October 18 2010
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd hit a new low in yesterday's column:
We are in the era of Republican Mean Girls, grown-up versions of those teenage tormentors who would steal your boyfriend, spray-paint your locker and, just for good measure, spread rumors that you were pregnant.
These women - Jan, Meg, Carly, Sharron, Linda, Michele, Queen Bee Sarah and sweet wannabe Christine - have co-opted and ratcheted up the disgust with the status quo that originally buoyed Barack Obama. Whether they're mistreating the help or belittling the president's manhood, making snide comments about a rival's hair or ripping an opponent for spending money on a men's fashion show, the Mean Girls have replaced Hope with Spite and Cool with Cold. They are the ideal nihilistic cheerleaders for an angry electorate.
This is what passes for thought in the newspaper of record? It's juvenile, of course, and betrays the irritation of women like Dowd at women who don't share her views yet dare to play a part on the national stage. That many of these women have gotten ahead on their own, that they are independent-minded, and that some even dare to think of themselves as feminists adds insult to injury. If anybody knows what it is to be attacked by mean girls, it's Sarah Palin, whose locker is still being repeatedly spray painted by the mainstream media. (Hotair has the best headline on commentary on this column: "Maureen Dowd not handling this 'mama grizzly' thing well.")
My colleague Carrie Lukas notes on The Corner:
[Dowd] takes already simplified caricatures and then stretches them to the point where they contain no wit or insight into her subjects. Instead what's revealed is how completely out of touch the author is with how most Americans view the political scene. ...
Her real purpose this week was to cast female Republican candidates into sophomoric stereotypes that she believes her readers will recognize from their own lives.
I don't know about you, but I'm willing to bet that Ms. Dowd and her clique are far meaner than any of the above. "Nihilistic cheerleaders" is a particularly loathsome way to speak of women who speak of the Constitution and restoring personal responsibility. Tell the truth: Would you rather share a locker with Maureen Dowd or Sharron Angle?
In criticizing Dowd, it is customary to remember the good old days before Dowd became a columnist. There is a reason for this: Dowd really was a great reporter who, promoted to columnist, replaced perceptiveness and brilliant observation with spite. She won a Pulitzer early in her career as a columnist, at a time when she was flailing in public to master the new form. The Pulitzer can be seen as either a lifetime achievement award for Dowd the reporter, or as a bit of encouragement for a struggling member of the club at an awkward time in her career. At any rate, Dowd valliantly stuck to it and found a voice: it is, ironically, the voice of a mean girl. Dowd never manages to deal with ideas in her columns, and most of what she writes is hackneyed purveying of a liberal line. It doesn't take much courage. Indeed, one often feels that Dowd has thrown in the towel on serious thinking and is just playing to her gallery.
Speaking for many, Dana Perino wrote yesterday on National Review:
I used to enjoy reading Maureen Dowd. I think she has a way with words and at times she even promotes thinking outside of conventional wisdom. Unfortunately, those columns are few and far between. Reading her column in the Sunday New York Times irritated me. I guess that's her specialty - irritation.
I remember once after I'd left the White House I mentioned one of her columns to a friend and the friend said, "You know, you don't have to read that stuff any more . . . you graduated." But I'm a news junkie; I can't help myself. Kind of like some women and chocolate. Whoops! Sorry - did I say something stereotypical and uncalled for?
That's exactly what her column about mean Republican and conservative women is - stereotypical and uncalled for. She lists the usual suspects - as in, those expected to win. Yet reading her piece I keep thinking, has she met any of those women? Does she still feel that way after walking away? I'm fortunate to meet a lot of women from both sides of the aisle - and with few exceptions I like them all. I certainly don't think any of them are mean. Can women have moments they aren't proud of? Sure. But to write all conservative and Republican women off as mean is . . . mean.
Here's the really spiteful part of Dowd's column: Dowd was attending an event for Janet Brewer in the broiling sun. When Dowd's Irish skin began to tan, she felt she had to make a get-away, lest Brewer punish her for being brown. This is despicable. Brewer is concerned not with the color of anybody's skin but with whether there are here legally or illegally. There is a big difference, but apparently it is too subtle for Ms. Dowd.
Carrie captures this perfectly:
[Dows] starts the column feigning nervousness that Arizona governor Jan Brewer would have forced the sunburned Dowd to "run for [her] life across the desert," since Brewer has "declared open season on anyone with a suspicious skin tone in her state."
This isn't funny or insightful. It's ridiculous. If Dowd is trying to say she thinks Arizona's new immigration law permitting state law enforcement to inquire about immigration status is unfair to Latino and other minority populations (a point that's been made a billion times and isn't particularly topical), she's failed. If her point was to show the stupidity of opponents of the law who exaggerate its potential harm, she's come much closer. Yet somehow I don't think the latter was her intention.