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
By MAUREEN DOWD
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.

1 comment:

Grace Nearing said...

"Meh, you could do worse."

I have tremendous respect for Caroline Kennedy, but the country seems to have gone off dynasties for a bit. Even the Jebster senses it. However, as Dowd reminds New Yorkers, Alphonse (Oink, Oink) D'Amato was a huge embarrassment to both a state and a city that is not easily embarrassed. It is possible that the bad memories of Oink, Oink will trump misgivings about political dynasties.