Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Real Gone

I'm American made but I like Chevrolet
My momma taught me wrong from right.

I was born in the South
Sometimes I have a big mouth
When I see something that I don't like
I gotta say it.

Well, we've been driving this road for a mighty long time
Paying no mind to the signs
Well, this neighborhood's changed
It's all been rearranged
We left that team somewhere behind.

-Sheryl Crow "Real Gone"
I Ponied Up for Sheryl Crow?
Published: February 24, 2009

Maureen Dowd is Howard Beale mad-as-hell still at financial institutions flouting their fiscal prolificacy. This time it is at Northern Trust of Chicago which earns itself a couple of Rude Names™, a rare honor for a non-politician.
Northern No Trust had a lavish dinner at the Ritz Carlton on Wednesday with a concert by Chicago (at a $100,000 fee); rented a private hangar at the Santa Monica Airport on Thursday for another big dinner with a gig by Earth, Wind & Fire, and closed down the House of Blues on Sunset Strip on Saturday (at a cost of $50,000) for a dinner and serenade by Sheryl Crow.
Not only are they wasting taxpayers' money, they are doing it on bad AOR has-beens. And Maureen could have used the entire lyrics of 'Real Gone' (Crow's hit from the Pixar movie Cars) to emphasize the irony instead of just the verse she picked.

“Slow down, you’re gonna crash,
Baby, you’re a-screaming it’s a blast, blast, blast
Look out babe, you’ve got your blinders on ...
But there’s a new cat in town
He’s got high payin’ friends
Thinks he’s gonna change history.”
And it's not one of Dowd's now infamous rants without a BlingList®:
The entertainment Web site TMZ broke the story Tuesday that Northern Trust of Chicago, which got $1.5 billion in bailout money and then laid off 450 workers, flew hundreds of clients and employees to Los Angeles last week and treated them to four days of posh hotel rooms, salmon and filet mignon dinners, music concerts, a PGA golf tournament at the Riviera Country Club with Mercedes shuttle rides and Tiffany swag bags.
The second RudeName is tipped with a swizzle stick of sarcasm.
Northern Untrustworthy even offered junketeers the chance to attend a seminar on the credit crunch where they could no doubt learn that the U.S. government is just the latest way to finance your deals and keep your office swathed in $87,000 area rugs.
All this wild spending is summed up in a rather harsh Dowdversion®.
The bank cloaks itself in a philanthropic glow while wasting our money, acting like the American Cancer Society when in fact it’s a cancer on American society.
And she ends with a long rolling rile of a Alliteration Alert™ along with another Wolfe-ian aside.
[Andrew Cuomo] gets incensed about how ingrained, indoctrinated and insensitive the ex-masters of the universe are. “They think of themselves as kings and queens,” he said. And they’re not ready to abdicate.
Normally a Royal Reference™ is a good thing in a Dowd column, but lately she is fighting mad at those who act to the manor borne. And that is how revolutions begin. Perhaps another Sheryl Crow song sums it up: "A Change Would Do You Good."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Dowd Disengaged

From Rich Cameron's Rich's Musing blog we get a first person account of a recent public appearance by Maureen Dowd. She, along with Mike Murphy and Donna Brazile, was part of the American Jewish University’s 2009 speaker series. Fellow copper-headed pundit Arianna Huffington moderated, proving once and for all she and Maureen are not the same person. The Dowdcentric portion of the post follows:

NY Times columnist Dowd seemed detached from the discussion all evening. She is bright and articulate and had interesting answers whenever Huffington drew her in to the conversation, but she seemed otherwise unengaged. In fact, she spent most of the evening with her body slightly turned away from the rest of the group. While others were sure what they wanted to say, she had to spend moments deciding what she wanted to stay.

In retrospect, this should not be too surprising. In podcasts I’ve listen to of other lectures she has given, this is her speaking style. She’s a great writer, but less-than-enthusiastic speaker.

Her most memorable moments of the evening were when
  • Huffington cornered her in to sharing a dinner-table admission that she had twice placed notes in Jerusalem’s West Wall, while on assignment, asking for a Jewish husband. She’s come to the conclusion that God probably doesn’t think pairing a Jewish man with a Black Irish Catholic woman is a good idea; and
  • She revealed that after Obama’s almost embarrassing acceptance on his European trip after securing the Democratic nomination that she asked him if he “needed a cigarette” after the experience, implying that the treatment he got was almost like having sex.
Rich also notes that Donna Brazile got most of the speaking time and carried on a running gag about offering to let Mike Murphy fondle her ample bosom.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Dark Dark Dark
Published: February 21, 2009

Our economic woes continue to bedevil Maureen Dowd. In her special way of making the anecdotal evidential, here are just some of the sacrifices going on in the salons of Georgetown.

We dutifully cut back on Starbucks macchiatos, designer water and even Girl Scout cookies, but we keep hurtling down.
Yes, the economy is even hurting the girls in green. And where are we hurtling to? Hint, it's a trip more traditionally taken in a handbasket.
As the country takes a bullet train to bankruptcy, the last Democratic president urged the current one to “embody” that old American spunk.
That bullet train sure sounds just as alliterative as the proverbial handbasket and much faster. Much faster than the surrey with the fringe on top from our Movies With Maureen® moment.
That spirit of — as they sing in “Oklahoma” — “We know we belong to the land and the land we belong to is grand! A-YIP-I-O-EE-AY!”
And to put the brakes on it, Bill Clinton is urging a more upbeat attitude, which seems to go against Barack's 'tell it like it is' nature. Maureen admits that Obama doesn't have the clever insights that were Clinton's trademark which leads to her Crossword Clue Of The Week™.
President Obama disdains sound bites, and he does not have Bill Clinton’s talent for reducing the abstruse to aperçus.
Instead, Barack is a wonky explainer. But Maureen is telling Bill to keep his hands off her Hopey.
It’s rich. The Man from Hope whose Missus castigated Candidate Obama for raising “false hopes” is now criticizing President Obama for not peddling more gauzy hope.
And speaking of Rich, Maureen thinks Eric Holder is reopening old wounds.
Eric Holder, who showed precious little bravery in standing up to Clinton on a pardon for the scoundrel Marc Rich, is wrong. We have just inaugurated a black president who installed a black attorney general.
Here are Holder's remarks that set her off.
Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards. Though race related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion, and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race.
And Maureen will not cotton to being lectured to, especially about race. She has a cute black mailman and everything.
We need leaders to help us through our crises, not provide us with crude evaluations of our character. And we don’t need sermons from liberal virtuecrats, anymore than from conservative virtuecrats.
What we need, it seems, if for heads to roll and the irresponsible to bear their punishment.
[CNBC reporter Rick Santelli] spoke for those who want a pound of flesh. With the Wall Street bailout, Mr. Obama at least gave bankers a bit of the belt, and capped their pay. But homebuyers who wanted more than they could afford seem to be getting a free ride.
And the mention of a free ride, brings right back to our metaphorical ride in a handbasket/bullet train/fringe-topped surrey. We can at least enjoy the trip.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Goat, Or Who Is Cheney?

Cheney and the Goat Devil
Published: February 17, 2009

Maureen Dowd loves a show and this weekend she rode the Megabus up to New York for an afternoon at Will Farrell's hit one-man valedictory to our recently departed Texan tinpot.

The audience for the Sunday matinee of “You’re Welcome America. A Final Night with George W Bush” howled in delight.
Everybody loves to psychoanalyze our most dysfunctional and incompetent president of the 21st century and Maureen lets one of the show's writers, expound on the Arrested Development Theory.
“He’s so clearly a neglected 13-year-old that there’s something really kind of heartbreaking about him,” [Adam] McKay said, calling him “a good-time Charlie” who was “just used his whole life to front questionable business endeavors, and in a way that’s what his presidency was.

“He doesn’t have Cheney’s cartoonish need for power and greed that’s so off the charts you don’t even understand how Cheney got that way. W. may have some awareness, deep down inside, sort of like a petulant teenager who just flunked the trig quiz and knows he screwed up. I think Cheney not only knows but is delighted with everything he did, as is Rumsfeld.”
Maureen Dowd prefers the Oedipal Rebellion Theory, which is not entirely in conflict with the ADT.
One of the great mysteries of the Bush presidency is whether W. ever had an epiphany when he realized that he had been manipulated by Dick Cheney, whether it ever hit him that he had trusted the wrong father figure.

And that is the crux of Dubya Administration: What did the President know and when did Dick Cheney tell him?

Cheney as evil overlord and puppet master is such a popular meme that a Google Image search for "Cheney evil" brings up pages of the former Veep photoshopped as various villains or satanic figures. Here is my humble contribution to the genre.

The Will Farrell show also makes that connection:
In the show, the former president dismisses waterboarding as a spa treatment at Bliss, and reveals that he did walk in on Cheney once in the basement of the White House locked in the amorous arms of a giant goat devil in a room full of pentagrams.

“He looked at me with solid silver glowing orb-like eyes, and his breath had a strong ammonia scent to it,” Ferrell’s W. said. “And he told me in a language that I knew in my heart hadn’t been spoken in a thousand years ‘Pariff Go Lanerff!’ And I just ran.”
‘Pariff Go Lanerff!’ as far as I can tell is just pidgen-Lovecraft used out of fear of using an actual invocation out of the Necronomicon and summoning Chtulhu or one of the other Ancient Ones now that Cheney has released them from their bidding.

In Maureen's one concession that Dubya may have grown a spine sometime during his reign of error, she uses the rather minor incident of Scooter Libby's (and just having the nickname 'Scooter' should be a criminal offense) pardon, or the lack thereof.
By not pardoning Cheney’s alter ego, who plied his dark arts trying to discredit Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson and then lied to protect his boss, W. was clearly saying he thought that Libby, and by extension Cheney, did something wrong.
But Maureen doesn't go as far as attributing the Dumb-Ass Dauphin with moral clarity as much as pre-adolescent stubborness.
But it’s not clear whether W. is simply pouting because Cheney’s machinations blackened his legacy, or if, at long last, he fathoms the morality of it, that Cheney did hideous things to the Constitution — not to mention that goat devil.
Let's just hope Joe Biden can clear the Naval Observatory from the lingering sulfurous stench of burn-out brimstone.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Oddball Couple

Oval Newlywed Game
Published: February 14, 2009

Maureen Dowd has been hitting the cable box pretty hard this week. The title of the column comes from the Gameshow Network with Bill Convey's classic double entendre-laden The Newlywed Game which was designed to make couples reveal embarrassing things about each other. Dowd detects a bit of mocking bitterness in Obama's reaction to a Biden gaffe.

And yet, the minute the president began to laugh and answer Garrett, I feared Joe would be the butt.

“I don’t remember exactly what Joe was referring to,” said Mr. Obama, who couldn’t resist adding, “not surprisingly.”
On the real Newlywed Game, that would get the partner slapped with the answer card.

But then she flips the channel to Nick At Nite where Barack is Felix Ungar to Joe Biden's Oscar Madison.
It can’t be easy for someone with a highly defined superego to be bound to the wacky Biden id, for one so disciplined to be tied to one so undisciplined, for a man so coolly unsentimental to be paired with someone so exuberantly sentimental.

Joe is nothing if not loyal. And the president should return that quality, and not leave his lieutenant vulnerable to “Odd Couple” parodies.
And Maureen loves the late night sketch comedy.

On a recent “Saturday Night Live” skit, Jason Sudeikis’s Biden leaned over Fred Armisen’s Obama, to tell Americans: “Look, I know $819 billion sounds like a lot of money. But it’s just a tip of the iceberg.”

Armisen’s clenched Obama murmurs: “Couldn’t pick Hillary. I just couldn’t.”
But for the main Movies With Maureen® moment, she heads over to Masterpiece Theater territory for her second Jane Austen analogy in the past year (the first time Barack was the haughty Mr. Darcy) to compare Obama with Emma.
Still, the president should brush up on his Jane Austen. When Emma Woodhouse belittles Miss Bates, an older and poorer friend, at a picnic, Mr. Knightly pulls her aside to remonstrate. “How could you be so insolent in your wit?” he chides, reminding her that it is unfeeling to humble someone less fortunate in front of others who will be guided by the way she behaves.
And when you live in the big fancy house, it's only proper to be kind to the hired help no matter how embarrassing they are. Maureen is just trying to inspire some noblesse oblige.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Trillion Here, A Trillion There...

Trillion Dollar Baby
Published: February 10, 2009
According to Maureen Dowd, The One is no longer walking on water.

So much for the savior-based economy.
While not quite a Rude Name®, for the second time the Treasury Secretary has been called "laconic", an adjective previously used on the iconic bionic Barack.
Tim Geithner, the learned and laconic civil servant and financial engineer, did not sweep in and infuse our shaky psyches with confidence.
And I'm not quite sure what to make of "shaky psyche". It's not quite a full Alliteration Alert® like "learned and laconic", but sure tries to be one. And she practically accuses Geithner of not quite making it past puberty.
For starters, the 47-year-old’s voice kept cracking.
But perhaps inspired by Joseph Lowery's Inauguration invocation, she raps rhyming with:
Despite the touting, the Treasury chief unveiled a plan short on illumination, recrimination, fine points and foreclosure closure.
Which leads to Dowd's current favorite whipping boys, clueless billionaires. She whips out a Crossword Clue™ that hasn't been part of her vocabulary since the Clintons had just vacated the White House:
Wells Fargo, for instance, which has leeched $25 billion in bailout money, bought an inadvertently hilarious full-page ad in The Times to whinge about the junkets to Las Vegas and elsewhere it was forced to cancel because of public outrage.
The nuance of "complaining fretfully" just nails the weary whining of the increasingly defensive banks. And Maureen sees Treasury Tim as one of the insiders protecting the Wall Street wailers.
Geithner is coddling the banks, setting it up so that either we’ll have to pay the banks inflated prices for poison assets or subsidize investors to pay the banks for poison assets.
The Maureen Dowd Anti-Banker Crusade continues. Today she makes more luxury item metaphors.
The new plan offers insufficient meddling with Wall Street, even though Wall Street shows no sign that the hardscrabble economy has pierced its Hermès-swathed world.
She renews her call for heads to roll.
And these impervious, imperial suits who squander taxpayers’ money after dragging the country over the cliff should all be fired...
That is after they take a pay cut.
The pay of all the employees in bailed-out banks, not just top executives, should be capped.
The right wingers and the finance industry apologists will tut-tut that Maureen just doesn't understand the compensation packages of the privileged class. Perhaps. But she knows a populist parade when she leads one.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Prince Charming Bungles The Rescue

Potomac’s Postpartisan Depression
Published: February 7, 2009

Maureen Dowd has been reading fairy tales again and she always loves a Royalty Metaphor™.

Once upon a time, America thought Prince Charming would glide in and kiss her, reviving her from a coma induced by a poison apple of greed, deceit, carelessness, recklessness and overreaching.
The problem is that post-modern Prince Charmings are no longer what they are cracked up to be. In the Shrek movies Prince Charming is a vacuous villain. In Disney’s Enchanted, he is, while still quite charming, not quite up to the transition from 2-D to 3-D. In Maureen Dowd’s version of the tale, he’s also a bit of bumbler.
But then the prince got distracted, seeing Lincoln in the mirror, and instead gave the kiss of life to a bunch of flat-lining Republican tax-cut fetishists.
According to Dowd, Obama is getting run roughshod by the House Republicans.
Somehow the most well-known person on the planet lost control of the economic message to someone named Eric Cantor.
Rep. Cantor (R-VA) is the House Whip, a job with a metaphorical title that Dowd feels Obama should be employing.
The president and his aides seemed a bit snow-blinded by the White House, overwhelmed and slow to understand that they were losing the high ground and the whip hand.
Her other favorite leadership metaphor is the carrot and stick (discussed at length here).
But the carrot-stick ratio was way out of whack.
She feels the stick should be used to whack a mole, or perhaps a groundhog.
Just as Michael Bloomberg learned the perils of cuddling a groundhog when it bit him, Mr. Obama learned the perils of coddling conservatives.
Which is the first of a couple of Dowdversions® used to describe this shift in the power structure.
In his first weeks padding around a White House that still has nails on the walls waiting for new pictures, and phone and e-mail kinks, Barack Obama could not locate the bully pulpit and ended up being bullied.
She points to the bungled Daschle nomination as where Obama lost his mojo with this zenlike observation.
They wanted him because he was the ultimate insider and they lost him because he was the ultimate insider. Now Daschle’s punishment for getting too rich with special interests will be to get richer with special interests.
Maureen’s advice was to be just a little less ambitious in rescuing the damsal and be a little more of a schlemiel.
Mr. Obama should have written up a kosher (as in pork-free) bill that Americans could trust — and Republicans couldn’t as easily mock — and jammed it through.
So after all this whipping and whacking and bullying and jamming, where does that leave Obama? All alone.
President Obama doesn’t need to leave his new home to be isolated. That’s the specialty of the White House.
Heavy is the head that wears the crown, no matter how charming the prince is.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Rose Defends Dowd

David Denby went on to The Charlie Rose Show to flog his rather thin and poorly researched treatise on snark, cleverly called Snark. See my earlier post about that flaming pile. About half the segment dealt, either directly or indirectly, with Denby’s perplexingly misguided focus on Maureen Dowd on what he sees as the faults of snark. As second movie string critic for the New Yorker (a magazine I am assured by some DailyKos diarists is still read and loved) Denby is a frequent guest on Rose's show critquing movies and other pop cultural flotsam. This time Denby is the one on the hot seat.

The full segment (link here) is nearly twenty minutes long, so I have painstakingly transcribed the portions that pertain most directly to Dowd. It is not an official transcript and I have done minor editing for clarity. For example, there is a lot of cross-talk that I have consolidated. That said, all errors is spelling, grammar, and punctuation that are not evident from the taped archive are mine alone.

I’m also dispensing with my usual color-coded blockquote format for just this post. My parenthetical asides are in italics.

Denby: Some people ask me “How you can attack Maureen Dowd of the New York Times for being snarky…

Rose: Exactly.

Denby: …and praise John Stewart?”

Rose: Yes!

Denby: “Isn’t he snarky? Or Keith Olbermann?”

Rose: It’s seems to me those are very different people because they’re in very different mediums, but go ahead.

Denby: My point was that Stewart and Colbert and Olbermann have a political passion. They think the government should not lie to the people. They think our civil liberties should not be invaded. Maureen Dowd makes fun of people’s appearance and affect and manner and so on. I don’t see any political idea at all of what government should be doing or what the point of government is or what the point of politics is. It’s all about ambition and sham.

So I’m to assume that by inference Denby is accusing Dowd of thinking the government should lie and invade our civil liberties. That is a shameful slur.

Rose: I’ll rise to defend Maureen because I differ with you about this. Plus, I like her and she’s a friend and all of that.

Denby: There is nothing personal here.

Really? Sure could have fooled me. The discussion veers off into what is and isn't snark, with the emphasis on what may or may not cover Maureen Dowd but not, say, John Stewart.

Denby: Look, Maureen Dowd, to come back to her, is brilliant. Look, We’re not talking talent here.

Rose: A Pulitzer Prize winner, I think.

Denby: Look, more than that. She’s brilliant with what she can do with language, but what I don’t see is any value there being defended. No matter what you’ve got, she’s against it. If you expose your throat, she’s going to leap with fangs. I mean she went after both Al Gore and George Bush in 2000. She reduced Gore, who is after all a serious guy who presents himself awkwardly to the public, she reduced him to a caricature.

Rose: Let me just say this...

Denby: She was widely imitated and it hurt.

Rose: If Al Gore can’t survive this, and he can. Look what happened to him, he’s done quite well. If Al Gore can’t survive whatever Maureen Dowd said…

Denby: What if he had been president instead of the disaster we had?

Rose: Wait, wait a minute…

Denby: She played a small role. She played a role. She played a role in that mess.

And here we are back to the camel's back theory of “It’s all Maureen’s fault because she said anything bad at all. If she had only be more of a team player..” hindsight. It doesn’t make sense to shoot the messenger no matter how accurate her aim was.

Rose: She played? I don’t want to make this about her because the theme is more important than one particular person, She said very, very difficult things about President Clinton at the height of his problems.

Denby: (nodding) President Bush.

Rose: …President Bush. And I suspect that at some point she will say very difficult things about President Obama.

Denby: She’s got trouble at the moment because he’s serious. He’s accountable. She can’t get a handle on him.

Rose: That criticism has been raised about everybody with respect to him.

Denby then goes on a long diatribe about how brilliant a satirist Colbert is because he is skewering right wing blowhards like O'Reilly while explaining Supreme Court decisions.

Denby: It’s not just making fun of someone who is physically vulnerable or has a strange manner or something. That’s the difference to me.

I had no idea Gore was such an drooling invalid, but Denby seems to think attacking him is on par with making fun of oddly dressed retards.

Rose: I think you are putting too much emphasis on that. You may have picked one or two columns. I mean, day in and day out, I know columnists, and I would include Maureen in this, are people who view the world of Washington with a sharp eye and sharp language. And it’s not just as you would suggest a long riff on people’s appearance.

Denby: Yes, I have no problem with that. I’m talking about a particular kind of malicious, nasty undermining humor which is value free.

Rose: Alright, let me roll tape. Here is Maureen Dowd on our show. Roll tape:

The clip is dated 8/27/04.

Dowd: The first couple of years of my column I just spent rolled up on the floor just crying. I mean, I found it so hard. And not the genre. The genre of column writing is hard, but they psychological pressure of being really tough. And with a woman they do tend to use different words. It’s like, you’re mean or you’re vituperative or you’re venomous which you don’t hear so much about Tom.

It’s like she is predicting Denby word for word.

Rose: Nobody is calling Tom Friedman “The Cobra.”

Dowd: Yeah, well you want to be liked. They don’t want everybody kind of hating.

Rose: Is there part of you that wants to be liked?

Dowd: All of me wants to be liked. What do you mean part of me? Yeah.

Rose: You like Bill Clinton?

She deftly avoids that minefield.

Dowd: Tom Friedman said once you get a column, you never make another friend.

Rose: That’s not true.

No, because Charlie has clearly become smitten.
The clip ends.

Denby: Tom Friedman is trying to save the world. He’s full of ideas.

Rose: So, wait, wait. The test of who’s snarky and who’s not snarky is what they want to do, what's their ambition in what they’re writing? That’s the test?

Denby: Yes. Seriousness in purpose. No matter how funny and nasty you are, if there is something serious behind it. And satire does that brilliantly from Jonathon Swift on down. Makes fun, but there’s some reforming instinct there. If you are just jumping at somebody’s weakness that is snark.

Rose: Alright, let’s move beyond that because if that is your test you have no basis to criticize Maureen Dowd if your test is seriousness of purpose.

Game, set and match goes to Rose. Denby’s accusations of Dowd are based on a false premise.

Denby: What is her values except that we should all be honest?

Rose: Her value is that she writes brilliantly and gives us an insight into sort of the behavioral aspects of people who aspire to lead.

Denby: She attacks everyone, Charlie. What would she have done with Abe Lincoln. I mean Honest Abe, really? Or FDR?

This is the sacred cows theory of criticism. Denby thinks some people should be above ridicule.

Rose: Hello? No worse than five or six other writers did with Abe Lincoln by the way.

Denby: Okay! But my point is that she’s often wrong.

And here is the crux of Denby’s attacks. He hates Dowd because she disagrees with him.

Rose: Moving beyond her only because it sounds like I’m trying to defend her because she’s a friend and I’m not. I think on the merit it looks that way.

No, Charlie, you’re dealing with a pompous ass with no internal logic to his arguments. Thank you for revealing that Denby’s grudge is against Dowd because he disagrees with her, not because of anything in particular about her style.

Me again. Nobody can say Maureen Dowd isn’t snarky. It’s her signature feature. What is in dispute is why Denby singles her out as the archetype of what he feels is wrong with snark. He accuses her of shallowness and a lack of perspective. He feels that some people are above criticism and he is the arbiter of what is and isn’t serious and high minded. Rose really skewers him on this point, but Denby wriggles away.

Denby postures as being high-minded and noble, but he is really just as mean and vicious as what he accuses Dowd of being. And he is far more deceptive about it and much less witty. And that is a far greater sin than being merely snarky.

Meet Dave

Well, That Certainly Didn’t Take Long
Published: February 3, 2009

Maureen Dowd takes a look at the still developing Obama Administration and sees some signs of Barack Obama being only mortal.

Even as he told the children his favorite superheroes were Batman and Spider-Man, his own dream of being the superhero who swoops in to swiftly save America was going SPLAT!
Barack is getting caught in that web of insider DC politics where the smallest error (particularly a six figure one) can doom a nominee.

He told the anchors that the man who helped make him president, Tom Daschle, had made “a serious mistake” by not paying taxes on a car and driver. (It should have been a harbinger of doom when Daschle began sporting those determined-to-be-hip round red glasses.)
And as a primer in budget spending, we get an extended length Movies With Maureen® where Barack could learn a few lessons from Kevin Kline.
Mr. Obama’s errors on the helter-skelter stimulus package were also self-induced. He should put down those Lincoln books and order “Dave” from Netflix.

When Kevin Kline becomes an accidental president, he summons his personal accountant, Murray Blum, to the White House to cut millions in silly programs out of the federal budget so he can give money to the homeless.

“Who does these books?” Blum says with disgust, red-penciling an ad campaign to boost consumers’ confidence in cars they’d already bought. “If I ran my office this way, I’d be out of business.”

Mr. Obama should have taken a red pencil to the $819 billion stimulus bill and slashed all the provisions that looked like caricatures of Democratic drunken-sailor spending.
But it’s not just government spending that raises Maureen’s ire. In what is now a recurring segment, she goes all Robin Leach with a luxury-porn description of Lifestyles Of The Rich And Clueless®, this time she peeks in the Citigroup corporate jet.
The interior of the 18-seat jet, as described by The Post, is posh, with a full bar, fine-wine selection, $13,000 carpets, Baccarat crystal glasses, Cristofle sterling silver flatware and — my personal favorite — pillows made from Hermès scarves.
And in her new role as the Éponine of the Op/Ed page, she raises the battle cry.
Aux barricades!
We're right behind you Maureen!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Cheap Shots At The Queen of Snots

David Denby, an obscure film critic from a magazine nobody reads anymore, decided to make a name for himself by trashing Maureen Dowd in a book called Snark: It's Mean, It's Personal and It's Ruining Our Conversation. While the nominal reason is to advocate a return to civility, the real reason is to go on a character assassination tirade against Maureen Dowd. He rails on and on about how snarky writing is coarsening society, but the quasi-academic foundation-setting is really all build-up to the penultimate chapter (or 'Fit' as he more than appropriately calls them) devoted exclusively to Maureen Dowd, the only figure in the book to get such singular treatment.

A large portion of that chapter was excerpted in the New York Post, the trashy tabloidy competitor to the Times. For someone wanting to raise the level of discourse, Denby sure picked a weird place to do it. The Post, full of trashy stories and home to the ultra-snarky Page Six celebrity gossip column is most famous for its “Headless Body Found In Topless Bar” style of reporting, which may explain the "Queen of Snots" article title. Way to stay classy there.

Rather than just jump in on her, he butters her up with some faint praise.

Maureen Dowd has rhythm, pace, timing, an extraordinary ear, an amazing memory for odd bits of cultural flotsam. She's a brilliant aphorist who, in a few words, can say something it would take another writer paragraphs to spell out. She uses all the traditional tools of comedy - exaggeration, lampoon, insult, outrageous puns, fantasia - and gives them her own twist. She seems to have read everything, and she's shrewd about popular culture, particularly about the way movies colonize the country's unconscious.
Maybe it's her frequent movie allusions that bug Denby because he thinks that she is stepping on his turf. But what seems to annoy Denby most is her cynicism:
She assumes that everyone in politics is out for himself; that principles or beliefs in a politician are a set of self-flattering delusions; that the powerful are moved by jealousy, rivalry, narcissism, and fear of every sort - fear of being thought weak, most of all. She knows everything about poseurs and posing. But does she know anything else about politics?
No Denby, she knows nothing about politics. She was born in raised in Washington, DC. She worked for the Washington Star, Time magazine, and the New York Times without ever learning anything about politics. She must have won that Pulitzer Prize for fashion reporting. [/sarcasm]. To call her credentials as a journalist into question is just appalling and ridiculous. Denby must have another motive. Then he tips his hand:
Utterly repelled by piety and righteousness, she also seems bored by genuine advocacy. Disgusted by unbounded ambition, she never seems to wonder what an ambitious leader might do besides gratify himself. Her appetite for ridicule equals any politician's appetite for power, and maybe the two hungers aren't all that different.
Her problem, as he sees it, is that she is not partisan enough. She doesn’t overlook the peccadilloes of politicians when it would serve a greater good. And he is most upset at her picking on Al Gore and the Clintons. He has bought into the myth that Maureen Dowd single-handedly brought down Gore’s disastrous 2000 campaign. Of course, she needed a little help from 92,000 Nader supporters, hundreds of senile Palm Beach County voters, and five Supreme Court justices, but in Denby's mind, Maureen Dowd making fun of Al Gore’s suits was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Not only has Denby nursed this grudge for nearly a decade, he also finds it unforgivable that she dare to criticize Hillary Clinton. He makes the very vicious accusation that Maureen’s motives were merely to tear down the chances of a female candidate just because she was a woman.
At times, Dowd seemed eager to punish Hillary for her ambitions, as if deep down she were alarmed by the idea of a woman making so great a claim for herself, and snark filled the space where sympathy - or perhaps rueful appreciation-should have been. And, of course, what Clinton actually wanted to do as president - which, after all, might have validated her presumption - was of no interest to Dowd. Policy is for drips.
Again, here is the thesis that Dowd should have overlooked the failings of a candidate in order to support a greater good. Denby doesn’t want a critic, he wants a cheerleader. While accusing Dowd of being as sexist, catty, jealous woman, he is exposing his own prejudices. He dismisses Dowd’s attacks on George W. Bush as being too coddling and ineffective. So when Maureen attacks a Democrat she is being destructive, but she isn’t vicious enough when criticizing conservatives? You can’t have it both ways, Denby.

Denby has managed to bottle his rage and spill it onto a rather slender ranting polemic that he has the nerve to charge nearly twenty bucks for just to settle some scores with a columnist that he blames for the defeat of his candidates.

That’s just sad and desperate. The subtitle of the book is "It's Mean, It's Personal and It's Ruining Our Conversation", but it is Denby's book that is mean and personal. It is a vicious personal attack on a professional rival disguised as a noble treatise. The sole point of a hundred and fifty pages of rather widely margined and generously spaced build-up is so that he can take cheap shots at the writer he blames for his party's mistakes.

If I were snarky, I’d bring up the flagrant errors that riddle his book, but that would be unkind. Instead let’s have some sympathy for a bitter man who does a year of shoddy research and Google surfing just to hit a woman.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Greed Is Galling

Disgorge, Wall Street Fat Cats
Published: January 31, 2009

Maureen Dowd's latest rant against greedy Wall Streeters picks up right where it left off from her last column. Now she is calling not only for show trials, but for disgorgement, which is not nearly as sexy as it sounds. She explains with a really great six word alliterative attack:

Disgorgement is when courts force wrongdoers to repay ill-gotten gains. And I’m ill at the gains gotten by scummy executives acting all Gordon Gekko while they’re getting bailed out by us.
And the invocation of Gordon Gecko, the archetypal greedy businessman played by former Dowd boyfriend Michael Douglas, is only the first and less interesting Movies With Maureen® moment. Dowd is impressed that Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank knows his old-time movies.
Treasury officials and Barney Frank are dubious about recouping bonuses. “Paulson let the cat out of the bag,” Frank said of Henry Paulson, Geithner’s predecessor, “and it can’t be gotten back.”

But aren’t taxpayers shareholders in these corporations now, and can’t shareholders sue or scream “You misspent my money!” like Judy Holliday?

“In ‘The Solid Gold Cadillac,’ ” said Frank, who knows the movie.

“We got some preferred shares,” he mused, “but I don’t think we could sue on that basis.”
The Solid Gold Cadillac is a 50s era morality story set amidst crooked defense contractors that are bilking the government. capsulizes it thus:
Judy Holliday shines as an idealistic stockholder who uncovers corruption at the top rung of a major corporation in this lighthearted romantic comedy.
Even better, it also won an Oscar for Best Costume Design. For those of us not as tuned in, we can catch it Monday afternoon on Turner Classic Movies.

Speaking of awards, the clear winner in Most Over-Used Crossword Clue™ category is now held by “lacunae”.
Following fast on Geithner’s tax lacunae, Tom Daschle’s nomination hit a pothole when he had to pay $140,000 in back taxes he owed mostly for three years’ use of a car and a driver provided by a private equity firm.
After an eight year absence from Dowd’s vocabulary, she has used it four times in the past year, most notably here and here. But, we do get one really good double Alliteration Alert®:
Some Obama policy makers still buy into the notion that if they’re too strict, these economic royalists, to use F.D.R.’s epithet, might balk at the bailout, preferring perks over the prospect of their banks going belly-up.
And Maureen buries in body of the column the best rallying cry so far:
Spare the rod, spoil the jackal.
Because it's not the bears and bulls on Wall Street you have to worry about, it's the jackals and vultures.