WORST INTERVIEW EVER: In yesterdays column, Richard Cohen was banging away at our addled discourse. Then, he contributed to it:
COHEN (7/8/08): This is the doleful legacy of Reaganism. We have become a nation that believes that you can get something for nothing. We thought that the energy crisis would be solved . . . somehow, and that no one would have to suffer. We still believe in the magical qualities of America, that something about us makes us better. Yet we have a chaotic and mediocre education system that desperately needs more money and higher standards, but we thinkdon't we?that somehow we will maintain our lifestyle anyway. Hey, is this America or what?
Trust us. Cohen knows nothing about our mediocre educational system. So he typed some familiar cantperpetuating a form of the magical thinking hed just been complaining about.
How addled is our discourse on public ed? Tomorrow, we start a four-part series on perhaps the worst TV interview ever broadcast. Charlie Rose is a major broadcasterand Time believes that Wendy Kopp is one of the hundred most influential people in the world. They combined to stink out the joint July 1. From there, Kopp proceeded to Aspen.
In fairness, Rose put up a minor fightfor a while. But how bad has American discourse become? Tomorrow, part 1: Dueling lists. Could be the worst session ever.
APPLYING THEIR CRAYONS: At long last, the lady has said it! In the following passage from todays foolish column, Maureen Dowd defines the public discourse of the past twenty yearsthe discourse which has shaped all our lives:
DOWD (7/9/08): Fictionalizing historical figures is fine. Fantasies about public figures are inevitable.
Fiction and fantasy are inevitablefine. And just to clarify, the historical figure she specifically cites is Laura Bushan historical figure who currently sits in the White House. As such, that passage from Dowd leads directly to this one, from Paul Krugmans column last Friday:
KRUGMAN (7/4/08): [A] true account of modern American politics should be titled What Didnt Happen. Again and again weve had media firestorms over supposedly revealing incidents that never actually took place.
Lets go ahead and rewrite that: Again and again weve had media firestorms over supposedly revealing incidents that were fictional or fantasized. Krugman listed four such imagined incidents at the start of his column. The firestorms about these incidents that never actually took place have, in just the past ten years, changed the course of all our liveshave changed the course of world history.
No, Al Gore never said he invented the Internet. But, as Dowd now admits, fantasies about public figures are inevitableinside her professional cohort.
Dowds piece is remarkably nasty and stupid, as so much of her work has been. Is Clark Hoyt still getting results? Today, coincidence lets her slime a Republican wifepreviously unexplored territory for this famed slimer of Major Dem Spouses. But in this column, she seems to show the narrow line that exists in her mind between the realms of truth and fantasy. In the following passage, she describes a forthcoming novel about Laura Bushs (imagined/fictionalized/fantasized) sex life. MSNBC has called the sex scenes too graphic to reprint, Dowd purrs:
DOWD: Still, its not a salacious tell-all, and words like smear and gossip are misplaced. Its a well-researched book that imagines what lies behind that placid facade of the first lady, a womens book-club novel by a young woman named Curtis Sittenfeld who has written two best sellers, including Prep.
Only Dowd could concoct that sentence, about a well-researched book that imagines events! But then, Dowd has long shown little skill at distinguishing fact from fiction. Darlings! If it feels good, say it! In this passage, she ruminates on:
DOWD: You dont get any fingerprints from Laura Bush. When you look into her eyes during an interview, you feel as if she is there somewhere, deep inside herself, miles and miles down. But though she is lovely and gracious, the main vibe she gives off is an emphatic: I am not going to show you anything.
Once in a while, youll read about something shes said, like that legendary line she uttered to her future in-lawsI read, I smoke, and I admirethat makes you realize how intriguing it would be to see the real Laura. One with her guard down and outside of the Kabuki-like job of first lady.
But theres only one vessel that can ferry you past Lauras moat, and thats fiction.
In the second paragraph, Dowd pleasures herself by recalling that legendary line [Bush] uttered. In such contexts, Dowd has rarely seemed to understand that legendary often means untrue/imagined. That said, lets translate the highlighted part of this passage:
Laura Bush wont tell us about her sex life. So were forced to make sh*t up.
Were forced to offer you fiction, Dowd says. But then, as Krugman noted just last Friday, Dowd and her overpaid, crackpot cohort have offered us a great deal of that, over the past many years.
You might call it the science of brainless distraction. Inside Versailles, Dowd refuses to think about serious issues, a point she made long ago to Joe Klein (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/3/08). But shes still condemned to be awake during all those tedious hours! So she purrs about a fatal car crash when Laura Bush was seventeen. This is where it takes her:
DOWD: Laura has rarely spoken publicly about it, except to say in 2000 that it was crushing ... for the family involved and for me as well.
How could a novelist not be drawn to such a tragedy? Its easy to imagine all that guilt, shame, conscience, fear, sex and nightmares in the hands of Eudora Welty or Larry McMurtry.
Its easy to imagine these things, Dowd says. She has proven this point through the years.
How easy is it to imagine? Ponder this:
No, Al Gore didnt say he invented the Internet. Nor did he say he discovered Love Canal. He didnt say he inspired Love Storythough Dowd pretty much invented that groaner, along with Frank Rich. He plainly didnt say he invented the Earned Income Tax credit; when the Bradley campaign pretended hed said it, Dowds cohort played alongfor a year (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/3/05). He also didnt introduce Willie Horton to the public. They played along with Bradley there, too. And when he joked about a union song, they pretended he hadnt been joking. But then, it was easy for them to imagine these things. You see, they had formed a judgment about Clinton and Gore. That only left the invention of fictional incidentsconcoctions to convince all us rubes.
By lore, JFK imagined that missile gap; LBJ fictionalized the Tonkin Gulf incident. In those days, it was the pols who were making things up. Then, the pundits got into the game. Dowd keeps leading the charge.
About those crayons: If we might adapt a mid-80s lyric, Millionaire journalists just want to have fun. In this perfectly fatuous passage, Dowd attempts to justify the steamy new novel which has her blood on the run:
DOWD: But theres only one vessel that can ferry you past Lauras moat, and thats fiction. Ms. Sittenfeld has creatively applied her crayons to all the ambiguous blanks in the coloring book. It isnt an invasion of privacy. Art has always been made out of the stories of kings and queens. Fictionalizing historical figures is fine. Fantasies about public figures are inevitable. The question of an ostensibly ordinary girl who lives through extraordinary things will always be gripping. For Madame Bovary, Flaubert partly drew on the real-life story of Delphine Delamare, a village doctors unhappy wife who had lots of lovers and a premature and humiliating death.
And the story of the quiet, pretty librarian who could suffer the fate of being an old maid if not rescued by the dashing hero is a favorite American narrativefrom The Music Man to Its a Wonderful Life.
Its a favorite American narrative, Dowd writes. And she really ought to know, having helped invent many others. Al Gore is so feminized hes practically lactating? For many years, comments like that have been part of another favorite narrative. So too with her jibes at Barry Obambi, the debutante starlet. So too with her jibes at the Breck Girl.
Dowd is so dumb that shes barely upright, but that passage captures the culture of the Dowd/Rich/Matthews/lets make sh*t up era. Readers, let Dowd entertain you! Flaubert drew on the life of someone whod been dead for ten yearsso Dowd can make her tired blood run with invented tales about Laura Bush. (Darlings! Sex scenes too graphic to reprint!) In passing, might we add a thought RE Dowd and Flaubert? Some people should not go to college.
This column comes straight from an empty elite, in the palace. And its just as Krugman told you on Friday: A true account of modern politics will spill with their fictional tales.