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WHAT IS MAUREEN DOWD? Media Matters does a great study—except in the case of Queen Dowd: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2007

CONNECTIVITY: We’re having trouble with the Net. For that reason, we postpone our series on “straight-shooters until tomorrow. But first:

WHAT IS MAUREEN DOWD: Media Matters has done superlative work in this study of the nation’s political columnists. Paul Waldman was the project’s head honcho—also Elbert Ventura and Robert Savillo. Kudos to all, all around.

That said, we did think that some questions were raised by the way the study ranks a few columnists. Obviously, there is no “scientific” way to decide if a pundit is progressive, conservative or centrist. As the study says, some calls were easy, some calls were hard. And we’ll guess that Media Matters did something here which it explicitly copped to in earlier studies. We’ll guess that, when a call was close, they erred on the side of playing it safe—of not overstating their case. (We think that shows good judgment.)

We may discuss the classification of a few other columnists on another day. But then, there’s the case of Maureen Dowd, who is classified as “progressive.” Although, let’s face it--she isn’t.

We think this study is a great piece of work. But when we start listing Dowd as “progressive,” we fail to describe the real world.

Is Maureen Dowd a “progressive” columnist? We can’t imagine why we’d say that. We’ve read her carefully over the years, and it seems to us that she rarely expresses an actual view on any political or policy matter. Instead, she dithers and dallies on matters of trivia, voicing a range of utterly pointless and utterly predictable observations. And she’s largely an equal opportunity fool; she has criticized Gore’s bald spot and Giuliani’s comb-over alike. In short, Dowd isn’t progressive, or centrist, or conservative. More than anything, Dowd is a non-political throwback. She captures the fatuous world of the 50’s “women’s page,” in which the writer was allowed to opine about the hats at the recent parade. She rages out from this small, stupid world, but it’s the world she’s selected.

We can understand why Media Matters may have wanted to classify Dowd as it did. But when we describe tripe like hers as “progressive,” we’ve done something which is just flat-out wrong.

Media Matters has done a great piece of work. But we have an obligation to describe the world as it actually is. Perhaps the categories in studies like this should be expanded to include all our scribes. Next time a study like this appears, perhaps we should work with four groupings:
Progressive
Centrist
Conservative
Devoted to non-aligned trivia
We know, we know—scribes would say that the authors weren’t serious. But Dowd and some of her wannabes refuse to speak about things that matter. Plainly, Dowd is not “progressive.” We shouldn’t pretend that she is.

THE SILLINESS SPREADS: This morning, Atrios makes a similar complaint about Gail Collins, although Collins already seemed like a Dowd wannabe when she first did Times columns in 1999. Sadly, in the case of Collins, there seems to be a theory behind the nonsense, as we recently learned from reading several old profiles. But an upper-class press corps will always love trivia. We shouldn’t pretend it’s “progressive.”