TOMORROW: Back to Harold Meyersons leadership—and on to this piece by John Judis.
THE GREY LADYS OWN BRITNEY SPEARS: Maureen Dowd is emotionally and morally ill, a point she makes clear once again in todays sad column.
Lets start, once again, with her sick, endless need to feminize Barack Obama.
Not that theres anything new about this. It has now been almost nine years since Dowd told the world that Al Gore is so feminized...hes practically lactating. (That was June 16, 1999—the day of Gores formal announcement.) It has been almost five years since she helped dub John Edwards the Breck Girl. (June 8, 2003. After that, she called him the Breck Girl in five other columns.) It has been almost a year since she wrote a column headlined, Obama, Legally Blonde? (February 14, 2007. One week later, he was Scarlett OHara.) And of course, she has kicked the stuffing out of endless Dem wives, for the nastiest, stupidest reasons you could conjure. In Dowds world, Major Dem Men are constantly girls—and Major Dem Women are most often men. Michelle Obama is a she-bitch, of course, a key point Dowd first made just last year.
So its no surprise—to see Dowd back on the Bambi beat as she writes about Obama. In todays column, she describes Obambi as a diffident debutante, then turns to this standard inanity:
DOWD (2/6/08): Even though Obama stopped smoking when he started running for president, he has lost five pounds racing around the country. Just like Hollywood starlets, he works out religiously and he can make a three-course meal out of a Nicorette.
For much of the campaign, when matched against Hillary in debates, the Illinois senator seemed out of his weight class. But he has moved up to heavyweight, even while losing five pounds as he has raced around the country. The big question is: Can he go from laconic to iconic to bionic?
The fourth word which comes to mind is moronic. But note this: For unknown reasons, that Hollywood starlets paragraph has been dropped from Dowds column on-line; its also AWOL on Nexis. (It stares at us from our hard-copy Times.) Who knows? Even the Times may have finally noticed a fact: Maureen Dowd is a gender-nut crackpot.
Even worse, Dowd is relentlessly dumb—although this hardly makes her stand out among the Times op-ed columnists.
A bit of context about todays column: Times columnists arent allowed to make endorsements. For that reason, Dowd cant publish a column which says, Vote against Hillary/Vote against Hillary, over and over for eight hundred words. She has to pretend that shes framing an argument—although name-calling is often involved. This morning, she starts off like this:
DOWD: Hillary Clinton denounced Dick Cheney as Darth Vader, but she did not absorb the ultimate lesson of the destructive vice president:
Don't become so paranoid that you let yourself be overwhelmed by a dark vision.
I think Hillary truly believes that she and Bill are the only ones tough enough to get to the White House. Jack Nicholson endorsed her as ''the best man for the job,'' and she told David Letterman that ''in my White House, we'll know who wears the pantsuits.'' But her pitch is the color of pitch: Because she has absorbed all the hate and body blows from nasty Republicans over the years, she is the best person to absorb more hate and body blows from nasty Republicans.
Darkness seeking darkness. It's an exhausting specter, and the reason that Tom Daschle, Ted Kennedy, Claire McCaskill and so many other Democrats are dashing for daylight and trying to break away from the pathological Clinton path.
As always, Clinton is paranoid and pathological. Indeed, Hillary Clinton is so paranoid that she has come to believe that she alone can stand up to Republicans. But how about a bit of parallel construction? Is Barack Obama so paranoid now that he has come to believe that he alone can produce needed change? A question like that wont appear in a column which replaces Vote against Hillary. Instead, we get claims about paranoia and pathology—and, of course, we get world-class mind-reading, as in the last of these paragraphs:
DOWD: [O]n Tuesday night she told supporters, ''Let me be clear: I won't let anyone Swift-boat this country's future.''
Better the devil you know than the diffident debutante you don't. Better to go with the Clintons, with all their dysfunction and chaos—the same kind that fueled the Republican hate machine—than to risk the chance that Obama would be mauled like a chew toy in the general election. Better to blow off all the inspiration and the young voters, the independents and the Republicans that Obama is attracting than to take a chance on something as ephemeral as hope. Now that's Cheney-level paranoia.
Bill is propelled by Cheneyesque paranoia, as well. His visceral reaction to Obama—from the ''fairy tale'' line to the inappropriate Jesse Jackson comparison—is rooted less in his need to see his wife elected than in his need to see Obama lose, so that Bill's legacy is protected. If Obama wins, he'll be seen as the closest thing to J. F. K. since J. F. K. And J. F. K. is Bill's hero.
As always, Bill is paranoid too. And Dowd knows what drove his fairy tale comment—as any great novelist would. (By the rules, it cant be fury at the press corps, which he specifically expressed.) And, as any great novelist would, Dowd is ready to mind-read millions of average voters. She just knows why they vote as they do—as any great novelist would:
DOWD: Tuesday's voting showed only that the voters, like moviegoers, don't want a pat ending. Even though Hillary reasserted her strength, corraling New York, California and Kennedy country Massachusetts, she and Obama will battle on in chiaroscuro. Her argument to the Democratic base has gone from a subtext of ''You owe me,'' or more precisely, ''Bill owes me and you owe him,'' to a subtext of ''Obambi will fold at the first punch from the right.''
See that? By the rules, Tuesdays voting cant simply show that roughly half of Democratic voters prefer Clinton to Obama. (Often reluctantly, because they like both.) By the rules of this stupid column, there has to be some other reason when millions vote for the b*tch.
Maureen Dowd knows what that reason is—as any great novelist would. Maureen Dowd knows why you vote. She knows the very shape of your lives.
In summary, Maureen Dowd is morally sick—shes just unwell—about those vexing gender issues. Her sickness has been apparent for years. In that respect, shes much like the Times own Britney Spears; shes someone who needs intervention. But even worse than her moral sickness is her constant, world-class dumbness. If humans civilization continues to develop, future generations will look back on such work with unease, as we look back on medieval medicine. What might it say about us, they will ask, that our ancestors reasoned that way?
FOR CLARITYS SAKE: For claritys sake, lets say it again: In todays hard-copy New York Times, Dowd compares Obama (sorry—Obambi) to a Hollywood starlet. But that paragraph has been disappeared on-line, and its been disappeared from Nexis. Its hard to avoid a possible thought: At long last, someone at the Times may have noticed the fact that their scribe is unwell.
MUCH THE SAME REACTION: In fairness, we had much the same reaction to Bob Herberts Tuesday column, in which he wasnt allowed to write Vote for Obama for eight hundred words.
Jesus Christ, this page is a mess! Herberts logic meanders about, shifting gears from one paragraph to the next. And as New York Times columnists constantly do, he speaks for the motives and views of millions on the basis of—basically, nothing. Our analysts laughed—until they cried—when they reached this comical groaner:
HERBERT (2/5/08): During a series of interviews on the campus of Stanford University, students expressed great interest in the election but seemed unconcerned with such factors as Mr. Obama's race or perceived electability.
A handful of interviews on a college campus is hardly a scientific survey. But well-educated young people are the distilled version of Mr. Obama's supporters, and it's a fact that younger people in the U.S. have had it with the bitterness, divisiveness and ineffectiveness that make government and politics in their eyes seem so unsavory.
A handful of interviews cant tell you what young people think, the scribe says. And then, he tells you what young people think—failing to offer any source for the well-scripted fact he offer.
Herberts piece is a typical mess—a jumbled and wildly illogical hodge-podge which seems to carry an obvious sub-text. (Unlike their racially compromised elders, young people cant wait to vote for Obama.) But then, the Times op-ed page is a daily mess—an embarrassing reminder of our reptilian origins. Future generations will shift in their seats when forced to look at this pages work. What might this endless mess say about us, they will uncomfortably wonder.
HERBERTS ILLOGIC: According to Herbert, many Democratic realists have a fear about nominating Obama: Their contention is that the country has come a long, long way, but that it is not yet ready to cross the finish line by installing a black man in the White House. No, he doesnt quote anyone who has actually said this; they will only say this in private, he suggests. But might we pose an obvious question? If Democratic voters really believe that white racist voters would defeat Obama next fall, why wouldnt they want to consider that problem as they decide on their primary vote?
(Note: Herbert presents no evidence that Democratic voters actually think that. And he doesnt say how many Democratic voters might hold this view. For the record, that isnt our view of Obamas chances—although we are concerned that he could be Dukakised, as another fine person once was. We have different but equal concerns about Clintons chances in the fall. The press corps hates her, and shes trailing sixteen years of demonization.)
Guess what? If we thought Obama couldnt win in the fall, we might vote against him too! But rather than evaluate this supposed concern, Herbert ends up typing feel-good piffle. His column ends with a rejoinder which fails to address the original concern:
HERBERT: The easiest way to understand what is going on is to step across the generational divide. The realists tend to be older and come out of a political and racial experience that is often completely alien to Mr. Obama's most fervent supporters, who tend to be younger.
During a series of interviews on the campus of Stanford University, students expressed great interest in the election but seemed unconcerned with such factors as Mr. Obama's race or perceived electability.
''The students like him because he's a fresh face, a personality with fresh ideas,'' said Julia Liebner, a human biology major. ''Hillary may do great things for the country if she is elected, but I think the kids are responding to Obama's more hopeful message and his idea of bringing people together.''
Ben Fried, who was interviewed as he straddled a bicycle under a sky that threatened a downpour at any moment, said that he had participated in many conversations about the election and that race had not been a factor in any of them. ''I would just say the kids like Obama,'' he said.
Awwww! If youre the tenth caller, you win a warm puppy! Soon, though, the meandering pundit is typing this about those wonderful kids:
HERBERT: They are in a better place than their elders on race. They are not shouldering the resentments of years and decades past. They are not parsing the differences between the Clinton and Obama health proposals, or obsessing over who would do better against John McCain.
But wait a minute! If white racist voters might defeat Obama, shouldnt these great young kids be concerned with such factors as Mr. Obama's race or perceived electability? And shouldnt Bob Herbert, at some point, try to decide if this really could happen? In a rational world, you might think that—but this is the world of the Times op-ed page. Herbert, like Dowd, is pretending to reason, because he cant type, Vote Obama.
Obvious question: Why are the kids in a better place than their elders about race—if their elders are simply worried about a bad thing which might really happen?
Herberts piece is a jumbled, illogical mess; no big surprise there, of course. But it makes us feel very good at the end—and it drives a fairly clear, nasty message.