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Daily Howler: Fiction is fine, Dowd announces today. It's just as Krugman told us
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APPLYING THEIR CRAYONS! Fiction is fine, Dowd announces today. It’s just as Krugman told us: // link // print // previous // next //

WORST INTERVIEW EVER: In yesterday’s column, Richard Cohen was banging away at our addled discourse. Then, he contributed to it:

COHEN (7/8/08): This is the doleful legacy of Reaganism. We have become a nation that believes that you can get something for nothing. We thought that the energy crisis would be solved . . . somehow, and that no one would have to suffer. We still believe in the magical qualities of America, that something about us makes us better. Yet we have a chaotic and mediocre education system that desperately needs more money and higher standards, but we think—don't we?—that somehow we will maintain our lifestyle anyway. Hey, is this America or what?

Trust us. Cohen knows nothing about our “mediocre educational system.” So he typed some familiar cant—perpetuating a form of the magical thinking he’d just been complaining about.

How addled is our discourse on public ed? Tomorrow, we start a four-part series on perhaps the worst TV interview ever broadcast. Charlie Rose is a major broadcaster—and Time believes that Wendy Kopp is one of the “hundred most influential people in the world.” They combined to stink out the joint July 1. From there, Kopp proceeded to Aspen.

In fairness, Rose put up a minor fight—for a while. But how bad has American discourse become? Tomorrow, part 1: Dueling lists. Could be the worst session ever.

APPLYING THEIR CRAYONS: At long last, the lady has said it! In the following passage from today’s foolish column, Maureen Dowd defines the public discourse of the past twenty years—the discourse which has shaped all our lives:

DOWD (7/9/08): Fictionalizing historical figures is fine. Fantasies about public figures are inevitable.

Fiction and fantasy are inevitable—fine. And just to clarify, the “historical figure” she specifically cites is Laura Bush—an “historical figure” who currently sits in the White House. As such, that passage from Dowd leads directly to this one, from Paul Krugman’s column last Friday:

KRUGMAN (7/4/08): [A] true account of modern American politics should be titled “What Didn’t Happen.” Again and again we’ve had media firestorms over supposedly revealing incidents that never actually took place.

Let’s go ahead and rewrite that: “Again and again we’ve had media firestorms over supposedly revealing incidents that were fictional or fantasized.” Krugman listed four such imagined incidents at the start of his column. The firestorms about these “incidents that never actually took place” have, in just the past ten years, changed the course of all our lives—have changed the course of world history.

No, Al Gore never said he invented the Internet. But, as Dowd now admits, “fantasies about public figures are inevitable”—inside her professional cohort.

Dowd’s piece is remarkably nasty and stupid, as so much of her work has been. Is Clark Hoyt still getting results? Today, coincidence lets her slime a Republican wife—previously unexplored territory for this famed slimer of Major Dem Spouses. But in this column, she seems to show the narrow line that exists in her mind between the realms of truth and fantasy. In the following passage, she describes a forthcoming novel about Laura Bush’s (imagined/fictionalized/fantasized) sex life. MSNBC has called the sex scenes “too graphic to reprint,” Dowd purrs:

DOWD: Still, it’s not a salacious tell-all, and words like “smear” and “gossip” are misplaced. It’s a well-researched book that imagines what lies behind that placid facade of the first lady, a women’s book-club novel by a young woman named Curtis Sittenfeld who has written two best sellers, including “Prep.”

Only Dowd could concoct that sentence, about a “well-researched” book that “imagines” events! But then, Dowd has long shown little skill at distinguishing fact from fiction. Darlings! If it feels good, say it! In this passage, she ruminates on:

DOWD: You don’t get any fingerprints from Laura Bush. When you look into her eyes during an interview, you feel as if she is there somewhere, deep inside herself, miles and miles down. But though she is lovely and gracious, the main vibe she gives off is an emphatic: “I am not going to show you anything.”

Once in a while, you’ll read about something she’s said, like that legendary line she uttered to her future in-laws—“I read, I smoke, and I admire”—that makes you realize how intriguing it would be to see the real Laura. One with her guard down and outside of the Kabuki-like job of first lady.

But there’s only one vessel that can ferry you past Laura’s moat, and that’s fiction.

In the second paragraph, Dowd pleasures herself by recalling “that legendary line [Bush] uttered.” In such contexts, Dowd has rarely seemed to understand that “legendary” often means “untrue/imagined.” That said, let’s translate the highlighted part of this passage:

Laura Bush won’t tell us about her sex life. So we’re forced to make sh*t up.

We’re forced to offer you fiction, Dowd says. But then, as Krugman noted just last Friday, Dowd and her overpaid, crackpot cohort have offered us a great deal of that, over the past many years.

You might call it the science of brainless distraction. Inside Versailles, Dowd refuses to think about serious issues, a point she made long ago to Joe Klein (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/3/08). But she’s still condemned to be awake during all those tedious hours! So she purrs about a fatal car crash when Laura Bush was seventeen. This is where it takes her:

DOWD: Laura has rarely spoken publicly about it, except to say in 2000 that “it was crushing ... for the family involved and for me as well.”

How could a novelist not be drawn to such a tragedy? It’s easy to imagine all that guilt, shame, conscience, fear, sex and nightmares in the hands of Eudora Welty or Larry McMurtry.

“It’s easy to imagine” these things, Dowd says. She has proven this point through the years.

How easy is it to imagine? Ponder this:

No, Al Gore didn’t say he invented the Internet. Nor did he say he discovered Love Canal. He didn’t say he inspired Love Story—though Dowd pretty much invented that groaner, along with Frank Rich. He plainly didn’t say he invented the Earned Income Tax credit; when the Bradley campaign pretended he’d said it, Dowd’s cohort played along—for a year (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/3/05). He also didn’t introduce Willie Horton to the public. They played along with Bradley there, too. And when he joked about a union song, they pretended he hadn’t been joking. But then, it was easy for them to imagine these things. You see, they had formed a judgment about Clinton and Gore. That only left the invention of fictional incidents—concoctions to convince all us rubes.

By lore, JFK imagined that missile gap; LBJ fictionalized the Tonkin Gulf incident. In those days, it was the pols who were making things up. Then, the pundits got into the game. Dowd keeps leading the charge.

About those crayons: If we might adapt a mid-80s lyric, Millionaire journalists just want to have fun. In this perfectly fatuous passage, Dowd attempts to justify the steamy new novel which has her blood on the run:

DOWD: But there’s only one vessel that can ferry you past Laura’s moat, and that’s fiction. Ms. Sittenfeld has creatively applied her crayons to all the ambiguous blanks in the coloring book. It isn’t an invasion of privacy. Art has always been made out of the stories of kings and queens. Fictionalizing historical figures is fine. Fantasies about public figures are inevitable. The question of an ostensibly ordinary girl who lives through extraordinary things will always be gripping. For “Madame Bovary,” Flaubert partly drew on the real-life story of Delphine Delamare, a village doctor’s unhappy wife who had lots of lovers and a premature and humiliating death.

And the story of the quiet, pretty librarian who could suffer the fate of being an old maid if not rescued by the dashing hero is a favorite American narrative—from “The Music Man” to “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

It’s “a favorite American narrative,” Dowd writes. And she really ought to know, having helped invent many others. Al Gore is so feminized he’s practically lactating? For many years, comments like that have been part of another “favorite narrative.” So too with her jibes at Barry Obambi, the debutante starlet. So too with her jibes at “the Breck Girl.”

Dowd is so dumb that she’s barely upright, but that passage captures the culture of the Dowd/Rich/Matthews/let’s make sh*t up era. Readers, let Dowd entertain you! Flaubert “drew on the life” of someone who’d been dead for ten years—so Dowd can make her tired blood run with invented tales about Laura Bush. (Darlings! Sex scenes too graphic to reprint!) In passing, might we add a thought RE Dowd and Flaubert? Some people should not go to college.

This column comes straight from an empty elite, in the palace. And it’s just as Krugman told you on Friday: A true account of modern politics will spill with their fictional tales.