Thursday, January 29, 2009

Dowd Quotes McGrory Quoting Yeats

When Maureen Dowd was on Larry King last week, Larry asked her a typical junior high question if she found writing easy. Her reply:

No, I find writing — what did Mary McGrory used to quote? It is about going down into the marrow of your bones.
Vila H. of The Smoking Section caught that that was originally from Yeats. His poem 'Adam's Curse' in particular. Below is the first stanza:
We sat together at one summer's end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, 'A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
The martyrs call the world.'
The rest of the poem can be found here. Just listening to Dowd can be so educational and inspiring.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bonfire Of The Vanity Table

Wall Street’s Socialist Jet-Setters
Published: January 27, 2009

Maureen Dowd must have checked her 401(k) because she is going Biblical on the moneychangers.

As President Obama spreads his New Testament balm over the capital, I’m longing for a bit of Old Testament wrath.

Couldn’t he throw down his BlackBerry tablet and smash it in anger over the feckless financiers, the gods of gold and their idols — in this case not a gilt calf but an $87,000 area rug, a cache of diamond Tiffany and Cartier watches and a French-made luxury corporate jet?
Normally Dowd leaves the finance stuff to Krugman and the guys that understand numbers, but luxury goods she understands. The entire column is a Robb Report of umbrage full of outrageous prices. From corporate jets:
How could Citigroup be so dumb as to go ahead with plans to get a new $50 million corporate jet, the exclusive Dassault Falcon 7X seating 12, after losing $28.5 billion in the past 15 months and receiving $345 billion in government investments and guarantees?
To furniture:
Bartiromo also asked Thain to explain, when jobs and salaries were being cut at his firm, how he could justify spending $1 million to renovate his office. As The Daily Beast and CNBC reported, big-ticket items included curtains for $28,000, a pair of chairs for $87,000, fabric for a “Roman Shade” for $11,000, Regency chairs for $24,000, six wall sconces for $2,700, a $13,000 chandelier in the private dining room and six dining chairs for $37,000, a “custom coffee table” for $16,000, an antique commode “on legs” for $35,000, and a $1,400 “parchment waste can.”
She even borrows a RudeName from the Post for the collectively clueless leadership of the country’s biggest bank.
The “Citiboobs” — as The New York Post, which broke the news, calls them — watched as the car chieftains got in trouble for flying their private jets to Washington to ask for bailouts, and the A.I.G. moguls got dragged before Congress for spending their bailout on California spa treatments. But the boobs still didn’t get the message.
We get one Wolfe-ian reference that is pretty slim, but since it can count as both a Movies With Maureen® (especially since Tom Hanks was the most famous of the shut-outs at her now infamous Georgetown kegger) and a Dowdversion®, so it will have to do.
The former masters of the universe don’t seem to fully comprehend that their universe has crumbled and, thanks to them, so has ours.
She is so outraged, she is ready to storm the castle with pitchforks.
Bring on the shackles. Let the show trials begin.
Let this be a lesson to the titans of finance. If you want to raise the ire of Maureen Dowd to the level she usually reserves for the Clintons, just go buy some office furnishings that would look better in her 2.5 million dollar townhome.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Kristol Klear

Here at Dowd Central we tend to ignore the other lesser New York Times columnists like the ones that win mere Nobel Prizes. However, we are sad to bid adieu to William Kristol, the beneficiary of the Gray Lady's year-long conservative columnist internship program. Alas, his lackluster style and casual approach to fact-checking doomed his tenure.

For a neocon with an unblemished record for never being right about anything, he went out the same way he came in, passing on blatant falsehoods as divine truths. Anyone who can read, let alone write, these sentences without gagging is well beyond delusional:

Conservatives have been right more often than not — and more often than liberals — about most of the important issues of the day {snip} Conservative policies have on the whole worked — insofar as any set of policies can be said to “work” in the real world. Conservatives of the Reagan-Bush-Gingrich-Bush years have a fair amount to be proud of.
This is about his fifth post-election column where he waxes nostalgic and praises the conservative movement on its many accomplishments proving that he is well-ensconced in the Denial Stage of Grief. It's unlikely he will ever move to Bargaining, let alone Guilt.

Hallmarks of his style included bland over-generalizations, contrived anecdotes (his tendancy to find classic works of literature in airport newsstands made Friedman's propensity for citing cabdrivers seem charming), and cliched quotations. His farewell column included a full paragraph of fairly familiar Thomas Paine. Bartlett deserved cowriter credit on most of his columns.

Even fans of Kristol Meth's fevered fantasies noted that he saved his best stuff (such as it was) for The Weekly Standard treating his Times column much as Mick Jagger treated his solo albums. He even went so far as to bite the hand that fed him on the Jon Stewart show.

Rumor has it that Bill will be taking his schtick to the Washington Post on a monthly basis because Charles Krauthammer doesn't quite fill their quota for second-hand neo-con idiocy.

Us fans of Maureen appreciated Kristol for one huge favor he regularly did for Maureen: He served as a lightning rod for criticism over the Op/Ed page. He quickly replaced the Dowdster as the Times's most reviled columnist. Like Kristol's favored flypaper theory of fighting terrorism, the shear number of haters he drew far dwarfed the quantity of any native critics of Dowd. With Bill gone, Maureen will once again become the focus of unhinged hatred vaguely directed at the Times.

We have only one hope and plea to Andrew Rosenthal: Please, please, please hire Megan McArdle. For Dowd's sake.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Flick Flack

Which Governor Is Wackier?
Published: January 24, 2009

Maureen Dowd is bitter. Even more so than usual. Two weeks ago she came out as an advocate for Caroline Kennedy to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate. The answer to her titular rhetorical question is made clear by figuring out which governor crossed her. This week Governor David Paterson named Congresswoman Kirsten Gilibrand to the seat instead.

How mad is Maureen? Mad enough to praise disgraced Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (whose full name she never bothers to spell out in full).

I love Blago.

I love his beady little eyes. I love his Serbian shock of hair. I love his flaring nostrils. I love the way he jogs through the snow under indictment, like a stork in spandex trying to gallop.
That is a lot of love to merit a Alliteration Alert® like that. And why does she love Blago so much? Because of the brilliantly Machiavellian way in which he handled his Senate selection as she points out in the following rhyming Dowdversion®.
I love the hurly-burly way the Illinois governor rammed through his choice for the Senate, compared with the namby-pamby way the New York governor strangled his best choice for the Senate.
The best choice being Dowd’s bookstore buddy, Caroline Kennedy. So who do we end up with instead? Maureen goes with Movie Moment® comparison that will dog all ambitious mildly doughy blondes for all time.
So now we have an N.R.A. handmaiden in Bobby Kennedy’s old seat? Kirsten Gillibrand, a k a Tracy Flick, accepting the honor with her Republican pal Al D’Amato beside her on stage? Gross.
Tracy Flick being the hyper-ambitious anti-heroine of the dark comedy Election. A comparison so important she makes it twice.
The 42-year-old Gillibrand, who has been in the House for only two years, is known as opportunistic and sharp- elbowed. Tracy Flick is her nickname among colleagues in the New York delegation, many of whom were M.I.A. at her Albany announcement.
The Reese Witherspoon reference is not original to Dowd. Political gossip-mongers like Politico and HuffPo have stated that that is what her colleagues call her behind and her back and definitely not on the record.

The last politician Maureen called a Tracy Flick was Hillary Clinton back in April. And as with anything that raises Dowd’s dander, she sees the fingerprints of the Clintons on.
Paterson’s five weeks of dithering let the jealous vindictiveness of the Clintons and friends — still fuming over Caroline’s endorsement of Obama and Teddy’s blocking Hillary from a leading health care role in the Senate — poison the air. With his usual sense of entitlement and aggrievement, Bill Clinton of Arkansas did not want Caroline Kennedy of New York to have the seat that Hillary Clinton of Illinois held.
So in Dowd’s rampage she is calling a pox on everybody’s house. The presumed rival to Caroline was Andrew Cuomo, so she now implicitly endorses him over Paterson.
Paterson wasn’t thinking of New York, only of how an upstate ally who was a woman would bolster his own chances for re-election. We can only hope that an avenging Andrew Cuomo takes him out in a primary.
Since her campaigning for Caroline went so well, Dowd also names her preferred choice for taking out Gillibrand in revenge.
Carolyn McCarthy, who ran for Congress on an antigun platform after her husband was killed and her son wounded by a gunman on the Long Island Rail Road in 1993, said she may challenge the “N.R.A. poster child” in 2010.
And the senior senator from New York takes a jab just for being in the line of fire.
Chuck Schumer embraced Gillibrand because at long last he can be the best-known senator from New York, something that would have been impossible with Kennedy.
Perhaps the best way to summarize the rampage that Maureen is on is from Election out of Tracy’s mouth:
It's like my mom says, "The weak are always trying to sabotage the strong."
So true, Tracy. So true

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Dowd and King

Maureen Dowd was the guest on Larry King Thursday night with her unique take on current events. The full transcript is here, but I've distilled some of the better quotes.

On Obama's start:

I think that Obama is getting a huge and deserved amount of credit for doing things that are normal things, but have not been done in politics here for a long time.
On the power of liquor as a poltitcal lubricant:
Remember Bob Strauss, he told George Bush Sr., just have some people for cocktails on the Truman Balcony. They will do whatever you want. They will help you get your tax plan passed and everything.
On BFF Caroline Kennedy:
I'm very disappointed, because I think she's really smart and is very -- had the nerve to endorse Obama, and she can push back against pressure. And I think the Senate could have used someone like that, because too often they don't have profiles in courage. They have profiles in conventional wisdom. I think she would have been great.
On social engineering:
Bush and Cheney had this huge social engineering scheme, where they were going to change the psyche of Americans, and make us less afraid of using force overseas after Vietnam. And they were going to change the psyche of the Middle East and make them scared to death of us.

But Obama also has a social engineering scheme. He said the other day he wants kids to have different priorities about service. He wants neighbors to have different priorities about how they treat each other. He wants to integrate the city of Washington with the political Oz of Washington, because in -- in the past, Washington has been a place where there's a high crime rate and a lot of poverty, and it all happens in the shadow of the Capital and the White House. And no one has ever treated it like a real city. And he's doing that right off the bat.
On Sarah Palin's future as talk-show host:
She has presence and I think she could make a comeback in politics, or she might get a show on Fox, competing against you, Larry. You never know.
On Secretary of State Clinton:
I think she could be a superstar. She said something very critical today when she had her first meeting with employees. She said she welcomes people pushing back against her and she welcomes open debate. If that is true, she could have an amazing run. But her history is to confuse dissent with disloyalty and bad management. So it depends if she's learned lessons from that in the past. She could be amazing.
On Barack dealing with Bill:
[Obama]'s trying to separate the little bit of tackiness and all this foreign money that Clintons get from their amazing ability to be great public servants. And if he can do that, then I think he can use them both effectively. But that's never been done before.
On whether it's fun to knock her subjects:
I feel like I owe it to the readers to try to pull back the veil and give them the honest version of what's going on. But it's not more fun. If Obama, as he does sometimes already, gets a little snippy with me about something I've written, you're thinking, oh God, the president of the United States is already annoyed with me.
Her ambitions with Barack:
I'm going to try and keep [Obama] on his toes, but I also want to celebrate the moment of trying to obey the Constitution again. So I took some champagne to the Lincoln Memorial at dawn the other day, just for that purpose.
There you have it. Watch your back, Barack because Maureen is watching you.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Maureen Makes The List

Forbes has placed Maureen Dowd on their 25 Most Influential Liberals List, proving that their rather elastic definition of 'liberal' includes anybody to the left of David Brooks that can make a pun. As they describe her:

Known for her exclamatory columns, Dowd writes about politics with a biting, pop-culture-infused spin. She is much better at meowing at her own side, though, so the Obama administration could see her recover the cat-wit she appeared to have lost in her formulaic Bush years.
Just so you can calibrate their scale, Arianna Huffington came in at #2, Chris Matthews at #12, and Andrew Sullivan at #19. NYT stablemates making the list included Paul Krugman at the top and Thomas Friedman at #4. She's just going to have to work snarkier, not harder.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Klaatu Baracka Nikto

Exit the Boy King
Published: January 20, 2009

Rather than revel in Obama's inaugural triumph, Maureen Dowd takes the opportunity to kick Dubya in the ass one more time on his way out the door with a Movies With Maureen® moment.

It was the Instant the Earth Stood Still.

Not since Klaatu landed in a flying saucer on the Ellipse has Washington been so mesmerized by an object whirring through the sky.

But this one was departing, not arriving.
Her eyes mist up as the erstwhile Marine One took the Decider back to the ranch.
I’ve seen many presidents come and go, but I’ve never watched a tableau like the one Tuesday, when four million eyes turned heavenward, following the helicopter’s path out of town. Everyone, it seemed, was waving goodbye, with one or two hands...
Uh, Maureen, a bunch of those people were only waving one finger.

Maureen also spins her take on the Roberts oath kerfuffle with another movie metaphor, Clash of The Titans mixed with a gunslinger metaphor.
There was also that match of the titan smarty-pants — the new Democratic president face to face with the conservative chief justice he voted against.

First John Roberts had to say, Easy, cowboy, after Mr. Obama jumped the gun on “I” at the start of the oath of office. Then the president, who had obviously been looking over his lines, graciously offered the chief justice a chance to correct his negligent syntax, when he put the “faithfully” and other words out of place.
Dowd points out that Obama snuck in a few parting shots at his predecessor invoking her favorite truth-to-power comedian.
With W. looking on, and probably gradually realizing with irritation, as he did with Colbert, who Mr. Obama’s target was — (Is he talking about me? Is 44 saying I messed everything up?) — the newly minted president let him have it:

“As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals,” he said to wild applause (and to Bartlett’s), adding: “Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.” He said America is choosing hope over fear, unity over discord, setting aside “false promises” and “childish things.”

Letting a little air out of the highest hopes about what one man, even “The One,” can do, he emphasized the word “our.” He stressed that rebuilding after the wreckage of W. and Cheney will be a shared burden and that “giving our all to a difficult task” isn’t as bad as it sounds.
And being the every thrifty wordsmith, she recycles some of her 'integration has arrived in DC' spiel from her MSNBC interview comparing DC with The Emerald City for yet another movie metaphor.
I grew up here, and it was the first time I’ve ever seen the city wholly, happily integrated, with a mood redolent of New York in the weeks after 9/11. The Obamas have made an unprecedented pledge to get involved in the real city that lies beyond the political Oz, and have already started doing so in many ways, including starting the night out at the D.C. Neighborhood Inaugural Ball.
I'm not sure the post 9/11 mood is the right one to evoke unless she is comparing the Bush Administration to the planes that hit the World Trade Center. Well, maybe she has a point. Dowd also notes that now that Bush is gone the party can begin.
And revelers stepped up to a spot where you could pick out a colored magic marker and complete posters that began, “Mr. President, I hope for ...”

Entries ranged from “burning less oil” to “healthcare for all” to “a cure for cancer” to this lofty and entirely understandable sentiment: “a sick inauguration party.”
And we all know who had the sickest inauguration party this week. Let the good times roll, Maureen.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Maureen On The Mall

MSNBC has a huge tented studio on the Mall in DC to cover the inauguration and they have been broadcasting live from it all weekend. Yesterday they scored an interview with Maureen Dowd. Our equipment here at Dowd Central failed to capture it, but the cheeto-stained interns at Gawker edited it down to a few soundbites for their snarky ridicule. You can see the video here, but below is a partial transcript.

MSNBC GUY:Tell me about how you put together that amazing guest list for all those people that showed up last night?
MAUREEN: Well, my heart is broken because I was always bad at math, so I didn’t know how many people would fit in the house. I just found out that not only was Tom Hanks outside and not able to get in, but Bruce Springsteen was not able to get in.
MSNBC GAL: It sounds like one of those New York nightclubs where they deliberately shun celebrities.
MSNBC GAL: Could Obama be too cocky?
MAUREEN: Well, it’s possible…The crowd says ‘NOOOO!’
MSNBC GAL: We’re too close to the fire here
MAUREEN: We had an off-the-record session with him and, um, and I’d just like to say this is a very confident president.
MSNBC GAL: Will you be as tough on him as you have on Bush?
MAUREEN: Um, given the crowd here, absolutely not.
[on the racial interaction that Barack’s election has brought]
I find this so interesting because I am a native Washingtonian. I grew up in a Black neighborhood and Washington has always been basically segregated and even reporters are corny. I went to the Lincoln Memorial this morning with champagne and croissants. I just wanted to celebrate myself because it’s so great to see the city, blacks and whites, finally integrated.
The Gawker commentariat (of which yours truly is one, albeit without a star) latched onto how nasal Dowd's delivery is.

mfnher: Holy shit. I had no idea her voice sounded like that.

i'm_a_bottle: I can't get over how nasal Maur's voice sounds. I would love to see Fran Drescher and her have a conversation. Actually, strike that, I would rather not.
Dagrolord: Seeing that conversation would be bad enough...hearing it would scar you for life.
Perhaps they need to review her last This Week appearance. Maybe it's for the best that she has a voice for print.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Maureen's House Party Was Off The Hook

Maureen Dowd threw a bold-names-only pre-Inauguration party at her house Sunday night and it was packed. The Washington Times reports some celebs couldn't even squeeze in.

We're also told that at Maureen Dowd's house party in Georgetown, the crowd is so thick that not even Tom Hanks could get in the door.
SFGate lists some of the other attendees:
Jerry Brown and Anne Gust attended a Sunday night party hosted by Maureen Dowd of the New York Times, crammed with glitterati including Ron Howard, Tom Hanks, Alan Greenspan, Chris Matthews, Brian Williams, Anderson Cooper, Tom Brokaw, Diane Von Furstenberg, Larry David and San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris.
Steve Clemons of The Washington Note was there and had a full report including these juicy bits:
But the real stars were in her living room -- and one corner of the party was owned by David Geffen and his boyfriend Jeremy, who were both charming...
And then entered Rahm Emanuel, his wife Amy Rule, and three beautiful kids who Geffen's Jeremy (whose last name I missed -- but who is a great guy) promised to romp with next time the little Emanuels were in Malibu.
Clemons gives a full list of celebs that were there and confirms (or was the source of) the Tom Hanks anecdote.
And as the Hollwood A-List continued to arrive, I had the opportunity to meet and chat with George Lucas, Ron Howard, Larry David, Tom Hanks -- who pretty much stayed at the doorway.

Others at the Dowd gala were California Attorney General Jerry Brown and Anne Gust, Andrew Sullivan and Aaron Tone, Alan Greenspan, Helene Cooper, Chris Wallace, Alison Silver, Al Kamen, Janice O'Connell, Aspen Institute President and historiographer Walter Isaacson, Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, New Yorker writer and torture policy chronicler Jane Mayer, Arianna Huffington, Tammy Haddad; Politico's Ben Stein, Jonathan Martin, and Mike Allen; Chris Matthews, Margaret Carlson, 'Results the Gym' owner Doug Jefferies, Adam Clymer, Brian Williams, Anderson Cooper, Tom Brokaw, Michael Hirsh, John Harwood, Arianna Huffington, Atlantic Monthly editor James Bennet and his brother Michael Bennet (who is the newly appointed Senator from Colorado succeeding Ken Salazar), David Sanger, Diane Von Furstenberg, David Shuster and Julianna Goldman.
The DC Examiner says there were 400 invitees and at least that many attendees:
Roughly 400 invitations were sent out and nearly all 400 showed up for her party, which quickly became buzzed about as the party to go to that evening.

As a result, Dowd's house on 32nd and N streets quickly became a can of sardines and more than a few attendees told Yeas & Nays that it was simply one of the most crowded parties that they've ever attended.
I was even in the neighborhood yesterday since I had gone to the inauguration concert. I should have dropped by.

Update: The Daily Beast is the latest with an on the scenes party report:
There was gridlock, too, on the narrow staircase to the third floor, where David Geffen and George Lucas were entertained by Dowd in the first hour of the party. Larry David and Ron Howard were also part of a robust Hollywood contingent, which may be what atttracted New York Post gossip columnist Cindy Adams. Brian Williams, Jill Abramson, and Andrea Mitchell and Alan Greenspan were gamely trying to wiggle into the party as we were leaving. Bob Woodward and Chris Matthews were attempting to leave. There were warnings that the coat-check had already devolved into complete chaos.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Attack Of The Dowdversions

The Long, Lame Goodbye
Published: January 17, 2009

The most lethal weapon in Maureen Dowd’s arsenal is the Dowdversion™ where two parallel phrases are used to create an ironic comparison often using a pun or play on words. Because they are so powerful she rarely uses more than one or two in a column. For her final column with Dubya still in office, she has pulled out all the stops starting with the very first two paragraphs.

As Barack Obama got to town, one of the first things he did was seek the counsel of past presidents, including George Bush senior.

As W. was leaving town, one of the last things he did was explain why he never sought the counsel of his father on issues that his father knew intimately, like Iraq and Saddam.
That’s actually a very long example. Most Dowdversions are only a single sentence, like this one:
W. lives in the shadow of his father’s presence, while Obama lives in the shadow of his father’s absence.
Another compare/contrast example is here:
The exiting and entering presidents are opposite poles — one the parody of a monosyllabic Western gunslinger who disdains nuance, and one a complex, polysyllabic professor sort who will make a decision only after he has held it up to the light and examined it from all sides.
And just so the difference between the two isn’t missed she shows it again:
W. was immune to doubt and afraid of it. (His fear of doubt led to the cooking of war intelligence.) Obama is delighted by doubt.
That last one ends with another Dowd trademark, what we here at Dowd Central call the Alliteration Alert® and the column is chock full of them as well. She then even quotes Bush in his own Dowdversion.
“See,” the Oedipally oddball W. replied, “the interesting thing is that a president has got plenty of advisers, but what a president never has is someone who gave him unconditional love.”
And here she strings two alliterations together:
When W. admits the convoluted nature of his relationship with his father, diminishing a knowledgeable former president to the status of a blankie, you realize that, despite all the cocky swagger we’ve seen, this is not a confident man.

That is vividly apparent as we watch W. and Obama share the stage as they pass the battered baton.
Then, like a Bach fugue, she plays off the “cocky” and calls back the twist of a Dowdversion:
One seems small and inconsequential, even though he keeps insisting he’s not; the other grows large and impressive, filling Americans with cockeyed hope even as he warns them not to expect too much too soon.
And Maureen even uses a Dowdversion to deploy one of her other famous tactics, the silly Rude Name®, although in this case, her new sobriquet for Obama is much more respectful than the retired Obambi.
Bush fancied himself the Decider; Obama fancies himself the Convener.
And the following is perhaps one of the most complicated Dowdversions ever spotted. Follow it carefully. It is a large Dowdversion with a smaller one nested within it that includes two intertwined alliterations. This is the quadruple axel of Dowdversions.
If W. and Cheney preferred Fox News on the TVs in the White House because they liked hearing their cheerleaders, Obama may leave the channel on Fox because he prefers seducing and sparring with antagonists to spooning with allies.
It’s just breathtaking to see a master linguist at work. Her cunning wordplay just cuts to the quick.

And she goes out as she came in, with that comparative twist that is her stock in trade:
We’re trading a dogmatic president for one who’s shopping for a dog. It feels good.
And that is the beauty of a well-played Dowdversion. It doesn’t have to make any sound sense, it just has to sound sensitive.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Meaty Metaphors

Tim Geithner! Why Are Rich People So Cheap?
Published: January 13, 2009

It's one of those psychological effects that when you are deprived of something, your thoughts tend to fixate on that item. Let's do a textual analysis of today's Maureen Dowd column and see if we can find any clues to her New Year's resolutions.

With Chelsea sitting protectively behind in a plum dress and glam ’40s hairdo — Bill was watching on TV with his mother-in-law — Hillary showed the reasons she could be a star at state and queen of Obama’s hot nerds.
Getting warm? Let's try this passage:
She was on top of all the issues, no matter how obscure. She batted around our “stale” arctic policy — who knew? — with Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, who doesn’t seem to realize we’re sick of Alaska.

She was up to date on the inevitable Law of the Sea Treaty.
What was a suspicion becomes a tortured metaphor:
She ladled up the broth of flattery expected in the Senate with a chef’s finesse. Even after Senator Dick Lugar, the ranking Republican on the panel that was questioning her, tut-tutted that her links to Bill Clinton’s foundation carry the “risk” of foreign governments “and entities” trying to curry favor with Madam Secretary by donating money to her husband, she deftly buttered up Lugar.
By now, even I am hungry. We even get some old-timey foodie references.
After enduring endless pompous lecturing from John Kerry on what she should read and think — a thinly veiled attempt to show the world that he would have made a better secretary of state, and indeed, thinks he was promised it by Obama — Hillary slathered on the oleo.
And after dinner, some digestive release is called for.
After his windy discourse on how scientists had “revised the levels of supportable greenhouse gas emissions from 550 parts per million to 450 to now 350,” Hillary replied: “You are eloquent in describing it, and you’ve been a leader in trying to sound the alarm on it for many years.”
We have waded deep into Mike Myers flatulence joke territory here. But it's not all food and fart jokes. Having exhausted the culinary attacks, she repurposes some old metaphors. It used to be The Nepotism Tango, but Hillary has switched partners and it's now Obama she is doing the forbidden dance with.
Obama and Hillary continue to be engaged in an intense tango.
And her image of Obama as Herculean hero is as sharp as ever.
Cleaning out the Augean stables was nothing compared to this task, with Obama trying to bend Hillary and Bill to his will, while they try to bend him to theirs.
And to get the obvious out of the way, the titular reference to Tim Geithner was a complete red herring. The point of the column was to dish up leftovers about Hillary. Because as long as there is a Clinton in the kitchen, Maureen will never go hungry for material.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

All The President's Minions

America spells competition, join us in our blind ambition
Get yourself a brand new motor car
Someday soon well stop to ponder what on earths this spell we’re under
We made the grade and still we wonder who the hell we are.

-“The Grand Illusion”, Styx

An Extremist Makeover?
Published: January 10, 2009

As the Bush Administration acolytes do their Legacy Lap around the Georgetown Cocktail Party Circuit, Maureen Dowd has been detecting a certain sulfurous odor which she finally places.
In the past week, I’ve twice been close enough to Dick Cheney to kick him in the shins.
Or to blast him the face with a shotgun, but the Secret Service would probably not look kindly on that. At the first incident, she used a Dowdversion® to highlight the irony of Cheney invoking the document he spent so much time undermining.
The first time was Tuesday, when Cheney left the ceremony where he gave the oath of office to senators. {snip} I thought it gave the ceremony a satirical edge to have the lawless Vice presiding over lawmakers swearing to support and defend the Constitution that he soiled and defiled — right in the heart of the legislative branch he worked to diminish.
Within the snip is a comic metaphor that is a tribute to a movie genius.
The senators seemed thrilled, especially Joe Biden, who was getting sworn in for just two weeks and was excitedly showing off a family Bible the size of a Buick.
As the ever-observant nytpicker caught, Woody Allen had writ it three decades earlier.
"Honey, there's a spider in your bathroom the size of a Buick."
-Alvy Singer, "Annie Hall," 1977
But that is not the only Movies With Maureen® moment we get. Dick Cheney himself claims that his villainous reputation is overstated.
He went on to seriously assert that his image as “a private, Darth Vader-type personality” has been “pretty dramatically overdone.”
The Darth Cheney meme is so ‘overdone’ that if you do a Google Image Search simply for “Cheney”, two different photoshops of Dick as the evil overlord make the first page of results.

But no Dr. Evil is without his minions. Maureen found them within the Cheney entourage and identifies them by Rude Name®.
The second time I crossed paths was Thursday night, at a glitzy party at Cafe Milano for Brit Hume, stepping down as a Fox anchor. It required extreme defensive maneuvers — much zigging and zagging — to avoid Cheney, Wolfie and Rummy, all three holding court and blissfully unrepentant about the chaos they’ve unleashed on the world.
Maureen uses fellow Pulitzer Prize winner Bob Woodward to confirm the incredulity of the spinning going on.
“My conscience is clear,” Rummy volunteered to Bob Woodward, talking about how he’s interviewing people for his memoir.

Woodward was stunned. “I was as speechless as I was in July 2006 when I interviewed him and he said he was not a military commander, that he could make the case that he was ‘by indirection, two or three steps removed,’ ” Woodward told me afterward.
And that reminds Maureen of yet another movie villain.
At least Ernst Stavro Blofeld would have the decency just to leave the scene.
And Dowd shares some derision for Dubya for whom she goes Double Dowdversion™ on.
From Gaza to the unemployment figures to the $10.6 trillion debt, things keep spiraling while W. keeps fiddling. Just as when he was in the National Guard and didn’t bother to show up, now, as the scabrous consequences of his missteps shake the economy and the world, he doesn’t bother to show up.
Maureen tries to make “biking through Katrina” the Bush version of “fiddling while Rome burns”.
After he leaves office, W. wants to go on more bike rides, because biking through Katrina was not enough.
She first tried out this metaphor last February when she said:
How could the “compassionate conservative” bike through Katrina?
But like “fetch” from Mean Girls, it just isn’t happening. But back to Cheney, she combined a Rude Name® with an Alliteration Alert® to catalog his Big Lies.
The vamoosing Vice has no apologies about turning America into a country that tortured; indeed, he denies it ever happened. “Torture,” he told [Fred] Barnes, “that word gets thrown around with great abandon.”
And a certain classic rock tune is evoked as Cheney continues to dissemble.
“I think we made good decisions,” he told [Mark] Knoller, adding with even grander delusion, “I think we knew what we were doing.”
And the key to a grand illusion is that the audience can't see the puppeteer perform his tricks or the ventriloquist's sneering lips move.
He protested “the notion that somehow I was pulling strings or making presidential-level decisions. I was not. There was never any question about who was in charge. It was George Bush. And that’s the way we operated. This whole notion that somehow I exceeded my authority here, was usurping his authority, is simply not true. It’s an urban legend, never happened.”
As in the Star Wars saga, there are always two Sith Lords, a master and an apprentice.
The fact that Cheney is now putting all the blame for all the messes squarely on W. shows once more how the bureaucratic master outmaneuvers his younger partner.

Even on his way out, Vice is still on top.
Only if by "on top", you mean morassed in an unending unnecessary war with the economy in shambles. If that was Dick's goal, then he definitely gets to fly the Mission Accomplished banner and Dubya gets to be the stooge stuck with the blame.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Maureen Likes, You Know, Caroline. Uh, Really.

Oh, one, touching one, reaching out
Touching me, touching you
Oh, sweet Caroline
Good times never seem so good
Oh I've been inclined to believe it never would
-Neil Diamond
(And yes, the song was inspired by her)

Sweet on Caroline
Published: January 6, 2009

The Maureen Dowd we know and love is back and better than ever. Just to show that she hasn’t lost her touch, she touches on her entire bag of tricks to pump up her buddy Caroline Kennedy. Last year, if you were on Maureen’s Christmas gift list, you got a signed copy of Caroline’s A Family Christmas. Us mere mortals had to make due with a cloyingly sweet column about it instead.

But before she endorses Kennedy’s congressional aspirations, Maureen can’t help herself from making a few cheap shots by putting Caroline’s dad's most famous line through the “you know” Filter.
Ask not, you know, what your country can, like, do for you. Ask what you, um, can, you know, do for your country.
And perhaps Maureen is paying tribute to John F. Kennedy as well, because his masterful inauguration address words are the greatest Dowdversion® ever, which only makes Caroline verbal tics that much more painful in contrast to her father's eloquence.

Caroline can use “ums” and “you knows” at a rate exceeding twelve a minute as listeners to a leaked NYT interview can attest. But Maureen says that unless you have a polished silver tongue, don’t go casting the first stone. She cites herself as a similarly awkward public speaker.
I know about “you knows.” I use that verbal crutch myself, a bad habit that develops from shyness and reticence about public speaking.
Later in the column she again clips a phrase from Caroline’s famous father.
I know Caroline Kennedy. She’s smart, cultivated, serious and unpretentious. The Senate, shamefully sparse on profiles in courage during Dick Cheney’s reign of terror, would be lucky to get her.
The family connections are the elephant in the room and rather than going for the easy musical theater Camelot allusion, Dowd digs deep into Bullfinch’s to come up with a different mythological family.
I always thought that Caroline and her brother, John, had special magic capital in America because of their heartbreaking roles in the Kennedy House of Atreus.
I’m not sure I would have gone with the Atreidae since according to Wikipedia, intrigue and assassination are the stock in trade of Greek royal families.
Atreus and his twin brother Thyestes were exiled by their father for murdering their half-brother Chrysippus in their desire for the throne of Olympia.
That sort of thing would seem like a touchy subject around the increasingly less crowded tragedy-stricken Kennedy family table.

It’s only about half way down the column that you figure out that Dowd is praising Caroline, not burying her. The sum of her argument seem to be “Meh, you could do worse.”
People are suddenly awfully choosy about who gets to go to the former home of Jesse Helms, Strom Thurmond and Robert Torricelli.
To show that her writing skills haven't atrophied over the holidays, Dowd combine some Alliteration Alert® with a Crossword Puzzle Clue® in some parting shots at the Bush Dynasty.
Although Americans still have enough British in their genes to be drawn to dynasties, W. has no doubt soured the country on scions.
"Scion" being one of her favorite words. She has trotted it out about once a year during the W. Administration. It only seems more frequently, you know.

To make sure you didn’t miss the point, she makes the Kennedy/Bush comparison more pointed.
Congress, which abdicated its oversight role as the Bush crew wrecked the globe and the economy, desperately needs fresh faces and new perspectives, an infusion of class, intelligence and guts.
After a long list of Senatorial legacies that owe their seats to family or fortune or both, she again hammers home that should would rather have a branch of the Kennedys in power than a whole field of Bushes.
It isn’t what your name is. It’s what you do with it. Or, in the case of W., don’t.
And while Maureen's heart seems in the right place, comparing Caroline favorably with Dubya seems like mighty faint praise.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Gala Geffen Inauguration Bash Planned

According to the New York Post's Page Six column, Maureen Dowd is planning a little gathering just in time for the Obama Coronation Inauguration.

MAUREEN Dowd's love of the Hollywood elites continues unabated. The Times columnist and avowed liberal, who has dated Michael Douglas and Aaron Sorkin, is hosting an inaugural weekend bash at her DC home honoring David Geffen. Insiders say she's hoping President-elect Barack Obama will stop by. Geffen helped turn the tide against Hillary Rodham Clinton in California by stating in Dowd's column that Clinton was "polarizing" and "ambitious" and calling Obama inspirational. Geffen then held several Obama fund-raisers.
I guess my invitation got lost in the mail.

Hat tip to New York magazine's website that added this gratuitous aside:
([Dowd]'s looking more and more like Arianna Huffington ... just check out the picture!)
They say that like it's a bad thing.

Update (1/20/09): Maureen's party was the must invite of the Inaugural season. Full report here.