Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Kool Mo D, celebrity pundit
Gene Lyons

Everywhere you look, there’s the Shyest Woman in Washington, demurely avoiding the spotlight. That would be Maureen Dowd, the acerbic New York Times columnist, promoting her new book, “Are Men Necessary?” An excerpt in the Sunday Magazine was illustrated by a photo of the author perched elegantly on a barstool, wearing basic black, red stiletto pumps and fishnet stockings. She gazes coolly into the camera as if to say, “Forget it, big boy. You can’t afford me.” Elsewhere, Dowd appeared on “Imus in the Morning,” got profiled in The Washington Post, and in New York magazine by Ariel Levy, who called her “the most dangerous columnist in America.” In return, Dowd plugged Levy’s book, “Female Chauvinist Pigs : Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture,” in an online chat with readers. It’s called networking, but it’s ordinarily done more subtly. Nobody begrudges Dowd the attention. It’s just funny to hear her friends carry on about the pundit’s bashfulness when she’s on TV all the time.

“When she appeared on ‘Letterman’ to promote her first book, ‘Bushworld,’ in 2004,” Levy writes, “she wore a little black dress with spaghetti straps, and with her red hair fluffed in an Old Hollywood wave.... ‘You look tremendous, and I guess you must be going somewhere after this because nobody gets this nicely dressed for me,’ Letterman told her. ‘I did,’ she breathed. ‘I’ve been in love with you forever.’”

OK, so Letterman’s a big on-screen flirt, too. Kool Mo D, as I’ve called Dowd since she emerged as queen of the Washington “Heathers” during the Clinton years, was just playing along. But what would she write about a public figure who made her career lampooning the personal foibles of politicians, but insisted that her own intimate life was nobody’s business, then invited magazine writers into her home to explore it?

She’d say that person was confused.

What’s significant about Dowd’s confusion is how it illuminates the paradoxical rise of the celebrity pundit, journalists who achieve sublunary stardom by treating politics as “infotainment,” appearing on TV and copping an attitude. Her witty eviscerations of President Bush would be more persuasive, however, had she not also mocked Al Gore as “the teacher’s pet from hell,” Bill Clinton as “the Animal House president,” etc. Back then, Dowd treated Bush as a down-to-earth alternative to the humorless Gore.

John Kerry was a dork, too. Dowd and her cohorts treat presidential politics like a TV dating game. Heaven help the first woman presidential candidate. No outfit, no hairstyle, no speech mannerisms exist which cannot be mocked.

“[W]hile it was great entertainment to read her verbal shanking of [fellow New York Times reporter] Judy Miller,” comments blogger DCMediaGirl at dcmediagirl. com, “let me say that I found her bitchy, veiled, disapproving reference to Miller’s ‘relationships’ with powerful men to be a bit rich.” The reference is to Dowd’s romances with people like actor Michael Douglas and “West Wing” impresario Aaron Sorkin.

Me, I have an ethnic bone to pick. I basically grew up in a Maureen Dowd column, albeit with a lot less wit and more profanity. She even bears a strong resemblance (and I’ve checked with my cousin Sally about this ) to our maiden Aunt Peg, the fiercest dinner table combatant in a large Irish-Catholic family filled with them. Aunt Peg gave no quarter to man, woman or child, and expected none.

Back in the Old Country, the alliance of fiercely opinionated women like her with puritanical, sex-obsessed Irish priests was what made pubs so popular. Even so, I wouldn’t dream of describing Dowd as a shrew, harpy, fishwife, termagant, nag or any of their ruder synonyms. I love satire. Yet like DCMediaGirl, I find it pretty rich that the message of “Are Men Necessary?” is that men fear strong women.

Dowd writes of a “top New York producer” who once “confessed that he had wanted to ask me out on a date when he was between marriages but nixed the idea because my job as a Times columnist made me too intimidating.... He predicted that I would never find a mate because if there’s one thing men fear, it’s a woman who uses her critical faculties. Will she be critical of absolutely everything, even his manhood?” Actually, it’s almost touching to see the 53-year-old, never-married columnist expose herself to easy ridicule. So let’s put it this way: It’s true that most men (and women ) see domesticity as a refuge from the ceaseless quest for status that Dowd and Heathers of both genders envision life to be. (Only “top” producers need apply.) The faculty of wit, however, is as morally neutral as the ability to solve quadratic equations. If it’s love you seek, certain things are best left unsaid. Clever phrasing enhances their sting, but makes them neither true nor wise.

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