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Daily Howler: Maureen Dowd (and Chris Matthews) are barely sane. When will we stand up and say so?
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THE PUNDIT’S NEW CLOTHES! Maureen Dowd (and Chris Matthews) are barely sane. When will we stand up and say so? // link // print // previous // next //

INCREDIBLE: Is there a way to be dumber–or perhaps, a bigger tool–than TNR’s Michael Crowley? Our intemperate question was triggered this morning by this remarkably instructive post. Basic rules of the career liberal game: 1) Accept the accuracy of a Karl Rove anecdote–an anecdote dealing in complete, total trivia. 2) Draw negative inferences from this anecdote about a Major Dem’s character! Tomorrow, though, we’ll review a more widely-discussed recent Crowley report. One part of this report is quite rich–given Crowley’s disgraceful role in a recent campaign that did, in fact, change the world’s history. We think you deserve to be reminded of just who is who in your press corps.

THE PUNDIT’S NEW CLOTHES: Yikes! We think Paul Krugman is hugely wrong when he makes this statement about campaign coverage to date:

KRUGMAN (11/18/07): So far, media behavior in the 2008 campaign has been even worse than in the 2000 and 2004 campaigns. We’re mired in a disastrous war, there’s a crisis in the housing market, the health care system is collapsing–yet the coverage is all about the horserace, rather than the issues.
Wow! So far, coverage has almost surely been worse than it was at this point in Campaign 04. But in our view, nothing that has happened so far remotely compares with what had occurred by this time in the 2000 cycle. We simply don’t know our recent history when even our smartest front-line liberal journalist can make this statement. And we pay for our ignorance. Constantly.

That said, the coverage has truly begun to go crazy (again) in the past several weeks. This raises a question about our own capabilities–and about the pundit corps’ clothes.

Basic question: Can we all agree that we’ve run out of words to describe Maureen Dowd’s public lunacy? Like her friend and fellow crackpot Chris Matthews, Dowd has been publicly unbalanced for years–and yet, she just keeps on bringin’ it. What does public lunacy look like in the Age of Matthews and Dowd? Here’s the way she started her latest piece of Clinton/Obama/Dem-hatred:

DOWD (11/18/07): The debate dominatrix knows how to rattle Obambi.

Mistress Hillary started disciplining her fellow senator last winter, after he began exploring a presidential bid. When he winked at her, took her elbow and tried to say hello on the Senate floor, she did not melt, as many women do. She brushed him off, a move meant to remind him that he was an upstart who should not get in the way of her turn in the Oval Office.

He was so shook up, he called a friend to say: You would not believe what just happened with Hillary.

She has continued to flick the whip in debates...

All elements of Dowd’s familiar cracked pottery are on display in Sunday’s column: The obsession with pseudo-gender analysis; the denigration of all Major Democrats; and, of course, the use of utterly trivial (unconfirmable) personal matters as the basis for sweeping assessments of character. But then again, as we’ve said in the past: When Dowd does talk about real issues, you wish she’d return to her brainless name-calling. Here we see the inanity that inevitably follows when Dowd tries to discuss the real world:
DOWD: When Hillary walked onstage Thursday, Obama stood to her left waiting to shake hands and say hi, as he and Edwards had done with Chris Dodd. She turned her body away, refused to meet his eyes and froze him out. Again. And he looked taken aback. Again.

For the rest of the night she owned him. He was so off his game that he duplicated her dithering performance from the last debate on the issue of whether illegal immigrants should get driver’s licenses. After a tortured exchange with Wolf Blitzer, he ended up saying he favored it–one more sign that the law professor is oblivious to the visceral nature of campaigns.

Hillary brazenly leapt away from that politically devastating position and said she didn’t support the licenses anymore. And Obama didn’t even call her out on her third reversal on the matter.

Why did Obama dither a bit about driver’s licenses? Why didn’t he “call Clinton out” on the matter? We don’t know–and neither does Dowd. (And no, Obama wasn’t massively “off his game” last Thursday–and Clinton hasn’t reversed three times.) But the most obvious explanation for Obama’s presentation doesn’t seem to have entered Dowd’s head; it doesn’t occur to Dowd that Obama may have “dithered” a bit about driver’s licenses because his position–while perfectly sensible–is extremely unpopular with voters. Duh! Almost surely, this is why Clinton and Edwards have reversed or rolled back their own previous positions. A ten-year-old child could figure this out–but Dowd is lost about matters like this. In her utterly childish mind, it has to be all about the way politicians shake hands and say hi.

How inane–how publicly crazy–is Dowd? On Friday, her friend and fellow crackpot, Chris Matthews, dragged out his new “body language expert” to “analyze” Thursday night’s debate. (For Digby’s account of this stupid, ugly nonsense, just click here.) He did the same thing during Campaign 2000, of course, asking that campaign’s “body language expert” why Gore’s suits had so many buttons (three) and if this troubling profusion of buttons was some sort of sexual signal. (No. We really aren’t making that up.) You see, when we analyze debates in terms of “body language,” we free ourselves to say any damn thing, no matter how screamingly nutty it is. And on Sunday, Dowd–a long-time public nut, like her friend–wanted to say things like this:

DOWD: She has continued to flick the whip in debates. She usually ignores Obama and John Edwards backstage, preferring to chat with the so-called second-tier candidates. And she often looks so unapproachable while they’re setting up on stage that Obama seems hesitant to be the first to say hi.

With so much at stake, she had to do it again in Vegas, this time using her voice, gaze and body language to such punishing effect that Obama looked as if he had been brought to heel. It was a mesmerizing display, and at an event that drew the highest television ratings of any primary debate this year. The momentum Obama had gained from a vivid speech at the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner in Iowa drained away by the end of the first half-hour.

Dowd wanted to talk about whips–about being brought to heel. “Body language” permits you to do that.

Of course, in fairness, it really was true: “Obambi” did look like he’d been brought to heel–if you’re a complete f*cking nut-case. Dowd went on to explain “Obambi’s” weakness in terms of his domineering b*tch wife, Michelle, extending a publicly crazy theme she first picked at last April. But then, Dowd is crazy all the way down. To paraphrase Russell, it’s nothing but turtles.

Obvious question: What happens when we allow public crackpots like Dowd to play leading roles in our discourse? We get gross public inanity like this, in our most influential newspaper:

DOWD: Obama and Edwards, who both seemed shaken by a few seconds of pro-Hillary booing, let the front-runner set a ludicrous standard: that any criticism of her shifts on issues is “mudslinging” and a character attack.

She is a control freak–that’s why her campaign tried to coach wonky Iowa voters to ask wonky questions–and her male rivals are letting her take control.

We assume that Dowd refers in part to that “planted question” about global warming. So here again, you see the thought process of a stone public crackpot. To Dowd, a question about global warming is a “wonky question” no one but a “wonky voter” would ask–a wonky voter who was being “dominated” by a “control freak.” Presumably, Dowd thinks the public would be better served by questions about body language–about how the different hopefuls say hi before they stage their debates.

That said, let’s set aside the question of partisan animus and talk about Dowd’s overt public lunacy. And let’s discuss the liberal world’s complete inability to see–and discuss–what is happening all around us.

For years, Dowd has been publicly unwell. Her public ranting has long been bizarre, like that of her ranting friend, Matthews. Matthews’ public nuttery goes back to the days when (for example) he almost got Cody Shearer killed, then started right in on Wen Ho Lee. (Atrios remembers. Click here.) But Dowd has long been a public nut too. And she only gets worse and more vicious.

We’ll offer our basic question again: Why has this been discussed so little? Why has this bizarre situation been accepted by the liberal world? Set aside the fact that Matthews “savaged Gore” for two years–a matter the career liberal world has persistently refused to discuss (with the predictable consequences). Let’s just focus on the inanity–the public craziness–in which these people revel.

In the famous old fable, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” a whole nation of people were simply unable to see the lunacy happening right before them. Blinded by their deference to authority, they refused to see–or to speak.

Matthews and Dowd are almost insane. Yes, we know–it’s unpleasant to say so. But this blatantly obvious drama is being played out before our eyes. Indeed, it has been publicly obvious for the past dozen years. When will liberals get off their asses and demands that this gross insult stop?

Dowd is virtually out of her mind. She’s also filled with ugly hatred. We would have to assume that, by this time, even the New York Times has started to see this. But there has never been any push-back from career liberals about Dowd or Matthews–or about the slightly better-controlled forces for whom they provide a front.

At this time in Campaign 2000, Matthews was literally counting Gore’s buttons–and Dowd was purring about Wolf’s “inner slut.” Liberals sat and took it then. To all appearances, we plan to sit and take it today. Our jobs are good–our salaries OK. The world can go solve its own problems.

GREENWALD, WILLING TO FIGHT: It isn’t really part of his beat. But Dowd’s column this Sunday was so insane that Glenn Greenwald took note at Salon. First, he focused on Tom Friedman’s latest plea for more war. But then, he turned to this man’s strange companion:

GREENWALD (11/18/07): Maureen Dowd’s column today, on the same page, is the perfect companion piece to Friedman's. It was hard to pick which one to write about, but I ultimately avoided Dowd's because–even for her–it's just, in equal measures, too trite and too twisted.

As always in Beltway pundit world, liberal men are emasculated losers (Coulteresque "faggots"); Democratic women are frigid, emasculating freaks; and war-loving Republican male leaders are our only Real Men. Hence, Dowd's whole column today depicts Hillary Clinton as an "icy," vicious, "dominatrix" and Barack Obama–"Obambi"–as her emasculated, intimidated, submissive slave. And she contrasted "Obambi" with Rudy Giuliani, who is far too masculine to be "kept in line" by Hillary's whip. One feels lowered even writing about Dowd...

Greenwald then presented a string of excerpts from Dowd’s deranged Sunday column. “One feels lowered even writing about Dowd,” he writes. And one feels the need for new words.

We’ll offer some words that need to be said: At this point, Maureen Dowd is barely sane. But so what? Like the helpless denizens of that famous empire, the liberal world has sat about while public crackpots like Matthews count their greatest leaders’ buttons–while public crackpots like Dowd talk about “inner sluts.” We’ve politely shut up for the past dozen years. Today, Matthews and Dowd are barely sane–and career liberals still won’t complain.

Let’s send the analysts out of the room: I’ve never seen a group of people like these. At another time, I’ll discuss why we may be like this. Today, I’ll just suggest that you gaze on our endless silence–our endless refusal to resist.

ALMOST AS BAD: Of course, it’s hard to pick on Maureen Dowd when her colleague, Gail Collins, is almost as bad. Saturday’s column was dripping with Clinton-hatred (eight years ago, she was dripping at Gore). Beyond that, the column is almost impossibly fatuous. And, of course, its author sneers, once again, at those who care about politics–about the world.

Nope! In Collins’ world, no one is more laughable than those who “are engrossed in the presidential race a year before the election.” We think she’s heard about the primaries. But we couldn’t quite prove it from that.

Greenwald has often used the “Versailles” metaphor to describe this astonishing mainstream press cohort. Indeed: Career liberals are too timid and too uncaring to say so, but people often surrender their sanity when they move inside palaces. It’s awkward to say it, but it’s quite plainly true: At this point, Dowd is barely sane–and Collins is not far behind her.

By the way: As East Coast Irish Catholic ourselves, we’ve previously discussed a fairly obvious cultural aspect of this weird, destructive story. And so, let’s note that Collins is a mid-50s midwestern Irish Catholic. Born as Gail Gleason, she “ran the newspaper at her all-girls Catholic school” (click here) and she’s a Marquette graduate. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with any of that; most members of our Irish Catholic tribe have long since moved beyond the well-known shortcomings of our otherwise glorious mid-century culture. But a few broken souls just couldn’t move on–and all of them seem to be running the press corps! (Jack Welch selected about half.) As many readers have noted in the past several months, Collins is a slightly cleaned-up version of Dowd. At some point, it’s hard to avoid asking about the common cultural background.

That’s a bit awkward to talk about too–unless you care about the world’s future. Unless you have it in you to say, “I’ve had it. That’s it. You’ll have to stop. We just won’t accept this–no more.”

But darlings, it’s all about gossip: What does the Times seem to like in its female pundits? Collins’ first, daft book bore this tragic title: Scorpion Tongues: Gossip, Celebrity, and American Politics. First sentence in the review: “If you think the stories about Bill Clinton are outrageous, Gail Collins has some tales that will really burn your ears.”

Some broken souls simply never grew up. Must the Times hire every one of them?