Dowd’s latest comment thread: Following in the wake of talk radio, comment threads have helped us see the dumbness of us the people.
Yesterday, the comments to Maureen Dowd’s latest column helped us see how dumb we can get inside our tribal worlds.
On the whole, Dowd’s column was the latest hail of insults aimed at Obama, including a requisite reference to his mom jeans. But as she started, Dowd dismissed Scott Brown’s chances of winning Jeanne Shaheen’s Senate seat in New Hampshire.
Dowd called Brown a “carpetbagger.” This produced a flurry of questions and comments from clueless conservative readers.
These readers felt sure that Dowd had never applied such a term to Hillary Clinton. They took turns showing how tribalized they are:
COMMENTER FROM CALIFORNIA (3/16/14): Did Ms. Dowd ever use the term carpetbagger to describe Hillary Clinton? I didn't think so.We found roughly a dozen comments in this general vein. Readers seemed sure that a New York Times writer like Dowd would never have applied such a term to Hillary Clinton. Presumably, Dowd’s liberal bias wouldn’t permit such a thing!
COMMENTER FROM FLORIDA: Maureeeen...Was Hillary a CARPETBAGGER when she ran for the U.S. Senate in New York? Just asking...
COMMENTER FROM NEW YORK: Carpetbagging? Did you ever use this term to describe Mrs. Clinton's foray into NY?
COMMENTER FROM ILLINOIS: Did Ms. Dowd ever refer to New York Senator Clinton as a "carpetbagger?”
COMMENTER FROM KENTUCKY: Maureen speaks of carpetbaggers and forgets Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, who'd probably spent endless minutes in that state before deciding to run for office? That's just funny.
COMMENTER FROM UNNAMED STATE: Did you ever refer to Hillary Clinton as a carpetbagger? I can't find it in the archives.
Sigh! This is what happens when we the people get locked inside some tribe’s state of closure.
We looked to see how many times Dowd had applied the term to Clinton when she decided to run for the Senate in New York. Answer: Dowd dropped the C-bomb on Clinton three times in 1999.
In this, the first of those three columns, Dowd added the hail of personal insults she typically rained on the Clintons. Nor did she forget Gore:
DOWD (2/17/99): On "Meet the Press," Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan slyly tweaked the First Lady eyeing his seat, saying she would bring a blast of "Illinois-Arkansas enthusiasm to New York." But we would expect Mrs. Clinton to carpetbag, renting an apartment or hotel room to run in New York. The Clintons have always seemed oddly deracinated and unmortgaged.Apparently, the Bushes weren’t like that! (For the record, the Gores were skilled nesters. They owned two homes at the time—the home just outside D.C. in which Tipper Gore grew up, and a small farm in Tennessee hear the home of Al Gore’s parents.)
They have lived in public housing most of their married lives, and their vacation retreats are determined by poll numbers and rentals and the availability of their friends' houses.
When the specter lurked of President Clinton being forced from office, journalists wanted to make comparisons to a disgraced Richard Nixon flying off in a helicopter to San Clemente, but they couldn't figure out where the heck the Clintons would fly off to. All Bill Clinton has is a proposed library site in the river flats of Little Rock.
The Clintons, like the Doles and the Gores, have been more intent on scrambling up the political ladder than on nesting. Their ambition is their address. Their career is the pillow they nuzzle at night.
After hammering Gore with a few more insults, Dowd dropped the C-bomb on Clinton again at the end of the column. Twenty-one months before the election, her hiss-spitting was in mid-campaign form.
The second time Dowd dropped the bomb, she opined that Hillary Clinton was very much like Kenneth Starr:
DOWD (6/13/99): [Starr] is also pursuing two trials prosecuting Webster Hubbell. In one, which is scheduled to begin in August, Mr. Hubbell is charged with hiding information about the role he and one of his Rose Law Firm partners, Mrs. Clinton, played in an Arkansas land deal that contributed to the fall of an S.& L.By December, Dowd’s prediction—Clinton will rent a room in New York— had turned out to be wrong. She returned to her strongest tool—the unhinged personal insult:
In that indictment of Mr. Hubbell, Hillary is identified only as "The Billing Partner." But Mr. Starr could call her as a witness in the trial, and that would be embarrassing, coming right as she is starting her new life as a carpetbagger.
Even in a capital that has seen plenty of riveting feuds, this one is remarkable. The liberal First Lady and the conservative prosecutor have always seemed destined—or doomed—to slug it out...
As Alessandra Stanley wrote in The Times in January 1998, the two are opposite-sex doppelgangers. They are both accomplished, brainy lawyers, devoted parents, religious, relentless and, when they wish to be, charming.
DOWD (12/8/99): Everybody agrees that something historically momentous has occurred in the White House. But it is not that the first lady is seeking political office on her own. It is that the first lady is moving out of the White House while her husband is still occupying it.At least “everyone agreed!” We could all be thankful for that!
Mrs. Clinton is packing her bags for New York and decorating the Christmas tree in Washington. As usual, a Clinton is in two places at one time. But the magnitude of this dissonance is staggering. Even as she ornaments the White House for the holidays, so as to present it to the country as a model setting for a warm family Christmas, she is taking her Oriental carpet and her easy chair and leaving the house. A carpetbagger indeed.
The Clintons continue to break creative new ground in family dysfunction. Will they live together in Chappaqua? Why did she refer to her New York address as "my house"? Is something more cataclysmic than a commuter arrangement in the offing?
And what else, precisely, is she packing? If she roots around in that closet of Arkansas tchotchkes, maybe she'll find the complete set of those Rose Law Firm billing records.
All their adult lives the Clintons have been moochers—excuse me, public servants—who have lived in public housing and borrowed private housing for vacations. They are rootless people preaching to the nation about the need for roots.
At this same time, Dowd was unleashing her vile, counterfactual attacks on Naomi Wolf. On November 3, she brought in Lionel Tiger as a beard, quoting various insults he voiced while adding many of her own. In the column’s ugliest moment, she revived one of her favorite invented claims:
According to Dowd, Wolf “urged women to release their inner sluts” in her 1993 book, Fire With Fire.
Years before, Dowd had popularized the smutty claim, which she seems to have lifted from somebody else. As for the clownish book Dowd maligned, her own newspaper, the New York Times, had picked it as one of 1993’s “Notable Books of the Year.”
Every step of the way, the career liberal world agreed to swallow this garbage. Fifteen years later, the conservative world is full of people who feel sure that Maureen Dowd would never have dropped a C-bomb on Hillary Clinton.
Times writers are full of liberal bias, these disinformed people have endlessly heard. Craven to the core, corrupt to the soul, the career liberal world has always been willing to let that great story be told.