In today’s New York Times column, Maureen Dowd continues her obsession with attention by blaming Obama for not having stood up to the Republicans the way the “limousine liberals” wanted him to do. Funny, because over there on the right they are accusing Obama of being too combatant, too resistant to reaching across the aisle. So Obama is caught between two ideals – he didn’t fit into Dowd’s projection of who he should be (she absolutely misses what he’s great at and will thus have to remain on the wrong side of history for the next 100 years as we look back) and he was someone who had no ability to work with the right.
Dowd’s columns on Obama are not about Obama at all: they’re about her. Just like her (more interesting and useful) columns on Romney and Ryan are about her. But this year there is more at stake, the President is a lot more popular than she seems to realize and thus her take-down piece on Obama’s convention speech (grasping at straws, really – Obama doesn’t lie so how do you attack someone like that?) feels woefully out of touch. And so we are left with Dowd’s narcissism. Invoking that work, I think, is what prevented the NY Times from posting my non-abusive criticism of Dowd herself; needing to write a nasty piece about Obama reveals in her the need to be seen as a certain kind of journalist, one who will get in the ring of a cockfight and take on whomever she happens to face. That is dangerous, particularly for the New York Times and particularly for Dowd. Nastiness for the sake of nastiness is ultimately useless and truly evidence only of a narcissistic writer. Were she writing a truthful piece about Obama she would have to betray her street fred. And we can’t have that.
Why she would want to continually dog a President, all because he didn’t pay her enough attention when they were stuck on a plane somewhere, or a train somewhere, or a who gives a fuck somewhere, she has decided that he isn’t Bill Clinton — and therefore is worth piling on. At this point, Dowd, who has gained a reputation for being one of the best writers in the business, is about to nestle herself into the annals of history alongside other writers who simply didn’t get it. A great editorialist reads the take accurately. Dowd’s reading of Obama’s convention speech was a misreading of a powerful moment in US history. Note how she refuses to praise the great speeches of the convention, oh maybe Bill Clinton, but not even Michelle Obama. That was a gross misread of the event. Instead it had to be about Dowd who doesn’t take sides, Dowd who finds something mean to say about everyone who deserves it, Dowd who stands up for us (don’t speak for me, lady) and yet this was her least finest hour. She has to be the scrappy, starving dog searching for a piece of meat she can pick up with her teeth. And there weren’t many of those lying around. In the end it was like seeing a double rainbow and complaining that someone left a bit of dogshit on the ground.
Instead of allowing a commenter like me, who can fight fire with fire – match Dowd’s nasty sarcasm – the comment is simply not approved. As a blog owner I reserve the right to delete or not publish comments I deem too nasty. I would never condemn the NY Times, particularly, for not publishing comments they felt crossed the line. In other words, I can dig it. But I think it was an overreaction. Also, if you can’t handle the heat, Ms. Dowd, time to get out of the kitchen.
I used to call Dowd my favorite writer, someone I wanted to emulate. But she has proved, with this column, that her thinking is greatly limited by her narcissism. And it’s greatly limited by her upbringing and her character. He failure to get what the majority of Americans easily get reveals the weaknesses in her own outlook. And what a shame that is.
I may have to stop reading Dowd, because when she writes about the guy who is going to go down as one of the ten greatest Presidents the country has known, it will be like watching a car with three wheels clattering lamely down the road.