Part 2—Conned by our favorite toy: For several years, we liberals have battered The Rival Tribe for its “epistemic closure.”
(For an account by Paul Krugman, click here.)
There is no doubt, the other tribe can be tremendously dumb. Obama wasn’t born in Kenya. And the Clintons didn’t commit a string of murders, despite what Falwell (and Gennifer Flowers) said.
With the stewardship of Cronkite gone, we the people have been freed to be just as dumb as we want! Obvious crackpots get TV shows now—and we're free to believe all the twaddle they are quite eager to hand us.
That said, are they any “epistemic enclosures” which might be holding us liberals back? Which might be rendering us somewhat dumb? Which might be keeping us from advancing progressive interests?
We’d say the answer is yes! If we were to list these enclosures, we’d have to start with our deeply peculiar love of the toy of race.
We say this love is deeply peculiar because it’s obvious that we don’t really care all that much about issues of racial fairness. We display complete disinterest in most such issues, including those affecting black children. But good lord! How we love the toy of race—the toy with which we assert our own moral goodness as opposed to the ugly racism of the rival tribe!
We don’t seem to care about low-income schools. We don’t seem to care about the deaths of the nation’s most perfect black kids.
But good god, how we love to toy with our R-bombs! Just consider the cynical column Maureen Dowd wrote to get us off her aspic.
Dowd screwed up so badly last week that even some journalists noticed. On Sunday, August 18, she opened her week with her ten millionth crackpot assault on the vile conduct of the twin demons, Clinton and Clinton.
On Wednesday, August 21, she toyed with the New York mayoral race, trying to create a hair-pulling match between the leading female candidate and the wife of the leading male. For Dowd, this is typical stuff. But this time, she included a misquotation which was so comically awful, even by Dowdist Standards, that the press corps was forced to notice.
People were getting riled! And so, in her new column on Sunday, Dowd did what she did the last time this happened. She sought to placate us low-IQ liberals by using the toy of race.
Just for the record, Maureen Dowd cares about race about as much as you care about costuming practices at the Bolshoi Ballet. She does know that race is an excellent toy in the eyes of us liberals.
She felt our hot breath on her neck last week. What in the world could a columnist do? And then, at last, she had it! Two days ago, she started her column like this:
DOWD (8/25/13): Reindeer GamesWhy was her column called Reindeer Games? Because Bentivolio—an insignificant back-bencher you’ve never heard of—is an accidental first-term congressman who formerly ran a year-round business in which he played Santa Claus.
On the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Kerry Bentivolio, a Michigan congressman, has a dream, too: to impeach the nation’s first black president.
“If I could write that bill and submit it, it would be a dream come true,” the freshman Republican told a local G.O.P. club meeting Monday in Birmingham, Mich., in a video posted on YouTube and reported by BuzzFeed.
Attacking this feeble target, Dowd sought to balance a decade of crazy attacks on the Clintons. In the process, she pleasured us with our favorite, the toy of race.
Does Kerry Bentivolio really want to impeach the nation’s first black president? It’s possible, though Dowd eliminated the things he said at that meeting which gave the impression that he might have been trying to get his crazier constituents off his back with his impeachment musings.
That said, does Bentivolio want to impeach Obama because he’s black? You’ll note that Dowd, a crafty performer, didn’t say that! She just strung the ideas together, knowing we would take that step with our love of the toy of race.
Does Bentivolio want to impeach Obama because he’s black? Like Dowd, we have no idea. Unlike Dowd, we aren’t fawning to weak-minded liberals to get them off our backs.
In the bulk of her column, Dowd pummeled Bentivolio in somewhat selective fashion. In much smaller doses, she mentioned two high-ranking Republicans, along with another back-bencher.
She rolled her eyes at Tea Party members and at birthers. For the record, Dowd’s inanity became a national problem long before the “epistemic closure” now sometimes displayed by that party.
Dowd’s inanity rivals that of the birthers, and it has often been aimed at the same set of targets. But in this particular column, Dowd was pandering to us numb-nuts over here in our own tribe.
And so, sure enough! She ended the column with our most favorite toy, a slickly handled race card:
DOWD: The Democrats never impeached W. and they had real grounds: starting a war on false premises and sanctioning torture. “The Republican Party is in a constant struggle between its ego and its id,” [David] Axelrod says, “and the id has mostly won out lately.”That last paragraph really felt good! But note what Dowd was too slick to say, although she knew that we’re so dumb that her slippery technique wouldn’t matter:
It isn’t the president who should leave. It’s the misguided lawmakers trying to drive him out.
For some of the rodeo clowns clamoring for impeachment around the country, Barack Obama’s real crime is presiding while black.
Is Obama’s real crime “presiding while black” according to Kerry Bentivolio? You’ll note that Dowd didn’t say that.
How about the better-known people she named? Does Tom Coburn see Obama that way? Is that how it is with Ted Cruz?
Dowd didn’t say that either! In fact, Dowd never said who believes that Obama’s real crime is presiding while black! Hiding behind the useful word “some,” she dropped her R-bomb in a sanitary, technically defensible fashion!
At no one point in her Christmas column did she offer any idea about who wants to impeach Obama because he’s black. Despite that, she gave us our favorite toy, right at the end of the column!
We children love Mother on Christmas morning after we’ve opened our presents. So it was with liberal readers as we opened our gift of this pander. Instantly, Dowd’s regular commenters praised her for her brilliant insight about the other team’s ugly racism.
Dowd had hid behind the word “some.” Commenters didn’t much notice. They filled the picture in with their own crayons, praising Dowd as they went.
Three of Dowd’s first five commenters praised her for the way she exposed all the racists. “The only thing that is drawn to conclusion is that these men don't like Democrats, they are racists. They use code, innuendo, subversive tactics, but a racist is a racist,” her first commenter said (edited for clarity).
Dowd’s fifth commenter, a regular, brought the treasured theme home. “The whole Tea Party movement is founded upon racism,” she declared. “Impeach is the New Lynch,” she said as she closed, helping display the pleasure we get from our favorite toy.
That comment struck us as dumb. Right in the middle of her column, Dowd herself had briefly noted a problematic fact. That same Republican Party actually did impeach the last Democratic president. They conducted a “nutty impeachment of Bill Clinton,” Dowd fleetingly said—and Clinton was known to be white!
Despite these facts, we love the toy of race so much that when they just talk about impeaching Obama, we are sure that “Obama’s real crime is presiding while black.” (“For some,” Dowd slickly said.)
Cynically, Dowd gave us that toy. In comments, we thanked her for doing it.
How easy are we liberals to play? Dowd played the same darn game the last time she got into trouble! In June 2008, Clark Hoyt, then the New York Times public editor, hammered her for the way she had covered Hillary Clinton during the Democratic primaries.
“By assailing Clinton in gender-heavy terms in column after column, [Dowd] went over the top this election season,” Hoyt wrote, in one of the only frank assessments of Dowd ever seen in the mainstream press.
The Times had written a news report about allegations that Candidate Clinton had received sexist coverage. Dowd could have been included, Hoyt said:
HOYT (6/22/08): Dowd's columns about Clinton's campaign were so loaded with language painting her as a 50-foot woman with a suffocating embrace, a conniving film noir dame and a victim dependent on her husband that they could easily have been listed in that Times article on sexism, right along with the comments of Chris Matthews, Mike Barnicle, Tucker Carlson or, for that matter, [William] Kristol, who made the Hall of Shame for a comment on Fox News, not for his Times work.In the end, Hoyt said he agreed with those readers. He said this in a punishing piece which appeared right there in the Sunday Times.
''I've been twisting gender stereotypes around for 24 years,'' Dowd responded. She said nobody had objected to her use of similar images about men over seven presidential campaigns. She often refers to Barack Obama as ''Obambi'' and has said he has a ''feminine'' management style. But the relentless nature of her gender-laden assault on Clinton—in 28 of 44 columns since Jan. 1—left many readers with the strong feeling that an impermissible line had been crossed...
Dowd had taken a very serious, accurate hit, though it barely scratched the surface. What was Dowd to do?
Rather plainly, she did the same thing she did this weekend! In her next column, she pandered to liberal readers! Specifically, she savaged Karl Role for portraying Obama in the very same way she herself had been portraying Obama all along.
Here’s how that cynical column began. Rather quickly, she got to her race card:
DOWD (6/25/08): More Phony MythsGag us! And by the way, how cynical can a person get? Dowd had been painting “Obambi” as “a watercress sandwich”—as “a coolly arrogant elitist”—all through the long campaign! The previous month, she had mocked him, with his feminine management style, as “the diffident debutante”—again!
Karl Rove was impressed with Barack Obama when he first met him. But now he sees him as a ''coolly arrogant'' elitist.
This was Rove's take on Obama to Republicans at the Capitol Hill Club Monday, according to Christianne Klein of ABC News:
''Even if you never met him, you know this guy. He's the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by.''
Actually, that sounds more like W.
The cheap populism is really rich coming from Karl Rove. When was the last time he kicked back with a corncob pipe to watch professional wrestling?
Rove is trying to spin his myths, as he used to do with such devastating effect, but it won't work this time. The absurd spectacle of rich white conservatives trying to paint Obama as a watercress sandwich with the crust cut off seems ugly and fake.
Obama can be aloof and dismissive at times, and he's certainly self-regarding, carrying the aura of the Ivy faculty club. But isn't that better than the aura of the country clubs that tried to keep out blacks?
It's ironic, and maybe inevitable, that the first African-American nominee comes across as a prince of privilege. He is, as Leon Wieseltier of The New Republic wrote, not the seed but the flower of the civil rights movement.
Now, she pretended to be upset when Rove painted the same picture, and she got to her race card rather fast. Extremely obsequious fawning about Obama followed. Before she was done, she even wrote this:
DOWD: But even as the Republicans limn him as John Kerry, as someone who is too haughty and too ''foreign,'' Obama is determined not to repeat what Kerry thinks was a big mistake: not having enough money to compete against the Republicans in 2004.Good God! Dowd herself had always limned Kerry as too haughty, of course (example below). But guess who else she limned the same way?
In June 2008, Dowd was in trouble. And so, she pretended to be offended by Rove’s portrait of and his party Obama.
Five weeks later, the danger had passed, and Dowd had returned to her standard portrait of Barry Obambi. As it turned out, he was a “haughty” fellow whose “manner gave a disgust!” Just as Rove and his party had said!
DOWD (8/3/08): Despite Obama's wooing, some women aren't warming. As Carol Marin wrote in The Chicago Sun-Times, The Lanky One is like an Alice Waters organic chicken—''sleek, elegant, beautifully prepared. Too cool''—when what many working-class women are craving is mac and cheese.Is this foolishness accurate in any way? That isn’t the question. In June, Dowd was in big trouble—and so, she pandered and fawned to us liberals. She pretended to be upset by the way Rove was portraying Obama—and she quickly played a race card, thus cementing our trust.
In The Wall Street Journal, Amy Chozick wrote that Hillary supporters—who loved their heroine's admission that she was on Weight Watchers—were put off by Obama's svelte, zero-body-fat figure.
''He needs to put some meat on his bones,'' said Diana Koenig, a 42-year-old Texas housewife. Another Clinton voter sniffed on a Yahoo message board: ''I won't vote for any beanpole guy.''
The odd thing is that Obama bears a distinct resemblance to the most cherished hero in chick-lit history. The senator is a modern incarnation of the clever, haughty, reserved and fastidious Mr. Darcy.
Like the leading man of Jane Austen and Bridget Jones, Obama can, as Austen wrote, draw ''the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien. ...he was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased.''
The master of Pemberley ''had yet to learn to be laught at,'' and this sometimes caused ''a deeper shade of hauteur'' to ''overspread his features.''
Her performance was fake in every way. So was her performance in Sunday's new column—but we liberals bought it again!
Dowd is one of the genuine fakes, but she knows we love the toy of race. She knows that we are easily played. She knows we’re not super-sharp.
We liberals love to mock the “epistemic closure” which is in fact quite plain within the other tribe. But race is one of our own enclosures, one which probably harms our effectiveness.
So is our love of hate, a point we'll explore tomorrow.
Tomorrow: Dr. King on love
Obama and Kerry, two peas in a pod: Above, you saw the way Dowd captured Obama’s “haughty” demeanor. He was like Mr. Darcy, the figure cast as “pride” in Austen’s famous book.
(Elizabeth Bennet is the figure cast as “prejudice.”)
When she got in trouble in June 2008, Dowd pretended to be upset at the way Republicans were making Obama seem like Kerry. But how odd! Four years earlier, she had portrayed Kerry exactly the way she'd later do with Obama:
DOWD (3/18/04): The election is shaping up as a contest between Pride and Prejudice.In 2004, John Kerry was Pride. In 2008, so was Obama.
Mr. Kerry is Pride.
He has a tendency toward striped-trouser smugness that led him to stupidly boast that he was more popular with leaders abroad than President Bush—playing into the Republican strategy to depict him as one of those ''cheese-eating surrender monkeys.''
Even when he puts on that barn jacket over his expensive suit to look less lockjaw—and says things like, "Who among us doesn't like Nascar?''—he can come across like Mr. Collins, Elizabeth Bennet's pretentious cousin in ''Pride and Prejudice."
In 2008, Dowd pretended to be upset at the GOP for linking these hopefuls. Dumbly, we liberals purchased the con, just as we did on Sunday.
By the way: Kerry never said, ''Who among us doesn't like Nascar?'' That’s one of the ten million bogus quotes Dowd has churned in the past.