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Tilting at Windmills

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September 19, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

THE NARRATIVE....Eric Alterman:

For the people who cover them for a living, elections are not about issues or evidence or even truth; they are about the narrative. Campaigns struggle to define it long before voters are paying attention — because once the narrative is determined, it's virtually impervious to revision.

Right. And for two of the three major Democratic presidential nominees the MSM narrative is already pretty clear: John Edwards is a phony (talks big about poverty but gets $400 haircuts); Hillary Clinton is ambitious and calculating (always on message, always has her eye on the prize). But what about Barack Obama? I haven't quite figured out what the MSM schtick on him is going to be. Luckily, it turns out that the Nattering Nabob of Narrative herself has chimed in. Alterman summarizes:

Most recently [Maureen] Dowd's peevishness has been directed toward Barack Obama. She finds the candidate "testy," "irritated," "hung-up," "conflicted" and "self-consciously pristine." Dowd took it personally when he gave a Labor Day speech in New Hampshire taking on business-as-usual Beltway politics. Dowd mocked Obama's "ranting about Washington pundits" by pointing out that he frequently graces the covers of magazines. This is quite a trick when you think about it. The media elite put Obama on magazine covers, and then the same media elite insist he is inauthentic for having appeared on magazine covers.

Dowd also accuses Obama of preening like a "46-year-old virgin," demonstrating "loose" body language and being "hung up on being seen as thoughtful," while secretly fearing "being seen as 'a dumb blond.'"

So that's that. Barack Obama Thinks He's Too Good For The Rest Of Us™. I guess we can look forward to seeing this meme spread far and wide. I can't wait.

Kevin Drum 12:01 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (77)

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Comments

On the tombstone of the Republic will be the epitaph "Killed By A Story Arc".

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on September 19, 2007 at 12:07 AM | PERMALINK

She must be making her therapist very wealthy.

Posted by: pod on September 19, 2007 at 12:10 AM | PERMALINK

Dowd = high school jerk.

Posted by: chris on September 19, 2007 at 12:11 AM | PERMALINK

Dowd is one of those cheap whores in DC that people can't stand or love to hate. Dowd has been going after Hillary for some time but I guess her attacks don't seem to work so now she goes after Obama.

Posted by: bob on September 19, 2007 at 12:15 AM | PERMALINK

Yes Chris Dowd is a "high school jerk" yet people pay her serious jack for her crap. Why is the real story.

Posted by: corpus juris on September 19, 2007 at 12:15 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, as I recall, back in April, after you read Obama's first autobiography, you accused him of being either a drama queen or a big phony.

Posted by: Steve Sailer on September 19, 2007 at 12:16 AM | PERMALINK

I can't point to anything in particular at the moment, but I think that this image of Obama has been building for a while. Fits with the general sense of him as "the intellectuals' candidate". Can't be a good thing. On the other hand, I don't know a candidate for either party that has a particularly positive narrative at the moment.

Posted by: Brandon Claycomb on September 19, 2007 at 12:20 AM | PERMALINK

Let me let Kevin describe Barack Obama himself. Here's what Kevin Drum wrote about Sen. Obama:

"You'd think that after reading an autobiography you'd get a better sense of the author. But I didn't. In fact, there's a very oddly detached quality to the book, almost as if he's describing somebody else. This is clearest in the disconnect between emotions and events: Obama routinely describes himself feeling the deepest, most painful emotions imaginable (one event is like a "fist in my stomach," for example, and he "still burned with the memory" a full year after a minor incident in college), but these feelings seem to be all out of proportion to the actual events of his life, which are generally pretty pedestrian. Is he describing his real feelings? Is he simply making the beginning writer's mistake of thinking that the way to convey emotion is to use lots of adjectives? Or is something else going on? Another oddity is that we get very little sense of what motivates him."

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2007_05/011249.php

Posted by: Steve Sailer on September 19, 2007 at 12:20 AM | PERMALINK

I just wanted to add that Keller probably screwed Dowd over few times otherwise, she would not be able to keep her desk job there at NYT.

Posted by: bob on September 19, 2007 at 12:24 AM | PERMALINK

She finds the candidate "testy," "irritated," "hung-up," "conflicted" and "self-consciously pristine."

Well! How about that! I find her to be pedantic, petty, self-aggrandizing and irritating. They can leave her and Brooks behind that damned wall for all I care.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on September 19, 2007 at 12:25 AM | PERMALINK

Dowd's comments are too incoherent to start or reflect a narrative -- unless maybe it's that Obama is too cool, too detached. Which might seem harmless, till you recall how Dukakis was crucified for not puffing up in outrage about how he'd react to his wife's rape.

So... you have to be a drama queen, or else you're too detached or emotionless.

What a stupid way to elect politicians.

Posted by: tubino on September 19, 2007 at 12:27 AM | PERMALINK

So... you have to be a drama queen, or else you're too detached or emotionless.

If you are a bit of a drama queen, then you're unhinged and dangerous, and the whispering campaigns about SSRI's start.

They got you coming and going.

Bottom line: No one gets elected in this here town unless we say so.

If Madison and Co. had seen a modern junior high, and then repaired to Philadelphia in 1787, I wonder what our constitution would look like.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on September 19, 2007 at 12:35 AM | PERMALINK

Was Dowd a predicably catty bitch before since Michael Douglas dumped her for the more talented and beautiful Catherine Zeta-Jones, or did that dumping just serve to amplify her character defects?

Posted by: Old Hat on September 19, 2007 at 12:39 AM | PERMALINK

Old hat, that is a mystery for the ages, a veritable chicken-egg conundrum.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on September 19, 2007 at 12:46 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you have six blog posts on the front page that all end in questions. Punting issues to your readers is a lazy habit you have fallen into lately. I challenge you to go a week without ending a post with a question.

Posted by: Pocket Rocket on September 19, 2007 at 12:48 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think "Obama Thinks He's Too Good For The Rest Of Us" sells newspapers. That'll be what DCers say at the cocktail parties. But they're going to stick with "Obama Is A Good Guy, But Inexperienced" in their coverage.

Posted by: Algernon on September 19, 2007 at 1:00 AM | PERMALINK

"Preening like a 46-year-old virgin" and "fearing being seen as a dumb blond"?

True to form--feminize Democratic men; masculinize Democratic women. It's the Dowd formula that never fails her.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on September 19, 2007 at 1:05 AM | PERMALINK

Dowd is just hammering home the narrative about Obama that has been in play since the day he entered politics. That narrative is that Obama is too "uppity" to be elected to serious office. It really isn't any more complicated than that.

Posted by: s9 on September 19, 2007 at 1:14 AM | PERMALINK

46-year-old virgins preen?

I would think a 46-year-old virgin would shuffle, or creep; maybe retreat, perhaps even cower; at best, they might amble. But preen? Doubtful.

Posted by: Robert Earle on September 19, 2007 at 1:32 AM | PERMALINK

If Madison and Co. had seen a modern junior high, and then repaired to Philadelphia in 1787, I wonder what our constitution would look like.

I just wrote about that summer and fall on Monday, since this is Constitution Week and all, and yesterday was Constitution Day.

I am absolutely nuts about that era. I adore the founders, but there were a handful of them - it was the people who embodied the revolutionary spirit that I am enthralled with.

They knew how to participate in Democracy. Pennsylvania was the first state to hold a convention to ratify the new Constitution, and the statehouse was dominated by Federalists. The anti-Federlists boycotted, and the assembly failed to reach a quorum, so no vote could be held.

The people were not pleased with this bit of anti-Federalist chicanery, thwarting the will of the people and all as it did; and an angry mob drug a couple of boycotting lawmakers out of their homes and drug them to attendance. A quorum was had, and the constitution passed the first hurdle. (Sorry to stray off topic, that is just my favorite episode from American History. I tend to invent opportunities to recount it.)

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on September 19, 2007 at 1:40 AM | PERMALINK

She finds the candidate "testy," "irritated," "hung-up," "conflicted" and "self-consciously pristine."

Not enough of a Lothario-- if he was a little more vice-ridden, demonstrated a fundamental disrespect for people (kind of the "I don't give a fuck who's within 10 feet of me" attitude) then maybe.

Posted by: Swan on September 19, 2007 at 2:17 AM | PERMALINK

I think I can put up MoDo's defense of her piece for her here:

Barack can grace all the magazine covers he wants for all she cares (or maybe close to it). But does he really have to try to do it without a hint of smarminess? It's like going outside without clothes on. For the character-challenged, imagining themselves in the position of those who run for public office, it's easy to imagine the necessity to be smarmy-- to compel the average voter to hold their nose and show up to press a button for you. Not being smarmy is bucking the trend- it's like showing up to an affair wearing all the wrong clothes. How rude. He's trying to be honest when he shouldn't be, and to the smarmy that provokes the same reaction as smarminess provokes in the honest.

Sort of "How dare you not have the pretension to put on airs, thereby making all the rest of us feel uncomfortable."

The act is enough to cause her to accuse him of being smarmy by doing this!

Posted by: Swan on September 19, 2007 at 2:37 AM | PERMALINK

Obama's inability to abide regular people is shown in his decision to work as a community organizer in poor Chicago neighborhoods for several years. Dowd's distance from the cultural elite is shown in her decision to spend her entire life working as a journalist.

Gotcha.

Posted by: Martin on September 19, 2007 at 4:36 AM | PERMALINK

Why is it that only Democrats have a "meme" about them? What are the memes for the GOP candidates? Fred Thompson - lazy? McCain - senile? Giuliani - wacked? Romney - the ultimate panderer?

Let's get going, blogosphere and hang a few albatrosses around these asshole's necks!

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on September 19, 2007 at 6:28 AM | PERMALINK

One other thing - NPR had a political pundit on last weekend who talked about being on a plane with Obama. When the flight landed, Obama stood up and grabbed this gentleman's overcoat and began putting it on, mistaking it for his own. The gentleman stopped Obama and said, "Sir, I believe you have the wrong coat". Obama took it off, stroked the lapel and replied, "Yes, you are right. It is much nicer than my own".

Yeah, MoDo. Obama thinks he is better than everyone else. Cunt.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on September 19, 2007 at 6:33 AM | PERMALINK

So basically, Dowd has come up with the 21st century version of the "uppity negro" -- neat!

Posted by: DC1974 on September 19, 2007 at 7:13 AM | PERMALINK

Can anyone explain to me why Dowd has a column in the Times? I've lived in New York City for twelve years, and I have yet to meet a single person who likes Dowd's high-school Heathers act. (I've met plenty who hate her, of course.)

Who is the audience for her empty-headed bitchiness? WHO? Does she have incriminating photos of the editor or something?

Every column seems like yet another effort to dumb down the national discourse to the level of US Weekly. OK. We get it, Maureen. You're bored by policy and only interested in personality. You're shallow, and you're vain, and all you want to do is blow off French class to smoke Marlboros in the girls' room. So go!

Posted by: Mark on September 19, 2007 at 7:40 AM | PERMALINK

Maureen Dowd = Paris Hilton - the looks

Posted by: Ryan on September 19, 2007 at 7:43 AM | PERMALINK

I like to read Maureen Dowd's columns in the valley girl voice from the start of Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back." OH. My. GAWD.

I'm kidding, of course. There's no way in hell I'd waste time reading Dowd anymore.

Posted by: TR on September 19, 2007 at 7:48 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe a useful comparison for thinking about this narrative stuff is reality TV. All sorts of things happen in the reality part of those shows, and then the producer/director/boss ferrets through the clips of all that reality stuff, decides which bits are "interesting," turns it into an episode with some "narrative," and tosses the rest out. Similarly, the "narratives" that guide msm election coverage are created from the actual rough and tumble of the campaign. Journalists create them, and then, since journalists are often their own biggest fans, they believe them.

yar, by the way (http://www.talklikeapirate.com/tlapd07.html )

Posted by: DB on September 19, 2007 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

I've lived in New York City for twelve years, and I have yet to meet a single person who likes Dowd's high-school Heathers act.

My ex-roommate's then 55-year-old dad professed to love her back in the mid-90s. I think that was back when the novelty of treating major political developments as celebrity gossip had not yet worn off.

Posted by: brooksfoe on September 19, 2007 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

Obama's inability to abide regular people is shown in his decision to work as a community organizer in poor Chicago neighborhoods for several years.- Martin

But this, obviously, is precisely what makes white professionals anxious about him. He appears to be morally superior -- in the sense of actually being better than them (er...us). We fall in love with him because he seems to be superior. Then we get anxious about ourselves because we realize he's superior. Then we accuse him of acting superior.

At about that point, somebody accuses him of having looked at them wrong; this is followed by a lot of "What you say, boy???" And eventually somebody goes and gets the rope. I'm sorry, but it's really hard to keep from thinking about the racial dynamics of this kind of fucking bullshit. Dowd is so clearly spewing the fury of the white liberal woman spurned.

Posted by: brooksfoe on September 19, 2007 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

Besides Dowd's idiocy, there's another narrative in the works from the Goopertariat: Clinton is too "masculine" to appeal to male voters, and Edwards is too "feminine." The Obama rendering is that he's a little too "light" to be President, and a little too "dark" to have a beer with (*nudge, wink*).

Sex and race, the GOP's only dependable currency.

Posted by: R. Porrofatto on September 19, 2007 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

Why is it that only Democrats have a "meme" about them? What are the memes for the GOP candidates? Fred Thompson - lazy? McCain - senile? Giuliani - wacked? Romney - the ultimate panderer?

For the Beltway Heathers, GOP candidates DO have a meme about them--however it's always positive.

John McCain is the "straight-shooting maverick" (who's willingness to suck up to George W. Bush runs second only to Joe Leiberman)

Rudy Giuliani is "America's mayor who stood tall on 9/11" (Who massively screwed up by putting his emergency command center in the WTC--a building that had already been a terrorist target in 1993. Whose best buddy and former business partner, Bernie Kerik has almost as many mob connections as Tony Soprano. And so on.)

Mitt Romney is the candidate with "chiseled good looks" (A guy whose political views have turned more somersaults than Mary Lou Retton).

Fred Thompson is "the sexy former actor" (A guy famed on Capitol Hill for his laziness. A guy who acted as Nixon's mole in the Congressional Watergate investigations. A "family values" guy who dumped his first wife for a "trophy wife" many decades his junior--one of many GOP "family values" guys to have done so).

BTW, Dowd was the driving force behind two of the biggest MSM lies about Al Gore: the whole "Love Story" debacle and the meme that Naomi Wolf advised Al Gore to wear earth tones.

Posted by: "Fair and Balanced" Dave on September 19, 2007 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

I've given up on MoDo and no longer read her. She was entertaining for awhile, but basically empty calories, if that. What is she actually contributing? I bet going back to her 2000 pieces, reading how she pummelled Gore would make even moderate Republicans puke at this point. I hardly even bother anymore with the NYT op-eds; very few have anything of value to say anymore. Sad.

Posted by: MaxGowan on September 19, 2007 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

Luckily, it turns out that the Nattering Nabob of Narrative herself has chimed in. ... Barack Obama Thinks He's Too Good For The Rest Of Us™. I guess we can look forward to seeing this meme spread far and wide.

—Kevin Drum

Dowd is a REFLECTION of what millions of folks are ALREADY thinking. Get it?

It's his own freakin' fault.

Posted by: Econobuzz on September 19, 2007 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

Lemme see... George Bush, millionaire, runs as a populist and is deemed a good ol' boy. John Edwards, millionaire, runs as a populist and is labeled a phony.

Posted by: pol on September 19, 2007 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

The real question about Dowd that I never find an answer to is, why does the NY Times keep her on as a columnist?

I don't see how anyone can make out a serious argument that Dowd does anything but lower the level of national discourse on politics. It is, indisputably, cheapened by her presence.

Yet the NY Times likes very much to decry our shallow politics, and regards itself as a strong voice for more responsible political discourse.

How the phonies in the NY Times editorial offices can keep both those antithetical positions in their swollen heads at the same time is beyond my understanding.

Posted by: frankly0 on September 19, 2007 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

Funny that these narratives are always negative for Democrats but totally positive for Republicans.

Look at the emerging Republican narratives:

Romney - tough, wise businessman who Gets Things Done.
McCain - Straight Talk Express
Giuliani - Hero of 9/11
Thompson - Reagan 2

Your liberal media, folks.

Posted by: Joshua on September 19, 2007 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

Maureen Dowd is simply Ann Coulter-lite.

Both were the horsey-plain, book-smart, rich girls who never quite made the upper-most grade of the prettier, wittier, even richer Mean Girls at their respectively vicious high schools. Politicians & readers have been paying the price for that formative exclusion ever since. They are the Troll Dolls & She-Clowns of contemporary discourse. Their gender slurs & ad hominem attacks are the needy, neurotic acting-out of girls who weren't then & remain even now, not quite good enough for the bully's acceptance they so desperately seek. If they weren't so gratuitously toxic, they might be deserving of pity.

May Botox-ins & bilious bulimia sustain them, enduringly, through the long, lonely respective winters of their spinsterly discontent...

Posted by: DanJoaquinOz on September 19, 2007 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

George Bush, millionaire, runs as a populist and is deemed a good ol' boy. John Edwards, millionaire, runs as a populist and is labeled a phony.

Yep. Even odder when you consider the one who was the son of a president, grandson of a senator, alumnus of Andover, Yale, and Harvard, and a proponent of tax cuts for the rich was deemed the real thing; while the son of a mill-worker, alum of North Carolina State University, and supporter of working-class values is seen as the phony.

I can't understand it, but I'm not as stupid as Maureen Dowd.

Posted by: Wes on September 19, 2007 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

Change "46-year-old virgin" to "56..." and maybe Mojo is unwittingly talking about herself.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on September 19, 2007 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

DanJoaquinOz, Dowd's father was in charge of security at the Senate; she was by no means from a rich family. Don't know a thing and don't care about Coulter. I don't think much of Dowd's methods and style myself, but there's no reason to make crap up about her just to suit your own narrative, DonJO

Posted by: DB on September 19, 2007 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

I don't always enjoy her columns but it's fair game for Dowd to focus on personality traits in presidential candidates. Bush's personality traits (inflexibility, callowness) seem more pertinent to the failures of his presidency than policy proposals he ran on in 2000 (tax cuts). Also the reason the NYT keeps Dowd is that she's very popular with readers -- nothing sinister about that.

Posted by: Wesley on September 19, 2007 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

"Can anyone explain to me why Dowd has a column in the Times?"

The guy who signs the checks? She makes him laugh.

Posted by: Joey Giraud on September 19, 2007 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

So what are the meme's for the crop of republican candidates? Does the MSM even care to denigrate them the way it does with the democrats?

And MoDo really does do nothing but lower the quality of our national discourse. In the First Amendment scheme, she's what we have to put up with to actually be exposed to beneficial speech.

Posted by: Big House on September 19, 2007 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

Dowd's father was in charge of security at the Senate

Sounds like a pretty spiffy job to me.

Posted by: Swan on September 19, 2007 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

Dowd's father was in charge of security at the Senate

Maybe it put her on the lower social rung at a great school (I have no idea where she went or inclination to find out) but if you're one of the poorest white kids at a suburban private school there's still a lot of difference between the crowd you're with and the crowd in a lot of public high schools, despite the fact that your parents didn't give you a car and a lot of kids you went to hs with did.

Posted by: Swan on September 19, 2007 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

I thought the media script on Obama was that he was inexperienced.

Somerby calls Dowd a "a simpering complex of upscale inanities." Sounds about right.

Posted by: Horatio Parker on September 19, 2007 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

She's a nice Catholic girl, went to Immaculata High in DC. head of Senate security may be "spiffy" but it ain't no gold mine or "rich" -- why do you folks need to create a narrative for yourselves about Dowd -- I'm happy to leave it at "she'd almost always full of crap" -- I have no interest in why or how she's "like" some other wastrel. This is pretty funny, really.

Posted by: DB on September 19, 2007 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

Now that I think about it, doesn't

"Maybe it put her on the lower social rung at a great school (I have no idea where she went or inclination to find out)"

pretty much sum up Dowd's whole methodology? Breaking news: tiny pot calls big kettle black! ho ho ho

Posted by: DB on September 19, 2007 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

The real question about Dowd that I never find an answer to is, why does the NY Times keep her on as a columnist?

I don't see how anyone can make out a serious argument that Dowd does anything but lower the level of national discourse on politics. It is, indisputably, cheapened by her presence.

You answered your own question.

But Dowd's real value is not that she cheapens our political discourse, but the way that she cheapens it: Republicans somehow always come out ahead of the hapless Democrats. And she does it in a way that supplies the rest of the media with the kind of colorful little appellatives that they love to repeat ad nauseum (eg Kerry's NASCAR remark - a Dowd invention), until even liberals repeat and believe them.

She sets the sheep to jumping, and they all jump to the right.

Posted by: Horatio Parker on September 19, 2007 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

I don't always enjoy her columns but it's fair game for Dowd to focus on personality traits in presidential candidates. Bush's personality traits (inflexibility, callowness) seem more pertinent to the failures of his presidency than policy proposals he ran on in 2000 (tax cuts). Also the reason the NYT keeps Dowd is that she's very popular with readers -- nothing sinister about that.

And where in Dowd's columns on Bush and Gore prior to the 2000 election would one get any sense of just how disastrously bad a Bush Presidency would turn out to be, as opposed to a Gore Presidency?

Isn't the largest part of the problem that she is simply incompetent at what she purports to be doing, namely judging the characters of politicians as they relate to their political performance? Yet isn't this exactly what one would expect from a writer who can't get past the dumbest, shallowest sort of high school gossip? I mean, Al Gore is a nerd!! What more needs to be said about him when you're 17 years old?

And of course if Dowd is tolerated in the supposedly august NY Times, what other publication can locate a reason not to descend to the same?

It's not just Dowd who's the problem. She is a social disease. Call it Dowd's Syndrome, the dumbing down of American politics.

Posted by: frankly0 on September 19, 2007 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

And where in Dowd's columns on Bush and Gore prior to the 2000 election would one get any sense of just how disastrously bad a Bush Presidency would turn out to be, as opposed to a Gore Presidency?

Posted by: frankly0

Get real. No Dowd fan here, but very few columnists or reporters could pass that test.

Posted by: Econobuzz on September 19, 2007 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

I suppose it's OK to plug another magazine here: see E. Peretz story in this month's Vanity Fair on the media campaign against Gore in 2000: http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2007/10/gore200710

Posted by: DB on September 19, 2007 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

Dowd today:

On Larry Craig -- “ You’d think the conservative 62-year-old Idaho senator would have some shame, going from fervently opposing gay rights to provocatively tapping his toe in a Minneapolis airport toilet.

On President Bush – “... he can’t be feeling good about the barbs being hurled his way by former supporters and enablers."

On Rumsfeld -- “Maybe more young people would go into government if they didn’t have to work for devious bullies like Rummy who make huge life-and-death mistakes and then don’t apologize.

On Cheney – "Maybe that’s why he and his evil twin, Dick Cheney, did their best to undermine the constitutional system of checks and balances so they could get more fine young people to serve."

On Colin Powell -- "... (he) tried to build up the objections he made to the president, too, in an interview with Walter Isaacson. But nobody’s buying."

On Greenspan -- "... he rubber-stamped W.’s tax cuts ... and is now upbraiding the president and vice president for profligate spending and putting politics ahead of sound economics."


Posted by: Econobuzz on September 19, 2007 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think the meme "Obama thinks he's too good for the rest of us" is accurate at all. One that is more accurate is Obama is ambitious and won't wait his turn. While this describes most politicians, it can still be turned against him.

I've been around Obama for a number of years and have a good sense of who he is. He is not perfect and has made mistakes. People looking for a "perfect" candidate who always agrees with them are not going to be happy down the road.
But the one quality he has is the ability to understand issues at a deeper level, not reduce issues to the lowest common denominator, and learn as he goes. The meme I would propose for him is a person who breaks down artificial boundaries to bring people together to solve problems.

If I were advising him, I would throw in a few respected intellectuals from the center right(who didn't sell their soul to the Bushes)with good track records to act as advisors and provide a check on his advisors. The MSM loves this stuff and signals he isn't too left.

Posted by: objective dem on September 19, 2007 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

No Dowd fan here, but very few columnists or reporters could pass that test.

And why would that be a sign of anything other than that our pundits are generally incompetent at what they do?

Moreover, with regard to Dowd it is character assessment, if anything, that is her entire point of being. If there's any justification for her column, it's because she purports to be, in effect, a political personality profiler, someone who can look beyond policy issues and get at the basics of an individual's character as it relates to politics.

Where did we get in her the sense of Bush's stubbornness, of his dismissal of all criticism, or of his penchant for breathtaking deceit and prevarication?

Isn't it obvious in the extreme that she couldn't get any of this right because she was incapable of focusing on what was important, and instead got caught up in the worst sort of teenage celebrity gossip?

Posted by: frankly0 on September 19, 2007 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

"Barack Obama Thinks He's Too Good For The Rest Of Us"

Too many words, back in the old days "uppity" would have done the trick.

Posted by: jonm on September 19, 2007 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

A typical Dowd column of being "fair and balanced", is her recent one on the Petraeus hearing - Had to take swipes at "repetitive" Joe Biden - Even commenting about Straight Talk standing behind the Senators awaiting his turn for the next committee and making "yakking" signs to Sen Susan Collins about Biden.

Mo would fit right in on the "View" - all she would need is rollers to move her chair from the left to the right and back again, at will. One moment a Whoopi, the next a Hasslebeck. And throwing darts at Walters, while passing.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on September 19, 2007 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

I think one of the themes used to define Sen. Obama is that he is not afraid to tell people their sacred cows are ready for slaughter. He tells old African American women welfare is dead and they should expect nothing. He tells teachers unions their time has passed, management will make the decisions and if they do not like it they can work for minimum wage at a charter school. He tells anti-war advocates he will bomb Pakistan and considers Iran a grave threat to the US. Sen. Obama makes these confrontational statements to his potential supporters without accepting any rebuttal and still expects their support, which could be considered a bit egocentric. This is the part of his style the corporate media likes, because he slaughters the sacred cows they want for their feast.

Posted by: Brojo on September 19, 2007 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

DB - I was taking Ms Dowd at her own word in her recent characterisations of her (deeply Republican, implicitly wealthy) family & background. I'm sure you're right about her being quite middle class. My central point was that somehow, somewhere, Maureen was excluded as insufficiently rich, witty & pretty & that this formative exclusion is the neurotic basis for her ongoing animus towards political asperants. Your contention that she was middle-class, rather than rich, in no way undermines my sense of her inadequacy among the (richer, prettier, wittier) bullies she ached (& aches) to appease.

Posted by: DanJoaquinOz on September 19, 2007 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

Why no discussion of the "narrative" for Republicans? Is that because, unlike with the Dems, MSN dare not promulgate a negative narrative about any of 'em, cause they'll be labeled "Liberals"?

Posted by: frank on September 19, 2007 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

DanJoaquinOz,

My take is different.

Dowd is part of the millionaire pundit class. That class has more in common with their corporate overlords and the Repugs and it shows in their coverage. If that's not enough, there are also unpleasant consequences for those whose writing doesn't tilt to the right. Dowd plays this game adroitly, that's why she's so successful and by successful I mean influntial.

Posted by: Horatio Parker on September 19, 2007 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Re Maureen Dowd: She should be treated the way trolls in Comments sections should be treated--IGNORE her! Don't read her columns. Better yet--SHUN her!

Posted by: Lynn Lightfoot on September 19, 2007 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Every see Dowd in person or on TV? She was on the Daily Show a year or so ago, and she speaks with a low mumble, her hair in her face, like she's terminably shy and socially awkward. Or still twelve-years-old inside.

Seeing her there, it all clicked for me. She's the nerdy girl who constantly wants to be accepted by the cool kids, but unable to speak up. So she writes her little columns like diary entries, and in the printed realm, she's all fire and sparkle.

Just like in her sad little dreams.

Posted by: Eric on September 19, 2007 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

I have to say I'm impressed with how malleable the antiDowd narratives can be -- not rich then? well, she's rich now, so whatever...

I'm content with "she's shallow, uninteresting and rarely worth reading -- always more fluff than substance or insight." Her column is not even worth cutting out to use as a book mark. How she stumbled into that I don't care; why she's employed how and where she is -- it's a funny ol' world.

Posted by: DB on September 19, 2007 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Is there any woman in history that needed a good boink more than Maureen Dowd?

Posted by: minion on September 19, 2007 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

Thought of the answer to my own question - maybe it's a tie with Leona Helmsley.

Posted by: minion on September 19, 2007 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

MSN dare not promulgate a negative narrative about any of 'em, cause they'll be labeled "Liberals"?

No, it's because their stories won't get run, and they will lose their jobs.

Geez, we all know the media owners are conservatives. A pool shark will pretend to be a bad player, a sales hustler will pretend to not care about his commission, and a conservative media will tell us how much "liberal bias" it has.

Posted by: Joey Giraud on September 19, 2007 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

Uh, you're both right.
Not so long ago she wrote a gruesome column about how she was embarassed by her father's job--DC cop--and lied about it to her friends. I thought it was a standard day-tripper lie to hide his cop status; she's old enough to be in on the end of the hippie days; now I think it was status-based, so her plebian origins wouldn't show.
I don't want to see another fucked-up election, so it's time to go to war. Somebody grab a shot of her from HD tv--one that doesn't have that copyrighted Flora Lewis-glancing-up-at-you-to-hide-the-wattles look and flood the internet with it: something, anything to send her into a six-month depression on the sofa that dear dear Michael Kelly gave her.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on September 19, 2007 at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK

I stopped reading Dowd in 2004. I wish all bloggers would stop quoting her.

Posted by: jfrey on September 20, 2007 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

Freud would have a field day with Dowd. Talk about serious projection. "46 year old virgin"? When did Modo last get laid? Enquiring minds want to know.

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