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Daily Howler: She played the fool eight years ago--and she plays the fool today
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THE IMBECILE’S UNCHANGING CLOTHES! She played the fool eight years ago—and she plays the fool today: // link // print // previous // next //

The imbecile’s unchanging clothes: Eight years ago this very week, Maureen Dowd was preparing her “closing argument” about the Bush-Gore White House campaign; she was preparing the Sunday column in which Gore would pose before a mirror and sweetly sing, “I Feel Pretty.” Imbecile then—and imbecile now! Today, Dowd posts her second straight column about Sarah Palin’s deeply troubling clothes. To read today’s foolishness, just click here. For Sunday’s prime bull-roar, click this.

Wittily, Dowd presents today’s column in the form of a screenplay. Here’s the way it starts:

Screenplay by
Maureen Dowd
Revised third draft
Oct. 29, 2008

INT. A HOTEL SUITE—in the middle of the day in the middle of Ohio

Unfortunately, no one in Hollywood is dumb enough to hire this idiot as a screenwriter. For that reason, she lingers at Manhattan’s Times, where the bosses are very dumb—and the screenplays they publish are dumber.

In the face of two wars—and a financial meltdown—Dowd can’t stop discussing pols’ clothes! They said 9/11 would change every thing. But when they said that, they all lied.

In our view, liberals and progressive are very foolish to take a brief ride on this imbecile train—to adopt the pleasing culture of trivia in this brief moment of liberal ascension. So you’ll recall how we got to this place, here’s the way the Imbecile Dowd began that Sunday column, eight years ago. Yes, that was her actual headline. Please don’t make the slightest mistake. People are dead thanks to Dowd:

DOWD (11/5/00): I Feel Pretty

I feel stunning
And entrancing,
Feel like running and dancing for joy . . .

O.K., enough gloating. Behave, Albert. Just look in the mirror now and put on your serious I only-care-about-the-issues face.

If I rub in a tad more of this mahogany-colored industrial mousse, the Spot will disappear under my Reagan pompadour.

“The Spot,” of course, was Gore’s bald spot—a star of at least six columns by Dowd during Clinton’s second term (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/21/07). Mocking Gore for his interest in “issues,” the imbecile once again summoned “the Spot,” letting it take a final bow. It was two days before your election.

Elsewhere, people like this get escorted to homes. At The Times, they get turned into stars.

In this last week before this year’s election, let’s make sure we understand how we all got to this place:

In Washington, the 1990s was an age of ascendant conservative power. Pseudo-conservatives began to drive a stream of poisonous personality tales—starting with the Whitewater hoax, which debuted (where else?) in the New York Times. Pseudo-conservatives drove those tales—and flunkies like Dowd, Rich and Herbert bought them. They talked about blow jobs; they talked about earth tones (and buttons/polo shirts/cowboy boots); they wrote ugly tales about Naomi Wolf. (She “urged women to release their inner sluts,” a nasty misogynist instantly purred, in November 1999.) They invented fake quotes and pretended folk said them. They made a star of a Spot.

Today, these hacks have reinvented themselves as Clinton/Gore admirers, although it took several a very long time. But if the future is like the past, they will use their idiot tools against your interests again. In our view, liberals and progressives are very dumb to delight in this vacant’s group’s new entertainments. (So are centrists. So are Democrats, and most Republicans.) If the future is like the past, these Antoinettes will turn against you again.

Power will come and make its demands. And these consummate palace dwellers will buckle to power again. (Although they’ll turn against Obama more slowly than against Clinton/Gore.)

It’s true: Dowd has cleaned herself up this year. She no longer lies face down on the carpet, right in the middle of JFK’s townhouse. (Hollywood would have rejected that screenplay. Too obvious.) She no longer trashes the she-bitch, Michelle Obama. She no longer calls Barack Obama six different species of the word “boy.” She has stopped mocking him as “Scarlett O’Hara.” She no longer calls him “Legally Blonde.”

But Dowd was an imbecile eight years ago—and she’s the world’s biggest fool today. If we let these folk use their idiot tools, we will end up where imbeciles take us.
Two scribes recall the most wonderful guy: Two journalists have penned sad memoirs, sadly recalling the wonderful time when they met the most wonderful guy.

In Sunday’s Boston Globe, Yvonne Abraham remembered “The McCain I Knew”—the man she met in 1999, riding around on a bus. But alas! Such love affairs often end badly. “I came here to see John McCain on Wednesday,” Abraham wrote this week. “I barely recognized him.”

Two days later, in the Los Angeles Times, Maeve Reston recalled a similar affair. But Reston’s piece held a bit more interest, because of one key thing she said. You see, Reston didn’t meet the most wonderful guy until December 2007. When she did, she got some advice from a protective colleague:

RESTON (10/28/08): By July, I had covered McCain for almost seven months. I could recite many lines of his stump speech by heart, dreamed about his events at night and spent so much time scrolling through campaign e-mails on my BlackBerry that my fiance joked to our friends about the other man in my life.

Over those months, McCain had artfully created a sense of intimacy with the reporters who traveled with him. He barbecued for us at his Arizona cabin, and opened up about matters as personal as his faith and his son's girlfriends. On one of my first days covering McCain, another reporter protectively warned me that it was important to be judicious with the material I used from McCain's bus rides to keep the conversations in context.

Where in the world does this cohort come from? Even today, after all that we’ve been through, they still think it’s cute to refer to a White House candidate as “the other man in my life.”

At any rate, Reston was warned “that it was important to be judicious with the material I used from McCain's bus rides to keep the conversations in context.” Like you, we’re not quite sure what that means. You’re right—it isn’t quite written in English. But quite possibly, Reston refers to a social compact observed on Saint McCain’s bus—a social compact which has been obliquely described at various times in the past.

We first discussed this matter in December 1999, when the press corps began to blab about the Special Rules it maintained for McCain. “They’ve Just Met the Greatest Guy,” our incomparable headline said (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/15/99). We quoted Nancy Gibbs, Time’s top political scribe, who had oddly admitted this:

GIBBS (12/13/99): And then there are the stories he tells—to which, if there's a pattern, it's to exalt other people and deflate himself. A presidential candidate is not supposed to tell you about the rules he broke or the strippers he dated, or the time he arrived so drunk that fell through the screen door of the young lady he was wooing. The candor tells you more than the content, and reporters sometimes just decide to take McCain off the record because they don't want to see him flame out and burn up a great story.

Say what? “Reporters sometimes decide to take McCain off the record?” Let us quickly translate for you: Reporters were hiding the weird things Saint McCain said. He was the most wonderful guy!

Incredibly, Gibbs didn’t flesh out what she meant. What sorts of statements had reporters agreed to take “off the record?” What sorts of weird things had McCain said—things we weren’t allowed to hear? Oddly, Gibbs gave no examples, although one example emerged two days later. (Her piece was published on December 6.) On his bus, McCain had been referring to his former Vietnamese captors as “g**ks”—and reporters had generally agreed not to report it. More details below.

(During this same period, these same journalists were inventing weird things Candidate Gore hadn’t said—and they were pretending he’d actually said them. The liberal world sat and stared into air. George Bush ended up in the White House.)

McCain’s use of “g**ks” was soon being ignored again—until an Asian-American group complained in March 2000.

Whatever you think about the “g**ks” matter, various reporters have noted, in passing, the Special Rules that applied on that bus—the Special Rules which protected McCain, under which the children agreed to hide the great man’s unflattering conduct. Reporters would take him “off the record”—and reporters would hoot and hiss when other scribes tried to question him about serious issues. A rolling clown-show was underway. To judge from what Reston wrote this week, some variant of these Special Rules may have existed right though this election.

No, she didn’t quite say it in English—but that may be what Reston meant. “Another reporter protectively warned me that it was important to be judicious with the material I used from McCain's bus rides to keep the conversations in context?” Like you, we aren’t sure what that means. But we could make a small guess.

McCain’s flights of candor: The “g**ks” issue blew up in December 1999 because of a piece by the Post’s Howard Kurtz. Jacob Weisberg and Linda Douglass help us remember the rules of the road in that remarkable time:

KURTZ (12/8/99): Aides sometimes cringe at McCain's flights of candor, and with good reason. On one bus ride, McCain described a minor diplomatic flap as "one of the many reasons I hate the French." On another, recalling his days in a Hanoi prison camp, he referred to the Vietnamese as "gooks." Yet he rarely gets burned.

"At one level, the press protects him," says Jacob Weisberg, political writer for Slate magazine. "He delivers these stupid lines all the time. The typical response from journalists is either not to report it or to congratulate him for being so blunt instead of treating it as a gaffe... If Bush had talked about 'gooks,' everyone would say how callow he is and how he's not up to running U.S. foreign policy."

Says ABC correspondent Linda Douglass, who interviewed McCain on the bus: "I have never seen a candidate allow himself to be videotaped at length like that, with no aides watching, listening, taking notes or telling you to cut. He's clearly winning us all over, and we have to be careful about that."

Weisberg helped explain the Special Rules which were then in effect:

  1. If McCain said “g**ks, no one would say so.
  2. If Bush said “g**ks,” they would stage a small riot.
  3. Gore never said such stupid things. So they decided they’d have to invent a string of crazy “quotes” for him.

Al Gore said he discovered Love Canal! They’d dreamed it up just one week before. (During this same week, they took turns pretending that Al Gore was the man who introduced us to Willie Horton. )

At any rate, those were the rules of the age—and Dowd, Rich and Herbert all kept their traps shut. Are you happy with how it turned out? Are you sure, when power turns, that they won’t do the same thing again?

Tomorrow: Mother Jones, Mother Judd