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YES, SHE CAN! Maureen Dowd keeps calling Obama names–and stays far away from McCain: // link // print // previous // next //

AMAZINGLY BAD: Since the New York Times is our most famous paper, this piece today about Social Security is just amazingly bad. The technical blundering starts right away. This is ridiculous work:

ROHTER (8/14/08): Ignoring the warnings that Social Security can derail political careers, Senator John McCain has infuriated his party’s right wing by saying that “everything has to be on the table” in discussions about keeping Social Security solvent.

Mr. McCain, the presumed Republican presidential nominee, does indeed seem to have put everything on the table. In the space of one week, he opened the door to an increase in Social Security taxes, denied he would raise payroll taxes and then, through an ally, called a tax increase a “dumb idea.” He has also sowed confusion about whether he favors privatizing Social Security, or continuing with the current system.

That is just ridiculous work. And more bungling follows.

First: In pushing the idea that “Social Security can derail political careers,” this piece is a decade out of date. That was a lively narrative in Campaign 2000—used to pimp the great vast courage being displayed by Candidate Bush in his vastly heroic plan to introduce private accounts to the system. The entire press corps pimped this tale, affirming Bush’s character. But in that way, it became abundantly clear that “third rail” notions about SS had long since gone out of date. “Social Security can derail political careers,” Rohter warns as he starts today. He fails to say why, if this is so, both candidates have made proposals about the non-floundering system.

That basic framework is way out of date. But that second paragraph is just horrendous. How many readers will understand that “Social Security taxes” and “payroll taxes” are, in this context, the same thing? Trust us: Most readers won’t realize that. The failure to make that basic fact clear vastly undermines Rohter’s point. (This could be an editor’s bungle.)

Later, Rohter bungles a very elementary statement about the present and future status of the system’s “trust fund.” The New York Times is considered our leading newspaper. It’s amazing to see how often its work is technically bungled, on the simplest levels.

YES, SHE CAN: Write novels, that is—and trash all Major Dems. Increasingly, your public discourse is a dream. Indeed, as she started Wednesday’s column, the most e-mailed writer at your biggest newspaper showed how her daft technique works:

DOWD (8/13/08): While Obama was spending three hours watching “The Dark Knight” five time zones away, and going to a fund-raiser featuring “Aloha attire” and Hawaiian pupus, Hillary was busy planning her convention.

You can almost hear her mind whirring: She’s amazed at how easy it was to snatch Denver away from the Obama saps. Like taking candy from a baby, except Beanpole Guy doesn’t eat candy. In just a couple of weeks, Bill and Hill were able to drag No Drama Obama into a swamp of Clinton drama.

Now they’ve made Barry’s convention all about them—their dissatisfaction and revisionism and barely disguised desire to see him fail. Whatever insincere words of support the Clintons muster, their primal scream gets louder: He can’t win! He can’t close the deal! We told you so!

Hillary’s orchestrating a play within the play in Denver. Just as Hamlet used the device to show that his stepfather murdered his father, Hillary will try to show the Democrats they chose the wrong savior.

The basic techniques were all in place: Obsession with certain central characters. The undisguised ability to read their minds—to “almost hear her mind whirring.” The ability to psychoanalyze them (describe their primal screams), based on this access to their inner thoughts. And the endless denigration of “Barry,” who has now become “Beanpole Guy.” Final technique: There are always strained references to high culture, like Hamlet, as Dowd hides the fact that a column like this is the work of a disordered mind.

Needless to say, the facts get played, this being a long-running novel. Eventually, the crackpot reached her climax:

DOWD: Some Democrats wish that Obama had told the Clintons to “get in the box” or get lost if they can’t show more loyalty, rather than giving them back-to-back, prime-time speaking gigs at the convention on Tuesday and Wednesday. Al Gore clipped their wings in 2000, triggering their wrath by squeezing both the president and New York Senate candidate into speaking slots the first night and then ushering them out of L.A.

Wednesday will be all Bill. The networks will rerun his churlish comments from Africa about Obama’s readiness to lead and his South Carolina meltdowns. TV will have more interest in a volcanic ex-president than a genteel veep choice.

Dowd seems to be taking those “Liberties” again. (In late 2005, the Times finally had enough sense to stop appending that generic name to her columns.) What are the actual facts at this point? As of now, Hillary Clinton is scheduled for a prime-time speaking slot; she will headline the Tuesday night session. But is it true that “Wednesday will be all Bill?” In fact, the headline speaker that night will be the vice presidential nominee; at this point, it isn’t even clear that Bill Clinton will speak in prime time at all (in the hour covered by the networks). Meanwhile, you have to chuckle when you see the Cokies and Dowds switching their treasured, long-running narratives. For years, Dowd’s kind has mocked stupid Candidate Gore because he didn’t use Bill Clinton enough. Now, she praises Gore for supposedly “clipping his wings” at the 2000 convention! (Trust us. She didn’t mention this in real time.) This reversal is done for one reason, of course—so Dowd can snark at weak, feckless “Barry” for failing to stand up to the Clintons. But remember: This gang’s standard tales can be flipped without notice. Among Dowd’s cohort, polling your vacation was a sign of bad character—until Obama failed to poll his. Just like that, in the hands of Roberts, this failure now made him a dope (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/12/08).

At any rate, Dowd can read the Clintons’ minds—and this fuels her inventive novels. But her sneering novels aim just one way. Let’s consider her approach to McCain.

In yesterday’s column, Barack Obama was “Barry” again; endlessly, Dowd has name-called “Beanpole Guy” through the past year of her columns. (Except, of course, for that period when a savage column by public editor Clark Hoyt seemed to put fear of God in her mind.) Obama has been “Barry,” “Obambi” and “Scarlett O’Hara;” he’s been a “starlet obsessing on a svelte waistline” and a “diffident debutante” (the latter, two separate times). The kooky crackpot loves hurling names—at the Democratic nominee and his rivals. But what does she call the great saint, Saint McCain? We couldn’t think of a single mocking name. And so we decided to look.

In fact, it’s hard to find Maureen Dowd calling McCain any names at all; to all intents and purposes, she simply doesn’t discuss him. According to the Nexis archives, these are the last twelve columns in which Dowd has mentioned McCain at all. But you’ll note who these columns were really about. Amazing but true: Over a ten-week period (twenty columns in all), only one of Dowd’s twenty cries for help has principally dealt with McCain:

June 8: “Watch Out, Meryl Steep! She’s a Master Thespian.” (The latest put-down of Hillary Clinton.)

June 11: “Mincing Up Michelle Obama.” (In this, Dowd’s first post-Hoyt column, she criticized Republicans for treating Michelle Obama in the way she herself had long done.)

June 25: “More Phony Myths.” (In this, another post-Hoyt effort, Dowd criticized Karl Rove for treating Barack Obama in the way she herself had long done.)

June 29: “It’s Over, Lady!” (Back to the trashing of Hillary Clinton.)

July 2: “The Wrong Stuff.” (The final post-Hoyt column. Dowd sympathized with Obama, who was being criticized unfairly.)

July 16: “May We Mock, Barack?” (Back to the mocking of Obama. Let us guess: By now, someone in the Times hierarchy had told Dowd she could keep being Dowd.)

July 20: “Ich Bin Ein Jet-Setter.” (A fatuous preview of Obama’s trip abroad—complete with inane references to the Labors of Hercules, the Augean stables, slaying the nine-headed Hydra monster and obtaining the girdle of the Amazon warrior queen Hippolyte. Dowd also discussed capturing the Erymanthian Boar and getting past that 100-headed dragon to steal the Apples of the Hesperides. Did we mention that Maureen Dowd’s nuts?)

July 23: “Is ‘The One’ Cocky or Commander in Chiefy [sic]?” (Don’t even ask.)

July 27: “Stalking, Sniffing, Swooning.” (“Being a Citizen of the World has its downsides,” Dowd sniffed at the end.)

July 30: “Cyclops And Cunning.” (“Odysseus's heroic trait is his cunning intelligence. Given his inability to get lift off, even flying close to the sun, Obama will need all he can muster.”)

August 3: “Mr. Darcy Comes Courting.” (Barack Obama is too proud. And too skinny, like an organic chicken.)

August 6: “McCain’s Green-Eyed Monster.” (McCain, a man of honor, is running those childish attack ads because he’s pea-green with envy.)

August 13: “Yes, She Can.” (The Clintons are evil again.)

Please remember what those columns represent. Those are the last twelve columns in which Dowd has even mentioned McCain, the Republican White House candidate. Conclusion? As you can see from the headlines and subject matter, Dowd almost never discusses McCain. She has no mocking nicknames for him—because she doesn’t discuss him. She is a trasher of Big Major Dems—except when she rehabilitates Gore to fuel an attack on weak “Barry.”

It’s stunning to see Dowd’s intellectual illness splayed out across the American stage. A culture cannot proceed this way, defined by such disturbed intellects. And yet, the New York Times has allowed this for years—the New York Times, our best-known newspaper. This is the work of an addled elite; it’s the mark of a sick, broken culture.

A TECHNICALLY ACCURATE COLUMN: But then, novels are everywhere in your discourse, happily recited by all. In today’s column, E. J. Dionne recites a new approved part of a long-running dime novel:

DIONNE (8/14/08): And there is that [Mark] Penn memo that speaks of Obama's "lack of American roots." Thankfully, Clinton declined to take up this idea, but John McCain's ads are now subtly toying with it.

Everyone is saying that now. But if you read the memo in question, Dionne’s presentation is basically bogus.

In fact, Hillary Clinton did take the bulk of the advice offered in that Penn memo. As we noted yesterday, the memo was written in March 2007. Josh Green was too dishonest to say so in his ballyhooed nothing-burger, but Penn explicitly said the following. This is rather basic:

PENN MEMO (3/19/07): We are never going to say anything about his background.

Buzz-kill! “We are never going to say anything about [Obama’s] background,” Penn said in the memo—and, throughout the rest of the year, Clinton never did. (Thus following what Penn’s memo said.) But she took other parts of Penn’s advice too. Here is the part of the (rather long) memo which Green was willing to quote in his piece (to read Green’s ballyhooed piece, just click here). Note again: Penn was looking for things the campaign could do “without turning negative” (our emphasis):

PENN MEMO (3/19/07): All of these articles about his boyhood in Indonesia and his life in Hawaii are geared towards showing his background is diverse, multicultural and putting that in a new light.

Save it for 2050.
It also exposes a very strong weakness for him—his roots to basic American values and culture are at best limited. I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values. He told the people of NH yesterday he has a Kansas accent because his mother was from there. His mother lived in many states as far as we can tell—but this is an example of the nonsense he uses to cover this up.

How we could give some life to this contrast without turning negative:

Every speech should contain the line you were born in the middle of America to the middle class in the middle of the last century. And talk about the basic bargain as about the deeply American values you grew up with, learned as a child and that drive you today. Values of fairness, compassion, responsibility, giving back.

Let’s explicitly own ‘American’ in our programs, the speeches and the values. He doesn’t. Make this a new American Century, the American Strategic Energy Fund. Let’s use our logo to make some flags we can give out. Let’s add flag symbols to the backgrounds.

But duh. No, Clinton didn’t spray the word “American” around in the way Penn recommended. But some flag symbols did appear, and as anyone alive on the planet would know, she did adopt that basic speech element about being “born in the middle of America to the middle class in the middle of the last century.” In short, she did several of the most basic things Penn recommended in this memo. She avoided discussing Obama’s background—and she stressed her own middle-American roots. Penn thought this narrative conferred an advantage on Clinton, since it couldn’t be matched by Obama. (If you actually read the f*cking memo, you will see that he thought Obama gained an advantage from certain narrative elements that couldn’t be matched by Clinton. This is basic product advancement, written in an insider’s shorthand.)

In our view, there has been a great deal of vastly silly squealing about this particular memo. (No, we wouldn’t have written it ourselves. But then, we aren’t consultants—or product managers.) But as always, the silly squealing has been driven along by blatant misstatements about its contents—and about Clinton’s reaction. In this morning’s column, Dionne is careful to avoid saying that Penn told Clinton to criticize Obama’s “lack of American roots;” presumably, he understands that Penn told her not to do that, though many others have said different. This includes Green, who seems to have trouble telling the truth when the truth conflicts with insider narratives.

There is a great deal more in that particular memo that Dems would benefit from pondering. Green avoided these parts of the memo, and few others will mention them. But a new novel-chapter is being written in the days since Green’s nothing-burger appeared. Dionne has now become the latest to nudge the chapter along.

Here’s the new narrative: Vile Penn told Clinton to attack Obama’s lack of American roots. But thankfully, Clinton didn’t take his advice. In fact, he plainly told her that she shouldn’t discuss Obama’s background—that instead, she should stress her own roots. And Clinton followed both suggestions. She didn’t attack Obama’s background. (Although Obama’s campaign was soon spewing perfect bullsh*t about—omigod!—the Lincoln Bedroom, and was soon spewing tortured attacks about Bill Clinton’s business dealings. We can't see the memos about those discussions—and so we get to cry a good cry about the Penn memo, giving no thought to the things that were said inside the Obama campaign about those absurd Lincoln Bedroom claims.) And she did introduce the speech element about her own middle-American background. It’s hard to know why anyone would say that she didn’t follow that memo. Oh wait—we almost forgot! They say it because it’s part of a novel! Because the other kids will.

For the most part, Clinton did what Penn advised in that memo. But the children have their novel, and they’ll keep typing it up.

By the way: Dionne played this game in 1999 and 2000 too. He never said a single word about the bogus tales about Gore. He carefully typed around all the lies—but never dared confront them. He didn’t repeat the lies himself. But he didn’t say that they were wrong.

So let’s raise a glass to E. J. today! Today, he helps drive a new novel along—although you can pretty much see that he knows it’s bogus. He keeps his own statements technically accurate. In today’s world, that’s the best these types do.

He’s riding with Cokie: Amazing. In discussing the March 2007 memo, Green simply omits this statement by Penn: “We are never going to say anything about his background.” Having withheld that basic statement from readers, Green then tells them this: “Penn also left no doubt about where he stood on the question of a positive versus negative strategy.”

Truly, these youngsters amaze.

But so it goes when children play you. And of course, Al Gore said he invented the Internet! As long as that remained the insider press corps’ official narrative, Green argued for it very hard, as late as June 2004. People like Green are adjuncts to Cokie—in effect, “Cokie Youth.” Most liberals still can’t make this out.

Special report: Race and the race!

Part 3—THE 19 PERCENT ACCUSATION: Postponed until tomorrow.