Sunday, September 25, 2005

Maureen Dowd, Nihilist

Some people have observed that the New York Times editorial pages are unbalanced, staffed almost entirely with liberals, save for the milquetoast centrist Republican David Brooks (admired by no conservative I know), and William Safire's libertarian replacement, John Tierney. But this is too hasty - the various columnists do have different areas of emphasis, and some ideological variation between them. The Times, after all, also has a token nihilist - Maureen Dowd.

Maureen Dowd has to be one of the most intellectually vapid people to ever get a gig as a columnist. That she was hired by a paper with the prestige of the New York Times says a great deal more about that newspaper than about her own merit.

This all struck me about her this morning on Meet the Press. Tim Russert asks her, "Maureen Dowd, be counterintuitive here. Karl Rove calls you up and said, "Maureen, I've been reading your column for the last couple years. Give us advice. What should we do in the second term?"

Dowd answers with this sterling sage piece of policy advice: "Well, I think, you know, given what David said, people have talked about whether the Bushes are racist, and I don't think they're racist, but their problem is about class, because they never have understood that when they have this story arc where they go down to Texas and pull themselves up by their bootstraps, that that is--they think that's a true pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. They didn't accept the fact that they always have Daddy's friends to help them. And until they can see reality, then--you know, Bush's--say he's a good third- or fourth-quarter player, after Katrina. Well, that's not good enough for people who don't have Daddy's friends to help. And until he accepts that about himself, you know, he can't move on, I don't think."

Umm... what? Yes, Maureen, I realize that you have this weird obsession with all things Freudian, and that you've made half your career trying to read pathological stuff into people's ideological and policy stances. But what about your own ideas? What, exactly, would you do? (Russert, frustratingly, let Dowd's answer slide, turning to Brooks to ask him another question. What I would've given if he could've said the above).

Her answer reveals all you really need to know about her methodology. She has no specific proposals, no specific ideas of her own. She can sort of parrot a standard narrative about personalities, e.g. that Bush doesn't care about poor or black people (see Kayne West). But it has little to do with substantial political ideas, because she has none. This is why she was able to transition so easily from being a Clinton critic, Kenneth Starr critic, then anti-Bush critic. Someone, I recall, once called Maureen Dowd the political "mean girl." I think that's it in a nutshell. She is a social metaphysician of the highest order, and lacks either the acumen or interest in substantial political issues to actually have an opinion on them. And that is why she had no answer on what, exactly, a person in Bush's position should do, beyond making another character attack.

Nihilistic? You bet. But then, what else would one expect from a mean girl, possessed by an insatiable envy for power?


Blogger contratimes said...

Thank you, Moon God, for posting your own doubts about Ms. Dowd. I was just cruising around the Net in search of others who feel the same way as I. Of course, there are many, but not all are as astute an observer, or as strong a writer, as yourself.

Keep up the good work. I shall return, regularly and enthusiastically. Though I've written my share of anti-Dowd pieces, I've always more to learn from my fellow bloggers.

Peace to you,


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