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.

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