Sunday, February 17, 2008

Maureen Dowd is Supercalifragilisticexpialanausiating (JM)

Captive to History’s Caprice



Who’s ready for some insightful and interesting analysis, lord knows I am.

Maybe we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. Or maybe we are not.

Let’s be fair, perhaps taking no position is better than her usual tactic of taking an insane position and providing nothing more than acrimony to back it up.

Perhaps when Barack Obama uses that trippy line, he is just giving false Hopi, since the saying, which he picked up from Maria Shriver’s New Age-y L.A. endorsement speech, is credited to Hopi Indians.

When you have to explicitly explain your puns they are maybe not such good choices.

The passionate palaver about Hillary versus Barry rages on, with each side certain it is right about our fate if we end up with a President Obama or another President Clinton.

Hillary says Obama is “all hat and no cattle.” You’d think she’d want to avoid cattle metaphors, so as not to rile up those with a past beef about her sketchy windfall on cattle futures. She could simply say he’s all cage and no bird.

Clinton should never mention women, because of Bill’s problems and Obama should mention real estate because of Rezko. Also, “all cage and no bird”? This is profoundly nonsensical colloquialism.

But is she right, that he’d be a callow leader, too trusting of Republicans, dictators and terrorists? Is Bill right, that voters should not be swayed by eloquence and excitement? (Unless he’s running.)

Alright, that was a fair knock on Bill, point to Maureen.

Or is Obama right, that Hillary would ensure that the acrid mood of the last 15 years would continue to paralyze Washington, appall Americans and shrink our standing in the world?

Could it? I await your cogent and specific analysis as a top political columnist for the top newspaper in the world.

Who knows? As a Henry James character said about art: “We work in the dark. We do what we can. We give what we have.”

Ohh… I see. You’re going to go with, no answer at all and Henry James quote. Also did you just call yourself an artist?! Maureen Dowd::art as Ziggy::humor. Ouch, zing, take that Tom Wilson!

Gingerly, I would like to inject a note of uncertainty into this season of certainty. Covering seven presidential campaigns has made me realize that when it comes to predicting how presidents will perform, “nobody knows anything,” as William Goldman said about Hollywood.

You! You who pen piece after piece with vitriol and outright fiction about the Clintons and pretty much anyone else she wants. Also why in the world did you need to quote someone to say “nobody knows anything”? Also plenty of people can make interesting predictions and analyze ideas. Just, apparently, not you.

You’d think it would be safe to vote on issues, but politicians often don’t feel the need to honor their campaign promises. I covered Bush Senior saying, “Read my lips: No new taxes.” I also covered him raising taxes and saying, “Read my hips.” I covered W. promising a humble foreign policy and no nation-building. I also covered the Iraq fiasco.

Does anyone else think it’s journalistically inappropriate to put quotes around a phrase someone never said? Also this is profoundly stupid. There are some issues I recognize as being historically contingent, but if I were Grover Norquist and I was sent back in time before the 1988 election and asked to choose between Bush 41 and Dukakis I am so definitely still voting for Bush.

Voters try to figure out who they trust to have life-and-death power over them, but there’s so much theatricality and artifice in campaigns you can get a false impression of who someone is.

True, which is why we get people we call journalists to vett these candidates and help us understand who they are behind the hype… Alas…

And you never know who they will become once they move into the insular, heady womb of the White House — or how they will be buffeted by the caprice of history, and the randomness of crises.

Yes, we cannot predict the future, excellent point Maureen. But we can analyze their past record and take a look at what policies they are proposing and try to judge how they might handle these situations. Or we can just say: “Can’t know anything, let’s just cobble together some nicknames and pop culture references and collect the old paycheck.”

At the very moment when politicians should be on top of the world, Ma, embraced by the voters, enhanced by the toys and levers of power, their gremlins surface. They inevitably get hit with trouble that they never could have imagined or prepared for, and that can trigger self-doubt and self-destruction and self-pity.

Inevitably? Alright, even if this is true and you think it applies to everyone, why does this matter?

Why didn’t J. F. K. simply toss out the C.I.A. plan developed under Eisenhower to send 1,200 exiles to overthrow a popular Cuban leader with a force of 200,000? He felt the need to prove himself.

Instead of detailed and complex historical analysis Maureen has just decided that the Bay of Pigs happened because “he felt the need to prove himself.” Screw you, Dallek and Caro, Maureen’s bringing the history now.

Why did L. B. J. ignore his own solid political instincts to listen to Robert McNamara and Dean Rusk about Vietnam — falling under their stupid sway because they had been J. F. K.’s advisers?

Why indeed? This example isn’t like Time Life; Mysteries of the Universe! These are things that could have answered if you bothered doing research, instead of asking bizarre open-ended questions in a banal article about how we can’t predict history.

Nixon, driven by the same pathology of envy about Kennedy and other golden boys, conspired in a political crime while coasting to re-election.

True, irrelevant, but true.

Why did W. let Cheney and Rummy lead him into hubristic disaster? He, too, needed to prove himself — and outdo Daddy. How could the “compassionate conservative” bike through Katrina?

Because “compassionate conservative” is a silly sentiment. I knew, I predicted GWB would be this kind of president. How did I know? I looked at what he did as governor (death penalty, tax policy) and made a judgment. I also looked at the people he wanted to appoint to office, like Dick Cheney and judged that too. I mean at the point GWB associated with these people, why would you be surprised that they had a voice in foreign policy.

The self-destructive impulses that consumed Bill Clinton detracted from his policy achievements and distracted him from achieving all he could have.

The press tends to swallow campaign narratives of sin and redemption, hard lessons learned.

No, the press just does whatever the hell it wants and pundits drive the story in the direction they like the best.

After giving up drinking and becoming Texas governor, W. had supposedly changed from an arrogant, obdurate, Daddy-competing loser to a genial, bipartisan, mature winner. As it turned out, a total makeover is not possible after 40.

You! You wrote paeans to this man back in the day, you are responsible for it (and you’re doing it now for Obama, for what it’s worth).

Hillary’s narrative echoes W.’s: After the scalding partisanship of the ’90s, she became a senator and turned the other cheek, working on legislation with Republicans who had pursued the impeachment case against her husband. She has supposedly learned from her White House mistakes on health care, Travelgate and legal issues, from her battles with the right and the press. She knows now that being obstructionist and secretive don’t work.

Hillary’s narrative doesn’t echo any of Bush’s narrative except for your forcing it to do so. Narratives are a silly way to think about politics, but the problem is that the press LOVES narratives. Narratives and personal histories rarely have anything to do with a person’s effectiveness as president, instead it’s basically feeding in to the campaign’s narrative.

An appealing arc, but is it true? Her campaign shake-up showed that she continues to rank loyalty and secrecy above competence and ingenuity. She is still so guarded that she began answering questions from the press and voters only after she lost Iowa.

What?! This is completely and totally untrue. Competence and ingenuity?! Her campaign was run terribly, the frontrunner momentum concept really just never ever worked. She fired Patti Solis Doyle because they ran out of money and good will, not because she prefers secretiveness. In the world of Maureen logic works in the following way: “Hmm, what am I trying to prove, ahh secretiveness and rank loyality… alright what are things that have happened… hmm, campaign shake up… Well… therefore campaign shake-up=loving secrecy.” By this self-same logic, let’s say I wanted to prove that Maureen Dowd is a terrible journalist. I could take her writings every week and point out logical flaws, factual inaccuracies, poor writing and sophomoric thinking and use this as evidence to prove she is a bad journalist. Wait… that seems like a reasonable way to handle things. To wit: Maureen is terrible.

All of us have known big shots who keep a check on their real feelings and dark tendencies until they get the top job. Then they throw off the restraints and revert to their worst instincts, bullying others and insulating themselves with sycophants.

Hillary could be ready on Day 1 — to make up her Enemies List and banish Overkill Bill to a cubbyhole in the Old Executive Office Building. But it’s Day 2 that I’m really worried about.

This entire article was attempting to prove we can’t really predict anything. Except Maureen who can absolutely prove that Hillary is an awful person and a terrible president. I was getting used to a weekly dose of that. Why switch it up, spend eleven paragraphs trying to proving all we know is that we know nothing, and then make a broad pronouncement anyway? Is it because you don’t exist? Are you some sort of random number generator in which the numbers refer to a database of random phrases that are then placed in a semi-random order determined by an algorithm of some sort? Are you a collective writing effort of a commune of people who usually spend their time writing Buffy the Vampire Slayer Fan Fic? No, you're Maureen Dowd, super journalist.

1 comment:

Mo MoDo said...

Which did Bush 41 not say "Read my lips: no new taxes" or "Read my hips". Because he said both. Do some research before you accuse Dowd of fabricating quotes. She only edits them.

Also, Maureen is saying that the Clinton campaign was incompetent. How do you get that she didn't?

I don't do a line by line analysis, but in my blogpost, I get the facts right and I explain the caged bird reference you completely missed.