invokes the words of Joseph Welch's rebuke of Senator Joe McCarthy during his witch hunts. This time whispers of "Muslim" have replaced "communist" as the short-hand for "anti-American."

The column is not completely free of Dowdisms. She does combine a Rude Name and a Crossword Clue in a swipe at Colin's former commander-in-chief.
Even though he watched W. in 2000 make the argument that his lack of foreign policy experience would be offset by the fact that he was surrounded by pros — Powell himself was one of the regents brought in to guide the bumptious Texas dauphin — Powell makes that same argument now for Obama.
Dowd last used 'dauphin' to insult W. just over a year ago. She sums up with Powell's words that now refer to a new politician.
“Experience is helpful,” he says, “but it is judgment that matters.”
And the value of judgment is being able to turn mistakes into valuable experience, something that is not happening in the current White House.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Let The Tumbrels Rumble

After W., Le Deluge
Published: October 18, 2008

Maureen Dowd, the Queen Bee of the Forth Estate has decreed that the current economic disaster be compared to the French Revolution. Let’s go through the references.

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times.
Since most people’s knowledge of the French Revolution starts and ends with A Tale of Two Cities, that is where Maureen starts, fittingly with the first line from Charles Dickens's high school reading list classic. She then moves on to the book’s famous plotting knitter.
I’m feeling as vengeful and bloodthirsty as Madame Defarge sharpening her knitting needles at the guillotine.
But it doesn’t end there. She makes a decent pun on Reign of Terror by recasting it as Dubya’s more mistake prone epoch.
The best of times because W.’s long Reign of Error is about to end.
She also makes reference to Marie Antoinette:
In an astonishing let-them-eat-cake moment, the A.I.G. big shot Sebastian Preil held court at the bar and told an undercover reporter, “The recession will go on until about 2011, but the shooting was great today and we are relaxing fine.”
And finally, the Crossword Puzzle Clue Of The Week is also guillotine related. A tumbrel is “a crude cart used to carry condemned prisoners to their place of execution, as during the French Revolution.”
I can’t wait to see the tumbrels rumble up and down Wall Street picking up the heedless and greedy financial aristocracy that plundered and sundered free-market capitalism.
Dowd also raises the bonus degree of difficulty of sneaking in two internal rhymes into that one sentence.

Most of the article is outrage directed at the outrageous behavior of AIG executives who are beyond the ability to be shamed publicly. Dowd suggests public mockery.
The New York Times should follow up the excellent Portraits of Grief it did after 9/11 with Portraits of Greed.
But beyond the storming the Bastille rhetoric, she saves some asides for McCain’s latest living metaphor.
The paper reported that the A.I.G. revelers stayed at Plumber Manor — not the ancestral home of Joe the Plumber, a 17th-century country house in Dorset — and spent $17,500 for food and rooms.
Poor Joe is also the victim of another aside:
John McCain wasted his last-chance debate Wednesday by trying to stir up faux class rage against Barack Obama with Joe the Unvetted Plumber instead of tapping into the real class rage the country feels over bailing out ungrateful financiers who gambled away the life savings of working people.
And when it comes to expressing class rage, nobody outclasses Maureen.
Heads must roll.
And when Maureen says "Off with their head!" Somebody gets a really really close shave.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Palin Pundit Peace Prize

Those Hard-Boiled Eggheads
Published: October 14, 2008

As noted here, fellow NYT columnist Paul Krugman won the Nobel Prize for Economics and Maureen Dowd is not happy.

I’m not sending Paul Krugman Champagne.

He won the Nobel prize in economics this week, and while I’m sure that’s delightful for him, it has raised the bar to an impossible height for his fellow columnists at The Times. We used to strive for Pulitzers, or simply regional awards, or even just try to top each other on the paper’s most e-mailed list.

Now we’re supposed to compete for Nobels?
Her idea to top that and regain cock of the walk status? A Nobel of her own! But which one?
A Nobel in economics is out. I didn’t take economics in college because all the classes started at 8 a.m. Physics, chemistry and medicine are out. Literature? They’ve given up giving it to Americans. So it’s going to have to be the Nobel Peace Prize.
As a plan she settles on trying to get disgruntled conservatives to rally around Palin. Here's how it goes:

On Tuesday, Matthew Dowd (seen here in an exclusive photo kibbutzing with Maureen following a "This Week" appearance), the former Bush strategist who offered a famous apologia for helping get W. re-elected, offered a scorching assessment of Palin’s not being ready, saying that McCain “knows that in his gut. And when this race is over, that is something he will have to live with. ... He put somebody unqualified on that ballot, and he put the country at risk.”

Christopher Hitchens endorsed Barack Obama on Slate on Monday, calling Palin’s conduct “a national disgrace” and writing: “Given the nasty and lowly task of stirring up the whack-job fringe of the party’s right wing and of recycling patent falsehoods about Obama’s position on Afghanistan, she has drawn upon the only talent that she apparently possesses.”

Christopher Buckley endorsed Obama on The Daily Beast, writing of McCain’s embrace of Palin: “What on earth can he have been thinking?” (The endorsement led to Buckley’s resigning from The National Review, founded by his father.)

On “The Colbert Report” on Monday, the conservative columnist Kathleen Parker stuck by her assertion, which she said caused the base to treat her like a traitor, that Palin should have bowed out. She said she’d gotten some secret e-mails from Republicans in the White House agreeing with her.

William Kristol, a Palin fan who thinks she has been horribly managed, wrote in The Times on Monday that McCain should fire his campaign for malpractice.
I called Kristol and asked him if he thought Palin could grow into the next Reagan, reminding him that he was outnumbered by conservatives recoiling from her.

“Conservative eggheads are my friends,” he said, “but politically they’re a contrarian indicator. If they’re down on Palin, things are looking up for her. With all due respect for my fellow eggheads, they are underestimating the importance of a natural political gift or star quality. It matters a lot.”

David Brooks, speaking at an Atlantic Magazine event, called Palin “a fatal cancer to the Republican Party,” bemoaning the fact that she did not fit in with the late William Buckley’s desire to have a party that celebrated ideas and learning.
I called Brooks, who conceded: “Her political delivery skills are incredible.”

So you agree with Kristol that she might be a star in the party? Could Palin be the nominee in 2012?

“The short answer is no,” Brooks said. “She has reinforced the worst of talk-radio culture. The party will need a leader to strike out in a new direction, a fiscally conservative president more like a high-tech Teddy Roosevelt. Someone with gravitas.”
Her hopes dashed, Maureen concedes defeat.
So much for brokering a peace accord. I’ll have to leave the eggheads boiling.
Perhaps she would have better luck brokering peace with the Palestinians than the Palinistas.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Nobel Envy

Maureen Dowd's fellow Op/Ed page stablemate Paul Krugman won the Nobel Prize for Economics this year. The NYT article seems unduly restrained:

Mr. Krugman, 55, a professor at Princeton University in New Jersey and a columnist for The New York Times, formulated a new theory to answer questions about free trade, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said.
And the prize comes with serious coin, as long as you have someplace to spend ten million kronor. Sure makes Maureen's mere Pultzer look a little shabby.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Lost In Translation

Are We Rome? Tu Betchus!
Published: October 11, 2008

Running out of gimmicks, Maureen Dowd has stumbled onto a new one. Riffing on comparisons between the United States and the fall of the Roman Empire, she decides to translate her standard generic column into Lipstick-On-A-Pig-Latin. Continuing her proud tradition of out-sourcing her work whenever possible, she enlisted a real history professor, who is clearly unconcerned with his tenure hopes, to do the heavy lifting.

I enlisted Gary D. Farney, an associate professor of history at Rutgers University, to translate (loosely and creatively) from English to Latin “The Battle of Gall,” my take below on why the hyperventilating Republicans are not veni, vidi, vici-ing.
Dr. Farney teaches Ancient Greek and Roman History and according to Rate-My-Professor he is hard but fair with a strong resemblance to Radar O'Reilly.

Let's see if we can identify the distinguishing features of Dowd column even when quasi-translated to a dead language.

Punny Titles
Bellum Gallium
Her column within a column translates to "The Gallic Wars" which is the title of Julius Caesar's famous book or "The Battle of Gall" which puns on the meaning of gall as "bitterness of feeling; rancor." The column is about the bitter tactics that the Republicans are resorting to in the homestretch of the campaign. "Gall" is one of Dowd's favorite words, having called a column last year "Gift of Gall."

Alliteration Alerts™
Manes Julii Caesaris paucis diebus aderant — “O, most bloody sight!” — cum Ioannes McCainus, mavericus et veteranus captivusque Belli Francoindosinini, et Sara Palina, barracuda borealis, qui sneerare amant Baracum Obamam causa oratorii, pillorant ut demagogi veri, Africanum-Americanum senatorem Terrae Lincolni, ad Republicanas rallias.
Sentences with silly internal rhyme:
Vix quisque audivit nomen “Palinae” ante lunibus paucis. Surgivit ex suo tanning bed ad silvas in Terram Eskimorum, rogans quis sit traitorosus, ominosus, scurrilosus, periculosus amator LXs terroris criminalisque Chicagoani? Tu betchus.
Lindsay Lohan movie reference:
Vilmingtoni, in Ohionem, McCain’s Mean Girl (Ferox Puella) defendit se gladiatricem politicam esse: “Pauci dicant, O Jupiter, te negativam esse. Non, negativa non sum, sed verissima.”
Vicious personal nick-names:
Maverici, ut capiunt auxilium de friga-domina, hench-femina, Cynthia McCaina Birrabaronessa...
I'm pretty sure Maureen is calling Cindy McCain an "ice-queen henchwoman Beer Baroness." For a far better translation of the entire column, check out the Ablative Absolute blog.

Next week: Dowd expands on the Shakespearean tragedy aspect of McCain's descent into madness and gets the NYU Elizabethian Literature professor to rewrite her column in iambic pentameter.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Two Willies

Mud Pies for ‘That One’
Published: October 7, 2008

In the latest turns in the election, Maureen Dowd is seeing echoes of a previous campaign.

Some of John McCain’s friends, from the good old days when he talked straight, feared that his Greek tragedy would be that he would be defeated by George Bush twice: once in 2000, because of W.’s no-conscience campaigning, and again in 2008, because of W.’s no-brains governing.
But Dowd sees McCain as being partly to blame.
But if McCain loses, he will have contributed to his own downfall by failing to live up to his personal standard of honor.
While the Alliteration Alert® level is down to yellow, she does slip a few in, especially when discussing reptilian Republicans.
[McCain] been running a seamy campaign originally designed by the bad seed of conservative politics, Lee Atwater.

It was adapted in 2000 in Atwater’s home state of South Carolina by Atwater acolytes in W.’s camp to harpoon McCain with rumors that he had fathered out of wedlock a black baby (as opposed to adopting a Bangladeshi infant girl in wedlock).
Maureen uses a Dowdversion® based on "common" to show the inherent hypocrisy of Atwater-style attacks.
Atwater relished teaching rich, white Republicans to feign a connection to the common man so they could get in office and economically undermine the common man.

Then she draws the bigger parallel.

Willie Horton
In the 1988 campaign, the Machiavellian ran to help George Bush Sr. defeat Michael Dukakis with this unholy quintet of charges:

The Democrat was a ’60s-style liberal who would raise taxes and take away guns. He was weak and would not protect the country militarily. He was a member of the elite “Harvard Yard’s boutique.” He had a foreign-sounding name and was not on “the American side.” He was on the side of the Scary Black Man.
William Ayers
Certainly, at some level, John McCain must be disgusted with himself for using the tactics perfected by the same crowd that used these tactics to derail him in 2000. He’s now curmudgeonly, even hostile, toward the press — the group he used to spend hours with every day and jokingly describe as his base.

He unleashed Sarah Palin to slime their opponent and suggested that the Democrat with the foreign-sounding name who came from the Harvard Yard boutique is not on the American side.
Sound familiar?
And while Dowd does not use the "R-word", the racial undertones of the Wille Ayers/Rev. Wright association does not go unnoticed.
Atwater gleefully tried to paint Willie Horton as Dukakis’s running mate. With a black man running, it’s even easier for Atwater’s disciple running McCain’s campaign to warn that white Americans should not open the door to the dangerous Other, or “That One,” as McCain referred to Obama in Tuesday night’s debate. (A cross between “The One” and “That Woman.”)
Maureen may be stretching by trying create "That One" as a portmanteau between The Messiah and Monica Lewinsky, but there is a ring of truth there.

And by using Palin as the pitbull, McCain is making her do the dirty work.
The woman is sounding more Cheney than Cheney.
Maybe that’s why McCain didn’t bring up Ayers or Wright during the debate, instead leaving it to Sarah Barracuda.
Our only Movies With Maureen® moment comes from a brief queen bee aside with it's own alliterative aspects.
Asked if she thought Senator Obama was dishonest, McCain’s Mean Girl meandered:

“I’m not saying he’s dishonest, but in terms of judgment, in terms of being able to answer a question forthrightly, it has two different parts to this. The judgment and the truthfulness and just being able to answer very candidly a simple question about when did you know him, how did you know him, is there still — has there been an association continued since ’02 or ’05, I know I’ve read a couple different stories. I think it’s relevant.”

Of course she does.
And by that, Maureen means that it is both irrelevant and that Palin only says it is because that is what the slithering consultants handing the candidates mud pies told her to believe. And to aim some smears at That One.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Going For Baroque

Hey, in some parts of the universe, maybe not in contempo-casual, but in some parts, it's considered cool to know what's going on in the world.
Sarah’s Pompom Palaver
Published: October 4, 2008

I’ve always hypothesized that the level of Maureen Dowd’s anger can be measured by the number of alliterations she tosses into a column. When she puts one right into the headline (and shouldn't it be "Palin's Pompom Palavar"?), we know we are in for a bumpy ride.
I had hoped I was finally done with acting as an interpreter for politicians whose relationship with the English language was tumultuous.
And then Maureen builds up a head of steam with a rich rash of Alliteration Alerts®.
There’s W.’s gummy grammar, of course, like the classic, “Is our children learning?”

Being mush-mouthed helped give the patrician Bushes the common touch.

Sarah’s running against the Democrat’s highfalutin eloquence by speakin’ in homespun haikus.

Did Joe Biden have to rhetorically rush over to Home Depot before Sarah could once more brandish “a little bit of reality from Wasilla Main Street there brought to Washington, D.C.?”

With her pompom patois and sing-songy jingoism, Palin can bridge contradictory ideas that lead nowhere…
That last one alluding to that bridge that leads the same place. And she winds down with a triple Lindy.
Poppy Bush dropped personal pronouns and launched straight into verbs because he was minding his mother’s admonition against “the big I.”
But Dowd also attacks Palin’s speaking style or lack therof.
She dangles gerunds, mangles prepositions, randomly exiles nouns and verbs and also — “also” is her favorite vamping word — uses verbs better left as nouns, as in, “If Americans so bless us and privilege us with the opportunity of serving them,” or how she tried to “progress the agenda.”
Palin also has a strange habit of insisting that “impact” is a noun, and a plural one at that.
Talking at the debate about how she would “positively affect the impacts” of the climate change for which she’s loathe to acknowledge human culpability, she did a dizzying verbal loop-de-loop: “With the impacts of climate change, what we can do about that, as governor, I was the first governor to form a climate change subcabinet to start dealing with the impacts.” That was, miraculously, richer with content than an answer she gave Katie Couric: “You know, there are man’s activities that can be contributed to the issues that we’re dealing with now, with these impacts.”
Dowd calls these folksy-isms for the faux frontierism that they are:
As Alistair Cooke observed, “Americans seem to be more comfortable with Republican presidents because they share the common frailty of muddled syntax and because, when they attempt eloquence, they do tend to spout a kind of Frontier Baroque.”

Darn right. And that, doggone it, brings us to a shout-out for the latest virtuoso of Frontier Baroque, bless her heart, the governor of the Last Frontier.
And behind Palin’s aural abuses are, like totally, VapidVille as Dowd invokes the Movies With Maureen® pick with the title that sums up Palin’s grasp of the big issues.
At another point, she channeled Alicia Silverstone debating in “Clueless,” asserting, “Nuclear weaponry, of course, would be the be-all, end-all of just too many people in too many parts of our planet.” (Mostly the end-all.)
This all-out assault on Sarah is severe and sustained. Most of all, Dowd hits on the central mis-aligned metaphor of the self-styled mavericks.
Palin, by contrast, uses a heck of a lot of language to praise herself as a fresh face with new ideas who has “joined this team that is a team of mavericks.” True mavericks don’t brand themselves.
If you have to call yourself a maverick, you aren’t one. Plus, mavericks aren’t known for being team players.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

McCain Plane Flak

As detailed earlier this week, the McCain camp revoked Maureen Dowd's campaign plane privileges. They basically dumped her on the side of the road in Pittsburgh and left her for dead. Tim McNulty of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette describes it thusly:

It all started when Maureen covered an Aug. 30 McCain-Palin rally in Washington, Pa., then wasn't let on the McCain plane afterward, Maureen Dowd/Vanity Fairforcing her to overnight at a Pittsburgh airport hotel while the traveling press went on without her.
Being on the press plane is not just a perk, it is the only realistic way a journalist can keep up with a fast moving campaign. And news organiztions pay premium for the privilege. Again McNulty:
The McCain campaign has barred her from flying in the McCain and Palin press planes, even though major media outlets routinely pay thousands to the campaigns every day for travel and expenses (and also begs the question, why didn't her media colleagues Man Up and get her aboard anyway?)
He quotes an e-mail from Dowd:
"I had had a great relationship with John McCain for 16 years, through columns he liked and didn't like. So at first I thought it was a mistake and doublechecked with the press office. They said I was banned from both planes for 'the foreseeable future.' Then [McCain spokeswoman] Nicole Wallace was gloating about it to reporters on the Palin plane," Dowd wrote in an email.

"It was disappointing because I didn't think John McCain would ever be as dismissive of the First Amendment as Dick Cheney."
Comparing McCain to Cheney is fighting words, but some see the shabby treatment of Dowd as just a skirmish in a bigger battle with the Times. Back on September 22, Sam Stein at the Huffington Post reported this:
Today, the Arizona Republican's presidential campaign went to war with the Grey Lady. Asked to respond to an article that brought to light the fact that McCain campaign manager Rick Davis had earned nearly $2 million in lobbying fees from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (based, almost primarily, on his access to McCain) at the same time that he was attacking Barack Obama for his own ties to those very institutions, aides to McCain went off.

"We are first amendment absolutists on this campaign and the press and everyone who wishes to cover this race from a blogosphere and media perspective is constitutionally protected to write whatever they want," said Steve Schmidt, the campaign's chief strategist. "But whatever the New York Times once was, it is today not by any standard a journalistic organization. It is a pro-Obama advocacy organization that every day attacks the McCain campaign, attacks Gov. Palin and excuses Sen. Obama..."
Dowd of course hadn't been making friends since her August 24 column called him out on his POW Get Of Jail Free card tactics. And then there were the five columns in a row holding Sarah Palin up to ridicule.

But Maureen doesn't seem to be gathering a whole lot of sympathy. At the County Fair blog on the Media Matters website (which is decidedly liberal and frequently anti-Dowd), Eric Boehlert said:
Of course we don't like the idea of any campaign "banning" a journalist because the candidate doesn't like what was written or said about them. That's petty and wrong and disrespectful toward journalism.
But in reference to the Cheney crack, he added:
We're torn because we can't think of a single elite columnist who we'd rather not have invoking the solemn rights of the Constitution in a press fight, simply because we don't think Dowd is a serious journalist. So we're not comfortable with her representing any sort of professional journalism community.
Harsh. If a columnist for the New York Times isn't a professional journalist, who is? The Pushback blog takes a mixed stand on the issue:
John McCain’s war on the media has resulted in yet another casualty: Maureen Dowd’s access to McCain’s press plane. Let’s all remove our hats and share a moment of silence.

Now that a single manly tear has been shed by all of us, I have to confess something: I’m of two minds about this. On the one hand, the McCain campaign’s open aggression against the press is both absurd and frightening. Whether or not you think that The New York Times is a good news source, it’s flat-out ridiculous to say that it’s “not … a journalistic organization.” And kicking Times staffers off the press plane for doing their job sets a pretty scary precedent.

But that’s not to say that keeping Maureen Dowd very far away from news is a bad thing. The Times is certainly a journalistic organization, but there’s no serious definition under which Dowd is a legitimate journalist...
Uh, they don't give out Pulitzer Prizes to just anybody.

FishbowlNY kind of comes to her defense:
It's not like we don't have our own numerous issues with Maureen Dowd, but kicking her off the press plane? That's just not okay.
It isn't okay, and the rest of the pres should be taking greater umbrage. Hoops And Pop Culture probably says it best:
Nothing says, "Straight Talk" like trying to intimidate and silence your critics in the press.
Bullies pick on the weak and hope to cow others. Dowd has few friends among the right-wing, but the fact that liberal guardians of free-speech are not outraged, is in itself an outrage. If this is how McCain manages his issues with the press during the campaign, how will he act if he is president? What we see so far does not bode well.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Paul Newman, 1925-2008

Cool Hand Paul
Published: September 30, 2008

Maureen Dowd writes a touching, personal, and heart-felt tribute to one of the giants of Hollywood, on or off the screen.

At a moment when America feels angry and betrayed, when our leaders have forfeited our trust and jeopardized our future, we lost an American icon who stood for traits that have been in short supply in the Bush administration: shrewdness, humility, decency, generosity, class.
Her only slip is to sneak in one Crossword Clue® as an aside with a quick political jab.
I was nervous the first time I met the star, because he’d been a teenage crush — along with William F. Buckley Jr. (I loved Buckley’s sesquipedalian dexterity — a lost art in the anti-intellectual conservative set of W. and Sarah Palin.)
And we could use a few more people with a propensity to use big words.

Maureen also gives us these words of his that lament the current state of politics but also contains some sage advice.
“Everything is about what’s winnable, not about the morality of the issues,” he told me. In politics, as in racing cars, he said: “You can do anything if you are prepared to deal with the consequences.”