Maureen Dowd's mind want to know: Maureen Dowd may be the most influential print journalist of the past thirty years.
As early as 1992, the highly prescient Katherine Boo was warning about the trend she described as “Creeping Dowdism.” But Dowd was already a very important player at our most influential newspaper.
Career players wanted to work for the Times, or at least to attend their galas. In part for that reason, people like Dowd are rarely criticized in the mainstream press or in the career liberal world.
We’ve told you these things for years by now. By now, such insights are totally boring. But yesterday, Dowd’s column was so bad that it can’t be ignored.
Dowd discussed a contradiction that is genuinely important. According to a string of polls, ninety percent of the public favors universal background checks for those who would buy a gun. But despite this amazingly high degree of support, legislation to expand background checks just failed in the Senate.
Few people could write a column on this topic without so much as mentioning the influence of the NRA. Yesterday, Dowd accomplished that task, in a familiar way.
According to Dowd, the failure of the legislation was all Obama’s fault! Dowd could see that this is true because she once saw a movie:
DOWD (4/21/13): The White House should have created a war room full of charts with the names of pols they had to capture, like they had in “The American President.” Soaring speeches have their place, but this was about blocking and tackling.Good God, that’s an embarrassment! Or at least, it would be anywhere except at the New York Times.
Instead of the pit-bull legislative aides in Aaron Sorkin’s movie, Obama has Miguel Rodriguez, an arm-twister so genteel that The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker wrote recently that no one in Congress even knows who he is.
The president was oblivious to red-state Democrats facing tough elections. Bring the Alaskan Democrat Mark Begich to the White House residence, hand him a drink, and say, “How can we make this a bill you can vote for and defend?”
(Presumably, she saw the part about giving Begich the drink in some movie too.)
Why did legislation fail when it had such widespread public support? That is a very important question. But Dowd never mentioned the NRA in her lengthy musings. She never discussed the = harm small groups of committed voters can wreak, especially in low-turnout primary votes.
She never explained why 54 votes weren’t enough to get the amendment in question passed, although she did offer this odd construction: “Even House Republicans who had no intention of voting for the gun bill marveled privately that the president could not muster 60 votes in a Senate that his party controls.”
Earth to Dowd: If a bill needs 60 votes to pass, the president’s party doesn’t exactly “control” the Senate. They’ve been missing that point on Fox for years. Yesterday, Dowd glossed it too.
Whatever! In a remarkably clueless column, Dowd fell back on a favorite old theme: It was all Obama’s fault! She no longer mocks him as Barry or as Obambi or as a debutante—that largely stopped when the Times public editor scalded her in 2008.
But Dowd seemed to be picturing scenes from various movies as she described the various things the president should have done, starting with that good stiff belt he should have handed to Begich:
DOWD: The president was oblivious to red-state Democrats facing tough elections. Bring the Alaskan Democrat Mark Begich to the White House residence, hand him a drink, and say, “How can we make this a bill you can vote for and defend?”After giving Begich that drink, Obama should have held a big rally in Ohio. He should have pressed his buddy, Tom Coburn. He should have given his Rose Garden speech before the vote, not after.
Sometimes you must leave the high road and fetch your brass knuckles. Obama should have called Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota over to the Oval Office and put on the squeeze: “Heidi, you’re brand new and you’re going to have a long career. You work with us, we’ll work with you. Public opinion is moving fast on this issue. The reason you get a six-year term is so you can have the guts to make tough votes. This is a totally defensible bill back home. It’s about background checks, nothing to do with access to guns. Heidi, you’re a mother. Think of those little kids dying in schoolrooms.”
Obama had to persuade some Republican senators in states that he won in 2012. He should have gone out to Ohio, New Hampshire and Nevada and had big rallies to get the public riled up to put pressure on Rob Portman, Kelly Ayotte and Dean Heller, giving notice that they would pay a price if they spurned him on this.
Tom Coburn, the Republican senator from Oklahoma, is one of the few people on the Hill that the president actually considers a friend. Obama wrote a paean to Coburn in the new Time 100 issue, which came out just as Coburn sabotaged his own initial effort to help the bill.
Obama should have pressed his buddy: “Hey, Tom, just this once, why don’t you do more than just talk about making an agreement with the Democrats? You’re not running again. Do something big.”
Couldn’t the president have given his Rose Garden speech about the “shameful” actions in Washington before the vote rather than after?
Yeah, sure! Those were the tickets!
Dowd seems to have seen a lot of movies, some of her own imagining. That said, it defies comprehension that nonsense like this represents the level of “thinking” which is presented on Sunday morning at our nation’s most famous newspaper.
Dowd has been a cipher for years. More than twenty years ago, Boo was already warning her colleagues about the earlier forms of this creeping inanity.
Twenty years later, Dowd is still there. At our most famous newspaper, this nonsense now counts as “analysis.”
Why can’t Obama be more like Michael Douglas? Rather famously, Maureen Dowd has dated Douglas and Sorkin and she wants to know. But good God:
Obama should have set up a war room, “like they had in The American President.” Our smartest newspaper is so slow they didn’t even make her cut that!