Thursday, January 10, 2008

Quick! Take the Dowd Antidote!

You simply cannot live in a world where a grade A fancy ninny like Maureen Dowd is considered an important pundit without taking a regular antidote.

My antidote of choice is Bob Somerby of the DAILY HOWLER. I couldn't resist quoting his entire January 9 howl of anguish over her mind-boggling Dowd-osity.

ASTOUNDING: Obviously, there is nothing left to say about Maureen Dowd. On December 30, the nation’s most visible public crackpot wrote a deeply strange year-end column about having a faith healer come to her home to “clear” it of karmic disorder. (And no, she didn’t seem to be joking—click here.) This morning, she gives us a look at the giants among whom she works. Incredibly, her extra-long piece is headlined thus: “Can Hillary Cry Her Way to the White House?” Even we were startled:

DOWD (1/9/08): When I walked into the office Monday, people were clustering around a computer to watch what they thought they would never see: Hillary Clinton with the unmistakable look of tears in her eyes.

A woman gazing at the screen was grimacing, saying it was bad. Three guys watched it over and over, drawn to the ''humanized'' Hillary. One reporter who covers security issues cringed. ''We are at war,'' he said. ''Is this how she'll talk to Kim Jong-il?''

Another reporter joked: ''That crying really seemed genuine. I'll bet she spent hours thinking about it beforehand.'' He added dryly: ''Crying doesn't usually work in campaigns. Only in relationships.''

Bill Clinton was known for biting his lip, but here was Hillary doing the Muskie. Certainly it was impressive that she could choke up and stay on message.

There you see them, swapping quips in their small, cramped part of the palace.

Jesus, what a gang of losers! Clinton was “doing the Muskie,” Dowd says. Of course, as we recently noted, David Broder acknowledged, long ago, that Muskie quite likely didn’t “do the Muskie” himself (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/28/07), but people like Dowd never drop preferred stories. Indeed, she may be showing professional courtesy; “the Muskie” is one of the few confections about Major Hopefuls of the last half-century which she herself didn’t invent. (Al Gore said he inspired Love Story! And: George H. W. Bush asked for a splash of coffee! And: John Kerry said, Who among us doesn’t love NASCAR! The crackpot helped dream them all up.)

Beyond that, note the portrait Dowd provides of the people around whom she works. (It’s odd to think that she goes to an office to write about her ghost-busting.) A security expert thinks the next president will be chatting it up with Kim Jong-Il. Others offer hackneyed quips about the way Clinton was faking—although she obviously wasn’t. (If you don’t know that, you don’t understand why acting schools exist.) But the dopes who write our big newspapers instinctively rush to such speculations. (They did the same with Romney in the past few weeks.) Maybe the faith healer has a good friend who can freshen the air inside heads?

Dowd’s whole column today is appalling, even by her own bizarre standards. (Clearly, the Times has gone way past the point of embarrassment.) Her remarks about LBJ are utterly stupid. (“Living Democrats” know that Johnson was a giant of the civil rights movement, despite the tragedy of Vietnam. Dr. King also knew that.) She offers the standard non-analysis analysis of the Kyl-Lieberman vote. (Do you think she has any idea what the measure may have entailed?) She says Bill Clinton put Bush in the White House through his affair with Miss Lewinsky, who must appear in all such columns. (We agree with Dowd’s assessment. But did she herself put Bush in the White House when she invented the Love Story blather, months before we’d heard of Monica? When she wrote, from the soul of her spreading illness, that Candidate Gore “is so feminized...he’s practically lactating?”) And then too, inevitably, there’s feigned non-comprehension:

DOWD: [I]n the end, she had to fend off calamity by playing the female victim, both of Obama and of the press. Hillary has barely talked to the press throughout her race even though the Clintons this week whined mightily that the press prefers Obama.

Should Clinton engage the press more? It’s hard to say. But duh! Targeted pols avoid the press because they know they’re targets. To state the blindingly obvious, that’s why Gore had to stop talking to reporters after Dowd invented the Love Story claptrap—after it became abundantly clear that every trivial, accurate comment would now be used against him. Often, we liberals still don’t seem to understand these dynamics; we echo complaints like this by Dowd—and we haven’t yet come to understand that we have to defend all our leaders, even those whom we might not prefer. Of course, life-forms like Dowd will always pretend they don’t understand this game either.

There’s very little left to say about this gruesome figure. But we liberals still haven’t publicly defined Dowd’s cohort, whom we mock among ourselves as “the Villagers.” Average people still haven’t heard about their culture—this average person, for example:

LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (1/3/08): I have been a daily Times reader for nearly 40 years, beginning with my first subscription at my New England preparatory school in the 1960s.

The opinion section has always drawn me into thoughtful discussion, with distinguished columnists from William Safire to Maureen Dowd, and from Paul Krugman to David Brooks (about whom I still have doubts).

But surely something has gone wrong when The Times embraces William Kristol, one of the neocon architects of the Bush administration's failed first-strike Iraq strategy, and an unapologetic hawk on similar aggression against Iran.

Good God. This reader still thinks Dowd is a “distinguished columnist” offering “thoughtful discussions.” Liberals should flesh out our ideas about “the Village”—and make sure that such voters have heard them.

For decades, people like this have been told that the Dowds are driven by a vile “liberal bias.” They’ve heard it over and over again; indeed, they still seem to think that the press is “too liberal” when it covers elections (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/20/07). We mock Village morés—among ourselves. We need to do what conservatives did—we need to find ways to tell the public, not just ourselves, about this broken-souled clan.