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Maureen Dowd’s Greatest Misses


For time out of mind, this weblog has been critical of Maureen Dowd’s consistently ghastly op-ed column.  While we have made similar arguments about numerous pundits, Dowd is the most likely one to generate inexplicable defenses, so it’s worth taking stock of what exactly has made her column such a massively negative net contribution to the national net discourse.

Obviously, any such discussion has to start with her unforgivable conduct during campaign 2000, which involved not only passing on every conceivable lie being made about Al Gore but making up some of her own.  (For this reason, I’m not impressed by the fact that she started making up funny names to criticize the Bush administration.  I can forgive a 20-year-old college kid for believing lies about how an incompetent who governed to the right of the Texas legislature was a harmless moderate and that nothing is really at stake in a presidential election. A very well-compensated political pundit, not so much.)  Her columns leading up to an election that would result in hundreds of thousands of people being dead all over the world and Sam Alito with a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court involved a multi-part series of columns in which Al Gore had an imaginary dialogue with his bald spot.

But she won a Pultizer!  Yeah, and Crash won Best Picture.  Read some of the columns she would be honored for — I triple-dare you.  (Sample disgraceful sexist nonsense: “Suddenly, That Woman stamped her feet. Like the Glenn Close character in “Fatal Attraction,” Monica Lewinsky issued a chilling ultimatum to the man who jilted her: I will not be ignored.”)

But, OK, her defenders say, she doesn’t care about policy at all, but she has such psychological insights.  No, she doesn’t. Not that this type of armchair psychology has much value anyway — the idea that pundits should be theater critics brought us such classics as “Dick Cheney — what a sensible moderate.” But even if you think this stuff matters more than I do, she has nothing to say about it.  As I said yesterday, she has one witless shtick — male Democratic politicians are women and Female Democratic politicians are men.  He narratives are not only devoid of substance, they don’t tell us anything about the politicians as individuals either.  Back in the day, Bob Somerby explained the basic dynamic:

But then, why should pundits criticize Coulter when she describes Dem males as big “f*ggots?” It’s very similar to the gender-based “analysis” their dauphine, the Comptesse Maureen Dowd, has long offered. In Dowd’s work, John Edwards is routinely “the Breck Girl”(five times so far—and counting), and Gore is “so feminized that he’s practically lactating.” Indeed, two days before we voted in November 2000, Dowd devoted her entire column, for the sixth time, to an imaginary conversation between Gore and his bald spot. “I feel pretty,” her headline said (pretending to quote Gore’s inner thoughts).That was the image this idiot wanted you carrying off to the voting booth with you! Such is the state of Maureen Dowd’s broken soul. And such is the state of her cohort.

And now, in the spirit of fair play and brotherhood, she is extending this type of “analysis” to Barack Obama. In the past few weeks, she has described Obama as “legally blonde” (in her headline); as “Scarlett O’Hara” (in her next column); as a “Dreamboy,” as “Obambi,” and now, in her latest absurd piece, as a “schoolboy” (text below). Do you get the feeling that Dowd may have a few race-and-gender issues floating around in her inane, tortured mind? But this sort of thing is nothing new for the comptesse. Indeed, such imagery almost defines the work of this loathsome, inane Antoinette.


Leave aside the persistent infantilism involved in images like “Godzilla” and “Bambi.” Here, Dowd states her endless—and vacuous—theme. Big Dem males (like “Barry”) are girls. And big Dem women are men.

Dowd has pimped these inane, tortured theme for more than a decade. For the record, though, one Dem male was not a girl in Saturday’s column. That would be Clinton aide Howard Wolfson. In paragraph 7, Dowd called him as a “thug.”

So let’s see. Obama (“Obambi”) is just a boy. Clinton (“Godzilla”) is a man—and she’s feral. And what led Dowd to cast this strange drama? Simple! When David Geffen called Clinton every name in the book, Clinton called on Obama to denounce his statements! Was this a good tactical move by Clinton? We have no idea—but it’s a very tame bit of political conduct. But it isn’t tame in the mind of Dowd, or in the scripts of her well-scripted cohort! (More below.) In Dowd’s mind, this unexceptional behavior made Clinton a thug—and, of course, it made her a man. And when Obama didn’t punch back hard enough, that made him a weak boy—a “Barry.”

Dowd goes on and on, throughout this column, trying to start a (pointless) fight among Dems. But let’s remember the basic theme: Every Democrat must be a loser! When Clinton makes a fairly trivial move, she has fought Obama too hard! When Obama doesn’t name-call Clinton, he hasn’t fought hard enough!

It would be hard to get dumber than this. And it’s hard to imagine why grown men and women at the Times (Andrew Rosenthal) still put this embarrassing schlock into print. But unfortunately, Maureen Dowd is an authority figure, writing at the top of our “journalistic” elite. She has offered this tormented dreck for years. During that time, Dems and liberals have suffered endlessly from her dumb, tortured conduct. We are in Iraq today because of the work of these losers.

In yesterday’s thread, Dilan offered a novel defense of this utterly worthless crap — she said mean things about Edwards, and Edwards’s political career flames out, so she was a prophet!  But that obviously won’t get off the ground.  First of all, there’s the Mickey Kaus problem — you don’t get credit for predicting 12 of the last 1 Democratic scandals.  When you say the same thing about every Democrat who might be president you’re bound to be right eventually, but that doesn’t prove that you had the goods at the time.  But this is actually unfair to Kaus — he did, at least, prove to be right about a specific bad act by Edwards, even if he just got lucky.  Dowd’s Breck Girl columns about Edwards weren’t using the slurs as a metaphor for some larger problem she went on to explain.  She didn’t say he was adulterous or provide evidence that he wasn’t really a liberal — her argument was that Edwards got expensive haircuts and was therefore a chick like all other male Democratic politicians.  How this makes her prescient about his destroying his political career with an affair with a woman is…unclear.  Incidentally, while I wasn’t an Edwards supporter I’ve never understood how his affair exposed his political views as “phony.”  He never held elected office again, and if being a bad spouse means you can’t be a progressive LBJ and FDR were “phonies” too.

And finally, let’s end with this column, which never got enough attention:

In worn jeans and old sneakers, the shy and retiring Dr. Judith Steinberg Dean looked like a crunchy Vermont hippie, blithely uncoiffed, unadorned, unstyled and unconcerned about not being at her husband’s side — the anti-Laura. You could easily imagine the din of Rush Limbaugh and Co. demonizing her as a counterculture fem-lib role model for the blue states.

While Elizabeth Edwards gazes up at John from the front row of his events here, while Jane Gephardt cheerfully endures her husband’s ”Dick and Jane” jokes, while Teresa Heinz Kerry jets around for ”conversations” with caucusgoers — yesterday she was at the Moo Moo Cafe in Keokuk at the southernmost tip of the state — Judith Steinberg has shunned the role of helpmeet.

Many women cheered Judy Steinberg as a relief and a breakthrough. Why should she have to feign subservience in 2003, or compromise as Hillary Rodham and Teresa Heinz did when they took their husbands’ names? But many political analysts said that just as the remote technocrat Michael Dukakis needed Kitty around to warm him up, the emotionally chilly Howard Dean could benefit from the presence of someone who could illuminate his softer side. So far he has generated a lot of heat but little warmth.

And at a moment when he’s under attack by Democratic rivals for reinventing his political persona and shifting positions, he could use a character witness on the road to vouch for his core values.

Leave aside the…actually, no, let’s not leave aside the grotesque, sneering sexism here, which is all too typical. But also note that none of this is even colorably relevant to the presidential campaign. How Dr. Judith Steinberg Dean dresses tells us nothing substantive about Howard Dean, it tells us nothing of any public interest about Howard Dean as an individual, and the idea that people vote based on how the spouses of candidates dress is beyond nutty. The prose is terrible, the content is terrible, and as with Friedman one reinforces the other so that they’re virtually inseparable.  It’s not just sexism; it’s vapid know-nothingism. It’s remarkable that she still occupies the same editorial real estate a decade later.

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