Thursday, January 17, 2008

Maureen Dowd is a War Crime (JM)

How does Maureen Dowd still have her job? I am serious she is about the worst columnist the New York Times has ever had (and they just hired William Kristol). Her “unique blend” of pop and politics is not just unfunny, it lowers the level of intellectual discourse in a very serious way. We are all dumber for having read her columns and she had no place writing for the standard bearer for American journalism. Seriously, NYT, she has to go. Let’s take a little stroll inside her latest gem, shall we?

Faith, Freedom and Bling in the Middle East

Oh god, I am already in severe, severe pain.

As a Saudi soldier with a gold sword high-stepped in front of him, President Bush walked slowly beside King Abdullah through the shivery gray mist enveloping the kingdom, following the red carpet leading from Air Force One to the airport terminal. When the two stepped onto the escalator, the president tenderly reached for the king’s hand, in case the older man needed help. He certainly does need help, but not the kind he is prepared to accept.

I seriously have no idea what she’s trying to imply here. The beginning of the second paragraph sounds like the opening lines of “Tuesday’s With Abdullah: An Old King, a Bad President and Life’s Most Banal Lesson. Then she implies that there is “help” King Abdullah “needs” that he is not “prepared to accept”. Huh? Well, I’ve learned nothing new here, but at least Maureen got to see the “shivery gray mist envelop the kingdom”.

It took Mr. Bush almost his entire presidency to embrace diplomacy, but now that he’s in the thick of it, or perhaps the thin of it — given his speed-dating approach to statesmanship — he is kissing and holding hands with kings, princes, emirs, sheiks and presidents all over the Arab world and is trying to persuade them that he is not in a monogamous relationship with the Jews.

Hi, I am Maureen Dowd, I use hip metaphors. First, he “speed dates” statesmanship. I mean I am no fan of Bush, but generally when presidents go on a tour of foreign countries they don’t have time to take it slow and really get to know the Saudi royalty. Next he’s trying to convince the Arab world he not in a “monogamous relationship with the Jews”. First, I think you mean Israel. Judaism is a religion and/or culture practiced by millions of people worldwide. Israel is a country. Second, this is just a really dumb way to talk about complex foreign policy. You are like 45 year old high school teacher trying to prove you’re still cool why explaining complex things in incredible inane ways.

His message boiled down to: Iran bad, Israel good, Iraq doing better.

You mean you boiled his message down to that. I mean it’s not like you are a journalist and were flow across the world by a major newspaper to cover what he actually discussed with Arab leaders. What? You are? Oh…

Blessed is the peacemaker who comes bearing a $30 billion package of military aid for Israel and a $20 billion package of Humvees and guided bombs for the Arabs. Like the slick Hollywood guy in “Annie Hall” who has a notion that he wants to turn into a concept and then develop into an idea, W. has resumed his mantra of having a vision that turns into freedom that could develop into global democracy.

Hi, I’m Maureen Dowd, I or my assistant has seen “Annie Hall”. Also the hell is going on here? I have seen Annie Hall like 15 times and I barely understand what she’s talking about. Also that guy in Annie Hall has nothing to do with your point about George Bush which is, I think, that he is really bad at foreign policy… which I probably did not need to read your column to figure out.

W.’s peace train quickly gave way to the warpath, however, with Mr. Bush devoting a good chunk of time to the unfinished war in Iraq and the possibility of a war with Iran.

Peace train?

In meetings with leaders, he privately pooh-poohed the National Intelligence Estimate asserting that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003. On Fox News, he openly broke with intelligence analysts, telling Greta Van Susteren about Iran: “I believe they want a weapon, and I believe that they’re trying to gain the know-how as to how to make a weapon under the guise of a civilian nuclear program.”

That first sentence might have made a really good topic for some journalistic investigation. What did he say to the Arab leaders? How did they respond? Oh… you saw him on Greta Van Susteren in your hotel room… excellent.

Less than a week after the president arrived in the Middle East, three violent eruptions — an Israeli raid killing at least 18 Palestinians, 13 of whom were militants; an American Embassy car bombing in Beirut; and a luxury hotel suicide-bombing in Kabul — underscored how Sisyphean a task he has set for himself. “This is one of the results of the Bush visit,” said Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas leader, as he went to a Gaza hospital to see the body of his son, a militant killed in the battle. “He encouraged the Israelis to kill our people.”

This is good and thoughtful journalism. Giving us a picture how various Arab leaders perceive our foreign policy is a potentially excellent topic for a column in the NYT.

Arab TV offered an uncomfortable juxtaposition: Al Arabiya running the wretched saga of Gaza children suffering from a lack of food and medicine during the Israeli blockade, blending into the wretched excess scenes of W. being festooned with rapper-level bling from royal hosts flush with gazillions from gouging us on oil.

But sadly, this column is being written by you, Maureen Dowd. Did they actually run these images at the same time, that would have been pretty interesting. But I actually bet that when you say “blending” you mean you saw these things on two separate occasions while you sat in your nice hotel room instead of reporting. God, Nicholas Kristof must want to kick your ass.

Does anyone really thing that GWB was being “festooned with bling”? First of all, that is horrendously bad writing. Secondly, the image of GWB walking out of King Abdullah’s palace wearing several big, gold medallions is priceless but probably not true. Also, all presidents get gifts when they travel, there is just so much crap to criticize Bush for why waste our time with this? Also also, “rapper-level” bling? Perhaps instead of the metric system we can switch to Maureen’s bizarre new system of measurement. “Man, I don’t know if I can come to your place tonight, it’s like 790 Ryan Stiles to your apartment.” “Yeah dude, it’s totally like four Ashton Kutchers hot out too.”

W.’s 11th-hour bid to save his legacy from being a shattered Iraq — even as the Iraqi defense minister admitted that American troops would be needed to help with internal security until at least 2012 and border defense until at least 2018 — recalled MTV’s “Cribs.”

WTF?! Seriously… how… where… Journalism is not pop culture mad libs, Maureen. This article recalled that episode of Diff’rent Strokes when Dudley is molested by the guy who was also the Maytag repairman. That’s how you jury rig pop culture in to an article.

At a dinner last night in the king’s tentlike retreat, where the 8-foot flat-screen TV in the middle of the room flashed Arab news, the president and his advisers Elliott Abrams and Josh Bolten went native, lounging in floor-length, fur-lined robes, as if they were Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif.

Hi, I’m Maureen Dowd, I or my assistant has seen “Lawrence of Arabia”.

In Abu Dhabi, Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan gave the president — dubbed “the Wolf of the Desert” by a Kuwaiti poet — a gigantic necklace made of gold, diamonds, rubies and emeralds, so gaudy and cumbersome that even the Secret Service agent carrying it seemed nonplussed. Here in Saudi Arabia, the king draped W. with an emerald-and-ruby necklace that could have come from Ali Baba’s cave.

non-plussed or -plused, -plus•sing or -plus•ing, noun
1. A state of utter perplexity.

Really? The Secret Service agent was just totally confused and bewildered by this necklace? Perhaps he slowly laid the necklace of the ground, took out his ear piece, walked out the room and lived in the wild for the rest of his natural existence. Seriously, do they even edit your articles? Do you have pictures of the NYT with a trannie prostitute? This is either really good blackmail or a really bad joke.

Time’s Massimo Calabresi described the Kuwaiti emir’s residence where W. dined Friday as “crass class”: “Loud paintings of harems and the ruling Sabah clan hang near Louis XVI enameled clocks and candlesticks in the long hallways.”
In Abu Dhabi, the president made a less-than-rousing speech about democracy while staying in the less-than-democratic Emirates Palace hotel’s basketball-court-size Ruler’s Suite — an honor reserved for royalty and W. and denied to Elton John, who is coming later this month to play the Palace.

Excellent coverage of the president’s speech. And seriously, what are you pointing out here? Are you angry that the President of the United States gets a room that Elton John couldn’t get? Is this supposed to be shocking to us? Did you just want to mention Elton John?

The president’s grandiose room included a ballroom, in case Mr. Bush wanted to practice the tribal sword dancing he has been rather sheepishly doing with some of his hosts, something between Zorba and Zorro. The $3 billion, seven-star, 84,114-square-foot pink marble hotel — said to be the most expensive ever built — would make Trump blush. It glistens with 64,000 square feet of 22-carat gold leaf, 1,000 chandeliers, 20,000 roses changed every day, 200 fountains, a dome higher than St. Peter’s, an archway larger than the Arc de Triomphe, a beach with white sand shipped in from Algeria and a private heliport. The rooms, scattered with rose petals, range from $1,598 to $12,251.

Look at Trump blush.

Puddle jumping through Arabia, the president saw his share of falcons in little leather hoods — presumably not a Gitmo reference — and Arabian stallions, including one retired stud from Texas — presumably not a W. reference. But there was a distinct dearth of wives and dissidents.

These are your references, how are they presumably not anything? Except for maybe good jokes.

It does not bode well for the president’s ability to push the Israelis and Palestinians that he has done so little to push Musharraf on catching Osama, despite our $10 billion endowment, or the Saudis on women’s rights and human rights, even with the $20 billion arms package.

At a press conference last night, the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, was asked what the president and king had discussed about human rights.
“About what?” the prince repeated flatly.
“Human rights,” Condi prompted.
“Human rights?” the stately prince pondered, before shimmying out of the question.
Though W. has made the issue of the progress of women in the Middle East a central part of “the freedom agenda” — he had a roundtable over the weekend with Kuwaiti women on democracy and development — he doesn’t seem bothered that 17 years after his father protected the Saudis when Saddam invaded Kuwait, Saudi women still can’t drive or publicly display hair or skin and still get beheaded and lashed because of archaic laws. Neither does the female secretary of state of the United States.

Another really excellent topic for a column. Way to get that detailed dialogue on the problem of preaching human rights to countries from whom we are begging cheaper oil. Top notch.

“It’s not allowed for ladies to use the gym,” the Marriott desk clerk told me, an American woman in an American franchise traveling with an American president.

Maybe it’s okay for Arab women, but I am Maureen Dowd. I am American! I am with an American president. I write for the New York Times!

W. was strangely upbeat throughout the trip — “Dates put you in a good mood, right?” he joked to reporters yesterday, specifying that he meant the fruit — even though back home the Republican candidates were running from him and clinging to Reagan.

I am not sure how that’s a joke, but either way after all we’ve been through do you think GWB gives a shit what Mitt Romney thinks about him?

The Saudi big shots I talked to were intrigued that W. is now more in the sway of Condi than Bombs Away Cheney. They admire his intention about making peace, even though they’re skeptical that he has the time or competence to do it; and they’re sure that the Israelis need more of a shove than a nudge.
They are also dubious about his attempts to demonize and isolate Iran.
“We don’t need America to dictate our enemies to us, especially when it’s our neighbor,” said an insider at the Saudi royal court. The Saudis invited the Iranian president, I’m-a-Dinner-Jacket, to their hajj pilgrimage last month.

Ahh, stupid nicknames thy name is Maureen Dowd. Bombs Away Cheney kind of sort of rhymes I guess… I’m-a-Dinner-Jacket?!!! Seriously, did you forget how to spell Ahmadinejad? Aren’t nicknames supposed to be relevant to the person you’re writing about. Like, Maureen Dowd She Ever Get a Job Writing for Kidsday Let Alone the New York Times? Also nicknames? God…

Saudis and Palestinians grumbled that they find it hard to listen to the president’s high-flown paeans to democracy when he only acknowledges his brand of democracy. When Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood won elections, W. sought to undermine them. The results of the elections were certainly troubling, but is democratization supposed to be about outcomes?
They also think W.’s plan cancels itself out. The Israelis don’t have to stop settlements if rockets are coming in from Gaza, and Abbas, the Palestinian president, can’t stop rockets from going out of an area he does not control.

Were you too busy crafting that dinner jacket thing to actually get quotes from people?

The president who described himself at Galilee as “a pilgrim” makes peace sound as easy as three faiths sharing, when history has shown that the hardest thing on earth is three faiths sharing.
Asked by ABC’s Terry Moran what he was thinking when he stood on the site where Jesus performed miracles at the Sea of Galilee, W. replied: “I reflected on the story in the New Testament about the calm and the rough seas, because it was on those very seas that the Lord was in the boat with the disciples, and they were worried about the waves and the wind, and the sea calmed. That’s what I reflected on: the calm you can find in putting your faith in a higher power.”
Clearly, the man believes in miracles.

You and he have something in common when it comes to miracles. I am not sure which makes less sense, that you write for the New York Times or he is our president. At least you do marginally less harm.


Brian said...

This was fantastic! The entire thing was spot on and hilarious. Would you two please do a weekly Maureen Dowd beatdown? Do I need to ask in metaphor?

Jonathan said...

Thanks Brian, I suspect that excoriating Ms. Dowd will be a regular feature on this blog until the New York Times finally fires her or I give up and stop reading news media altogether.