WHAT, THEM WORRY? Maybe Pelosis remarks were unfairly excerpted. But to our mind, this Caucus report from the New York Times captures the What, Us Worry attitude Dem leaders routinely adopt toward the work of the press. Austin Bogues filed the report. It appears in the hard-copy Times, not just on the web site:
BOGUES (6/25/08): The Speaker on Sexism
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said today that she believed sexism against Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was a factor in the 2008 Democratic primary fight, but added that the Democratic presidential candidate also benefited from being a woman.
At a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor, Mrs. Pelosi, who is the first woman to become speaker of the House, said she dealt with sexism on a regular basis. Im a victim of sexism myself all the time, Mrs. Pelosi said.
Mrs. Pelosi said that she felt the issue needed to be studied, but said that her main priority now was to focus on the November elections. Of course there is sexism. We all know that, but its a given, she said.
My impression is, yes, there was sexism. My knowledge is, yes, there is sexism because there has been, Mrs. Pelosi said with a laugh. I myself find that I get a tremendous upside being a woman, and I dont spend a lot of time worrying about sexist remarks that people make.
Last evening, Pelosi offered a similar framework on On the Record with Greta Van Susteren. Gruesome excerpt below.
Sorry, but Pelosis approach is just awful. She has the impression that there was sexism? She doesnt spend a lot of time worrying about [such] sexist remarks? Do you mind if we offer a small suggestion? Maybe its time she started!
As everyone knows, the sexism at issue in this discussion is that of the mainstream press corps. Pelosis reaction typifies the who gives a flying fig approach of Dem leaders toward the work of the press. You simply cant make these people get mad, no matter what you do to Dem leaders. Nine years ago, they wouldnt complain about the trashing of Gore. Today, Pelosi wont complain about the trashing of Clinton. She isnt even willing to say whose conduct is being discussed here.
Two week ago, Howard Dean explained the leaderships endless silence on such matters. I dont watch that much cable, he said. Pelosi says the issue should be studied. Absolutely pathetic, both times. But extremely typical.
Do you mind if we cite a thought that entered our heads long ago? These people dont seem to care about who wins elections. If you actually care about outcomes, at some point you start getting mad about the trashing of your candidates. But quite plainly, nothing on earth makes these people mad. Whats the explanation?
Do you mind if we pose an unflattering theory? Nancy Pelosi and her husband are extremely wealthy. So are many other people in the leadership arms of the Dem Partyand in the larger liberal world. Most likely, these people would rather see Dems win elections. But they gain millions from GOP tax cuts if the other guys do.
But that explain their lack of intensity? We have no earthly idea.
You can say whatever you want about major Dem leaders. Loudmouths can go on TV and call them names even after they win the Nobel Peace Prize! What, us worry? your leadership says. At some point, its clear: They dont care!
Could a person be more clueless: Maybe its time for her to go. Can people be more clueless?
VAN SUSTEREN (6/24/08): You should see the e-mail I receive. I hear the Democratic Party talk about unity, and there is going to be unity in November. I hear that talk and I read my e-mails think it is almost delusional, because there are so many supporters of Senator Clinton who are absolutely outraged.
PELOSI: What are they outraged about? That she did not win?
What, her worry? But then, this was their attitude during the Whitewater hoaxingand during the two-year wilding of Gore. (Happy with the way that turned out?) Nothing makes these people mad. Again: By normal interpretive standards, they just dont seem to care.
CLARK HOYT GETS RESULTS: Its something we learned a long time ago about your celebrity press corps.
You can correct their facts as much as you like. You can show them that their quotations are wrongthat their paraphrases are deeply unfair. You can point to their broken logic. You can note the contradictory things they wrote about X, Y or Z in the past.
None of this will affect their work. To an astounding degree, they simply dont care about whats accurate, logical, fair. They only care when they get corrected in a venue which threatens their career status or social standing. When that happens, they get embarrassedand they feel threatened. And then, their conduct will change.
That explains this comical column, offered today by Maureen Dowd. We can explain this laughable piece in four words: Clark Hoyt gets results!
You see, Hoyt crushed Dowd on Sunday morningin the New York Times. And not just anywhere in the Times; Hoyt crushed Dowd in his public editor column, which appears right there in the very same section as Dowds appalling columns. If anything, Hoyt was too kind; he focused on Dowds gender-based trashing of Hillary Clinton, leaving untouched a decade of work in which she portrayed a string of Dem males as hapless girlie-men. Hoyt didnt count the number of times Dowd mocked Edwards as the Breck Girl; he didnt mention her rumination upon Gores state of lactation. Nor did he list the string of columns in which she savaged Major Dem wives, including the loud brassy she-b*tch Obamaand including Judith Steinberg Dean, a family physician whose startling appearance just didnt cut it with Dowd:
DOWD (1/15/04): The first hard evidence most people had that Howard Dean was actually married came with a startling picture of his wife on the front page of Tuesday's Times, accompanying a Jodi Wilgoren profile.
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 sidethe 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.
Disgraceful. You could imagine Rush mocking Doctor Dean, Dowd wroteas she mocked Doctor Dean herself. But if Hoyt cut Dowd a chunk of slack, he spoke quite frankly about her more recent work. And he even mentioned an embarrassing fact. Maureen Dowd is giving the Times a bad name out in the country:
HOYT (6/22/08): ''I've been twisting gender stereotypes around for 24 years,'' Dowd responded. She said nobody had objected to her use of similar images about men over seven presidential campaigns. She often refers to Barack Obama as ''Obambi'' and has said he has a ''feminine'' management style. But the relentless nature of her gender-laden assault on Clintonin 28 of 44 columns since Jan. 1left many readers with the strong feeling that an impermissible line had been crossed, even though, as Dowd noted, she is a columnist who is paid not to be objective.
Over the course of the campaign, I received complaints that Times coverage of Clinton included too much emphasis on her appearance, too many stereotypical words that appeared to put her down and dismiss a woman's potential for leadership and too many snide references to her as cold or unlikable. When I pressed for details, the subject often boiled down to Dowd.
Hoyt received many complaints about the Times coverage. But: When I pressed for details, he wrote, the subject often boiled down to Dowd.
The subject often boiled down to Dowd! There is only one word for that: Cold.
Hoyts column appeared in the same Sunday section where Dowd posts her columns. It appeared in a place where Dowds colleagues would read it. It suggested that Dowd is a blight on the Times. For those reasons, Clark Hoyt got results.
This morning, Maureen Dowd stands reinvented. Suddenly, she presents as a heartfelt defender of Dems. Suddenly, she defends Dems against the types of attacks she herself has launched for a decade. Go ahead! Enjoy a loud, hearty laugh! Try to believe that Maureen Dowd actually sat and typed this work, in which she defends Barack Obama against Karl Roves absurd depiction:
DOWD (6/25/08): Rove is trying to spin his myths, as he used to do with such devastating effect, but it won't work this time. The absurd spectacle of rich white conservatives trying to paint Obama as a watercress sandwich with the crust cut off seems ugly and fake.
Obama can be aloof and dismissive at times, and he's certainly self-regarding, carrying the aura of the Ivy faculty club. But isn't that better than the aura of the country clubs that tried to keep out blacks? It's ironic, and maybe inevitable, that the first African-American nominee comes across as a prince of privilege. He is, as Leon Wieseltier of The New Republic wrote, not the seed but the flower of the civil rights movement.
Unlike W., Obama doesn't have a chip on his shoulder and he doesn't make a lot of snarky remarks. He tries to stay on a positive keel and see things from the other person's point of view.
Conservatives love playing this little game, acting as if the ''elite'' Democratic candidates are not in touch with people like themselves, even though the guys doing the attackinglike Rove, Limbaugh, O'Reilly and Hannityare wealthy and cosseted.
Oh. Our. God. Conservatives love playing this little game? So did Dowduntil Sunday. Today, Dowd insists that Barack Obama is no watercress sandwich, with or without the crust removed. Gone is all that previous language, in which Obama was, as Hoyt noted, the girlie Obambi. In which he was a diffident debutante. In which he was a Hollywood starlet. Today, Dowd wont even call him Barryand, lacking all memory, self-reflection and shame, she even defends him as someone who tries to see things from the other persons point of view.
Go ahead! Just laugh out loud! But then, please accept our basic point: Clark Hoyt gets results!
More Phony Myths, Dowds headline says. Suddenly, Dowd is against them!
In fairness, she does slip up a few times. This morning, she plays the high-minded racial progressiveon behalf of the man she has mocked as Scarlett OHara and Legally Blonde. But go ahead: Chuckle as she sympathizes with Obama, the kid who had to...build a life with blacks. Small hint: The racial horizons of celebrity fruitcakes like Dowd are extremely limited. (Even as they sit on TV, lecturing us about racism.) But today, she scrambles for dear life itself. Near the end, shes performing heroically:
DOWD: Rove's mythmaking about Obama won't fly. If he means that Obama has brains, what's wrong with that? If he means that is successful, what's wrong with that? If he means that Obama has education and intellectual sophistication, what's wrong with that?
Actually, what Rove meant is that Obama is a sneering elitistthe same myth Dowd has pimped around about Big Dems for many years now. Like when she helped invent that quote from pretentious Candidate Kerry:
DOWD (3/18/04): He has a tendency toward striped-trouser smugness that led him to stupidly boast that he was more popular with leaders abroad than President Bushplaying into the Republican strategy to depict him as one of those ''cheese-eating surrender monkeys.''
Even when he puts on that barn jacket over his expensive suit to look less lockjawand says things like, ''Who among us doesn't like Nascar?''he can come across like Mr. Collins, Elizabeth Bennet's pretentious cousin in ''Pride and Prejudice.''
Actually, Kerry hadnt said that thing about NASCAR; somehow, as always, the Times made it up. But so what? It fit the image of Kerrys striped-trouser smugnessand the bogus quotation ran all through the Times, with this large assist from fair Dowd.
Today, though, a whole different Dowd has emerged. She peers into Obamas soul and sees a very different person. Barry Obambi is suddenly gone; so is the starlet, the diffident debutante. Today, a celebrity fruitcake has been chased from the pocket. As you watch her run for her life, just remember: Clark Hoyt gets results!
MOMMY, WHERE DOES THIS NONSENSE COME FROM: Even though it refers to us, we strongly recommend Gene Lyons new column. Well say it again: The time has come when we need to discuss the particular culture behind a large chunk of our broken political journalism. We routinely discuss the role of southern evangelicals and Jews in our politics. The time has come to discuss the role of Dowds ethnic/religious sub-group in our insider journalism. By the way, this group included our mother, our aunts and our sainted grandmother. To state the obvious, this group includes tens of millions of wonderful, extremely sane people. Few of these people behave like Dowd or her friend, Chris Matthews. But, for reasons they need to explain, our news orgs keep hiring the crackpots.
We think the time has come to let people know where these losers weird frameworks have come from.
Tomorrow, we may discuss Genes column in more detail. As a nation, weve politely ignored this strangeness for years. In the case of Dowds dysfunctional friendship group, this strategy just hasnt worked.
While youre at it, you might also scan this November 2005 profile of Dowd by New York magazines Ariel Levy. Levys profile is quite long. This is her third paragraph:
LEVY (11/7/05): It isnt easy being the lone female on murderers row, as the columnists offices in the Washington bureau are called. (And Dowds office just happens to be next door to her ex-boyfriend John Tierneys. Its like, Out of all the gin joints in all the world... It is weird, she says. We share a bathroom, which I guess could have ended up happening if wed gotten married.) Dowd says she doesnt mind that W. has nicknamed her The Cobra, and she probably kind of likes being called the flame-haired flamethrower, but she hates all monikers that involve knives or other sharp objects. I have a fear of castration, she explains, perching herself with catlike precision on the striped settee in her lacquer-red sitting room. Not fear of being castrated but fear of castrating. This from a woman who once referred to Al Gore as practically lactating.
It has long been clear that somethings not right there. Today, Dowd is running for her life; Hoyt has chased her out of the pocket. But when it comes to her dysfunctional celebrity cohort, polite silence has been a very bad strategy over the past dozen years. We need to explain who these people areand why they need to go elsewhere.