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Daily Howler: Maureen Dowd reaches back fifty years to sample her crackpot forebears
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ADLAI AND ADELAIDE! Maureen Dowd reaches back fifty years to sample her crackpot forebears: // link // print // previous // next //

ADLAI AND ADELAIDE: The tiny minds of our dumbest elite are crammed with a set of Inane Approved Anecdotes. By agreement, these inane points can be pulled from the shelf as the occasion requires. This morning, Maureen Dowd cites John Kerry’s cheese steak blunder—then goes back a full twenty years to cite Dukakis and Belgian endive. And omigod—unrivaled greatness! She reaches back to the 1950s to drive a prime story-line:

DOWD (4/16/08): The elitism that Americans dislike is not about family money or connections—J.F.K. and W. never would have been elected without them...

What turns off voters is the detached egghead quality that they tend to equate with a wimpiness, wordiness and a lack of action—the same quality that got the professorial and superior Adlai Stevenson mocked by critics as Adelaide.

Spectacular! Dowd has spent a lot of time furthering her favorite narrative: Big Dem women are actually men, and Big Dem men are all girls. (Candidate Gore was “practically lactating.”) Others have followed her down this sad path. But how many have reached back to the 1950s to further this sad, stupid line?

Answer: Very few have done so. Within the reach of the Nexis archives, no one else has ever cited Adlai/Adelaide in the New York Times—until now. It has been cited just once in the Washington Post, in 1989. On Halloween of that year, Charles Trueheart wrote an instructive “Magazine Reader” piece, headlined “Masculinity Most Mythical.” Trueheart reviewed the work of the gender-nuts who helped pave the way for Dowd:

TRUEHART (10/31/89): As Bruce Curtis argues in the November American Heritage, questioning a public figure's virility is a venerable U.S. tradition. During periods when American men have been least secure, he argues, politicians have tended to call each other sissies, and pundits to dwell on their manhood.

Thomas Jefferson was called "womanish." The Mugwumps, those upstanding reformers of a century ago, were derided as "political hermaphrodites," as "namby-pamby, goody-goody gentlemen" who "sip cold tea." In the 1950s, Adlai Stevenson was called "Adelaide" by the New York Daily News, which contrasted his "teacup words" and "fruity" voice to Richard Nixon's "manly explanation of his financial affairs”...

Curtis, who teaches American thought and language at Michigan State University, offers a stimulating tour of this bizarre rhetorical compulsion.

“This bizarre rhetorical compulsion!” Harsh! At any rate: In this passage, we see the type of work which paved the way for the modern-day gender-nut, Dowd.

As noted, Dowd has been at this for decades—though she aims this bizarre compulsion at girlie-man Democrats only. (On April 2, she called Obama a “starlet” again. Today, he’s “Wonder Boy.”) But Dowd, an artist, will not be restricted to one bizarre form of expression. In the following passage, she shows her skill at touching on all that’s inane. We have inserted the numbers:

DOWD: The last few weeks have not been kind to Hillary, but the endless endgame has not been kind to the Wonder Boy either. Obama comes across less like a candidate in Pennsylvania than an anthropologist in Borneo.

[1] His mother got her Ph.D. in anthropology, studying the culture of Indonesia. And as Obama has courted white, blue-collar voters in ''Deer Hunter'' and ''Rocky'' country, he has often [2] appeared to be observing the odd habits of the colorful locals, resisting as the natives try to fatten him up like a foie gras goose, sampling Pennsylvania beer in a sports bar [3] with his tie tight, [4] awkwardly accepting bowling shoes as a gift from Bob Casey, examining the cheese and salami at the Italian Market here [5] as intriguing ethnic artifacts, [6] purchasing Utz Cheese Balls at a ShopRite in East Norriton and quizzing the women working in a chocolate factory [7] about whether they could possibly really like the sugary doodads.

Let us count the ways. (1) If they can mock you through your mother, they seem to enjoy it. (In October 2000, Dowd’s stable-mate, Richard Berke, explained why Gore was such a big liar. His elderly mother had been a big liar too, Berke suggested, thinking quite hard.) (2) They’re remarkably skillful at letting us know how an event “appeared.” (3) They leap to attention when clothing is wrong—when you sample beer with your “tie tight.” Similarly, (4) when you accept bowling shoes as a gift, they can tell if you’ve done so “awkwardly.” (5) They can see right into your soul as you examine the cheese and salami; and (6) they’ll occasionally make a complaint which is quite hard to decipher. (Obama went to the ShopRite on April 9. There is no record of him buying “cheese balls.” The Philly Inquirer said that he “picked up a few Gala apples, a bag of cheese puffs, a bottle of water, and a box of Butterscotch Krimpets.” Note to Dowd: Next time, why not fashion a “gay joke” from “Gala?”) And of course, (7) they will misreport the pointless things the candidate has actually said, tweaking them a bit, here and there, to make them suit the occasion.

This is done to help us know how the candidate “comes across.” The key point—it must all be inane.

But this is the way these lunatics work; it’s the way they’ve been working for years. And Dowd is the top loon among them. For the record, she builds up Clinton’s street cred today, doing so to puncture Obama’s. But she wrote the following four days ago. No, we didn’t invent this:

DOWD (4/13/08): The 22nd Amendment—not to mention his dwindling political skills—prevents Bill [Clinton] from doing what he truly wants done: the demolition of the Obama phenomenon. Instead, he's stuck propping up a candidate who is not a natural. (See the video of Hillary dancing at a seniors' aerobics class at a Philly Y.M.C.A. Awk.)

Awk! Dowd thought her readers should make it a point to examine Hillary dancing.

Since they love to get snide about Democrats’ mothers, let’s take a moment to ponder Dowd’s own. In fact, Dowd seems to come from a long line of fruitcakes. She has boasted of this in the past:

DOWD (5/20/98): Here is what you need to know about the Irish soul.

We are an unforgiving people. We believe in the Evil Eye. We like to fight. We don't like to compromise. We lie in wait for the worst. We lurk about in the past.

When I first moved to New York, I called my mother to tell her I was going to stay in a residential hotel called the Oliver Cromwell. There was a long pause, then tearful anger. "He encouraged his soldiers to throw babies up in the air and impale them on their swords as they came down," she snapped. I found another hotel. In Irish time, 1651 and 1981 were only moments apart.

I grew up in a house where my father put cardboard boxes and round tin cans, with green and white wrappers that read "End Irish Partition," on the piano and sideboard. He would urge anyone who came to visit, "Empty your pockets, Big Shot!"

We’re sure Dowd’s mother is a good person. Her daughter, alas, is a certified nut. The liberal world has tolerated her inanity—and her nastiness—far too long. It isn’t just her compulsion to denigrate Dems. It’s her mindless assault on our discourse.

Today, Dowd talks about Adlai/Adelaide. In 1999, Cal Thomas compared Gore to Victor/Victoria. (Gore didn’t “have his gender straight,” Chris Matthews sadly lamented.) But then, gender-nuts have driven this sub-cult, all the way back to the 1950s. Dowd’s forebears spoke of “teacup words”—and of Nixon’s “manly explanations.”

THE RISE OF THE CLINTONIAN WHOPPER: Then there’s Anne Kornblut, in today’s Post. She rubs her hands, at considerable length, about Hillary Clinton’s loss of credibility in the aftermath of her Bosnia misstatement. Mordant chuckles escaped our lips when we read this passage:

KORNBLUT (4/16/08): Senior Clinton advisers argued that the Bosnia story would not have developed the way it did if it were not for a story line about Clinton that goes back to the 1990s, when scandals involving the first lady, including the firings in the White House travel office and her financial dealings, resulted in widespread doubts about her trustworthiness. That framework, they argue, made it easier for Clinton to be perceived as dishonest...

We’ll guess that some of those Clinton advisers may have said that this “story line” from the 1990s was often driven by bogus reporting. The financial dealings cited here are complex. But how have Democrats been turned into liars over the course of the past sixteen years? The invention of “AL GORE, LIAR” was quite astounding. But we’ve recently reviewed an iconic Clinton “lie”—an iconic “lie” that wasn’t. And this one is quite simple to parse. In part, here’s how Dems become liars:

In June 1999, the New York Yankees were coming to the White House to be feted for the previous year’s World Series win. On the Today show, Hillary Clinton told Katie Couric that she had been a fan of the Yankees along with the Cubs when she grew up in Chicago.

To this day, there is no reason to doubt this statement. In 1993 and 1994, in fact, the Washington Post had published two separate profiles which alluded to Clinton’s youthful love for the Yankees. “I needed an American League team,” Clinton told Couric. “Because when you're from Chicago, you cannot root for both the Cubs and the Sox.” None of this was ever worth talking about. But the pre-existing evidence plainly suggests that what Clinton said was accurate.

None of this was worth talking about—except within the “press corps.”

You see, in June 1999, the press corps was busy reinventing Al Gore as the world’s biggest liar. They hated Hillary Clinton’s husband—he had gotten ten blow jobs; they hadn’t—and they were now directing their fury at everyone found in his court. Two Post profiles plainly suggested that Clinton had been a Yankees fan. But the insider press corps was up for some fun. It started in the new York Times, with this report by Katherine “Kit” Seelye:

SEELYE (6/11/99): “The fact is, I've always been a Yankees fan,” the First Lady, who was born and bred in Chicago, asserted this morning to Katie Couric on NBC's "Today Show" in anticipation of the championship team's visit to the White House this evening. When the puzzled Ms. Couric said she thought Mrs. Clinton was a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, the First Lady, in a classic Clintonian gesture, quickly claimed loyalty to the Cubs, too.

It was “a classic Clintonian gesture,” Seelye had quickly divined. And uh-oh! Two days later, on This Week, Cokie and George began venting. Kornblut won’t tell you this, of course. But this helps explain why it was so easy last month to paint Clinton as a Big Liar:

ROBERT (6/13/99) We can't end this program without talking about the fact that Hillary Clinton seems to have changed teams. That the White House this past week, there was a celebration for the New York Yankees, the New York Yankees, the victory in last year's World Series. And Mrs. Clinton said, “Well, now the fact is, I've always been a Yankees fan.” We thought she was a Cubs fan, like you.

WILL: Well, the Cubs will cheerfully trade her to the Yankees. The fact is, that's a wonderful statement because—and it is germane to this election because it's not just a lie, it is a Clintonian lie, which is say, an optional lie and an embroidered lie. She did it because she was a Cub fan and she said she couldn't root for the White Sox because it's just not done, and therefore she rooted for the Yankees. What rubbish. This is what New Yorkers have to decide. Do they want to import into their state the mendacity that—

By now, it was a Clintonian lie. “Talk about building a mountain out of a molehill, Sam Donaldson said, interrupting Will—though he himself plainly implied that what Clinton had said was a stretcher. Moments later, Roberts put her cosmic inanity on full display. She explained who it was she most pitied:

ROBERTS: I must say the part that made me sad was Joe Torre standing there [at the White House]. I'm a great admirer of Joe Torre and for him to be used in this way, it was a little—

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I think you'll see her sitting at court side between Spike Lee and Matt Dillon in the Knicks playoffs coming up. But her much bigger problem is the news in the, the New York Times, this morning, whether or not Ken Starr is going to be issuing some sort of a scathing report. I think—

WILL: I'm sorry, that's part of the same thing. This is not a mountain out of a molehill. They can't tell the truth!

“They can’t tell the truth,” Will said—as his panel kept failing to tell the truth. (This is a very familiar pattern from this lunatic era.) But you know what this was really about. At the end, a tut-tutting Cokie was required by law to go there:

ROBERTS: Yes, you should stick with your team. It's one of those loyalty issues.

WILL: And your state.

ROBERTS: Well, and then there's husbands. Well, Sam and I will be back in a moment.

Hiss! Hiss-spit! Hiss-spit! Mee-ow!! And don’t worry—the gasbag gang was just getting started. The following morning, in the Washington Post, Jonathan Yardley wrote that the Clintons had already won that year’s “Vulgarity Cup:”

YARDLEY (6/14/99): The winners, you certainly will not be surprised to learn, are Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton, who are to vulgarity what the 1998 New York Yankees were to baseball or what Cole Porter was to the Broadway musical: the top. Indeed, speaking of the 1998 New York Yankees, a magnificent example of Clintonian vulgarity was on display last week when the players went to the White House to receive the requisite presidential blessing. They got that and more: La Rodham Clinton in their midst, a Yankee cap atop her head, proclaiming for all to hear, “I've always been a Yankees fan.” Never mind that she grew up in Chicago; the woman will soon announce her candidacy for the U.S. Senate representing New York, a state in which she does not live, and is desperately doing whatever she can to make herself seem what she is not: a New Yorker.

Now it was Clintonian vulgarity. Never mind that Yardley’s newspaper had twice described the youthful Clinton as a fan of those Yankees! By the way: You got a similar narrative from Fred Barnes that day, on the CBS Morning Show:

BARNES (6/14/99): I mean, look—I mean, Hillary's already showing how Clintonian she is. She—I mean, what she said last week, “I've always been a Yankees fan.” Bob [Bechel], did you believe that? Since—since she was a little girl, she was a Yankees fan? Start the campaign with a whopper. That seems to be her idea.

Now it was a Clintonian whopper. And all the Villagers seemed to know it. The next night, Doris Kearns Goodwin worried hard in a typical Hardball performance:

GOOD WIN (6/15/99): What's in their marriage? What really goes on? The only way I think she can really win in New York, much less win the presidency, is to establish a crusade where she gets people excited about her and her ambitions and her intellect. That's why I think she would have been so much better off waiting two years, doing it from Illinois, not having the carpetbagger, not having to suddenly come out and be for the New York Yankees. I mean, that was the craziest thing. I mean, I know what it's like to be a fan. You cannot love one team, and then when you're asked, “Who are you for, the Yankees or the Mets,” and you say you're a Yankee lifelong fan, and you say, “I'm for both of them.” I mean, as a fan who wakes up in the morning happy when the Red Sox win, sad when they lose, who used to confess in confession that I wished various New York Yankee players, you know, would get injuries so that we could win the World Series—


GOODWIN: That is not a fan, and that shows a tin ear. So I worry that somehow she should have taken some time to think through her own career, and it's going to be strangle-holded by this relationship and by our interest in it.

Exactly. “By our interest in it.”

Don’t worry, there was more—although the fun would soon be interrupted by the need to trash Gore’s White House announcement, delivered on June 16. In the Post alone, Tony Kornheiser devoted his whole Sunday column to the absurdity of what Clinton had said. And Richard Cohen was still upset two weeks later:

COHEN (6/29/99): It's not known whether Hillary Clinton has polled as to where she should vacation or live. It is known, though, that she strains credulity in attempting to portray herself as, well, sort of a New Yorker. She always was a Yankee fan, she asserted recently. That's odd. She grew up in Chicago, once confessed to being a Cubs fan. Now she says that she always felt an obligation to root for an American League team as well. Sure.

Actually, no—you can’t get dumber. But, by God, once they get a novel they like, they type it again and again. (There was more, but these were highlights.)

To all appearances, Clinton was a youthful fan of the Yankees. And by the way: News of those old Post profiles was being bruited about; see our links below. But the gang was busy reinventing Gore as a LIAR. While they were at it, they did Clinton too.

On June 16, Gore made his kick-off speech—and they landed on his head like a mountain. Two days later, an iconic editorial appeared in the New York Post. “AL GORE, LIAR,” its headline said. After inventing some new “misstatements,” the editors played three instant classics:

NEW YORK POST (6/18/99): This is hardly the latest of Gore's fibs and flubs. Remember his claim that he and his wife, Tipper, were the models for the couple in Erich Segal's "Love Story"? (Segal said they weren't.) His "memory" of spending his youth on a farm? (The son of a U.S. senator, he was raised in Washington's Fairfax Hotel.) And on "Larry King Live," he said he was instrumental in inventing the Internet. (The Internet was "invented" eight years before Gore entered Congress.)

Actually, no—we didn’t remember. But as they made a LIAR of Gore, they made a LIAR of Clinton too.

Two months later, they dragged Gennifer Flowers onto Hardball, where she spent a full half-hour discussing Hillary Clinton’s murders. Result? Flowers’ performance was so nutty, she got to do a full hour on Hannity & Colmes. She ran through Clinton’s murders again, then said she was a big giant lesbo.

Go ahead—find a single word of complaint about any of this from the liberal world. Yes, this is how Bush reached the White House. And, though Kornblut won’t tell you today, it helps explain why it was easy last month to see Clinton as a big liar.

Final point: Kornblut reported Gore’s kick-off speech in the June 17 Boston Globe. Almost no one included the pure perfect crap about Gore growing up at the Ritz. But Kornblut was one who did throw it in. It was utterly false, of course, but the RNC had flamboyantly pimped it around—and it found its way into her story. These are the things that slip her mind as she crafts her new musings today.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: As the Villagers vented and raged, those old Post profiles were being bruited about. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/13/00 and 6/14/00. It seemed that Clinton was telling the truth. But everyone knew not to tattle.

For our fullest accounts of the fancy hotel, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/8/02 and 10/26/06. Kornblut appears in the earlier piece.