Part 1—The pleasures of Rice and Petraeus: In this morning’s Washington Post, two tired old kill-joys have come to the fore.
The kill-joys appear, side by side, right at the top of the Post’s op-ed page. In our hard-copy paper, these are the headlines which sit atop their pitiful buzz-killing columns:
Headlines atop the Post’s op-ed page:The first kill-joy is Robert Kagan, no liberal. He wants the scapegoating of Rice to stop.
Stop scapegoating Susan Rice
A modern witch hunt
The second kill-joy is David Ignatius. He challenges the sexual witch hunt aimed at David Petraeus and at General John Allen.
Might we state an obvious point? Ignatius and Kagan don’t understand the shape of modern pundit culture! If we didn’t have scapegoats and sexual witch hunts, what would our big pundits discuss?
They might be forced to discuss the budget! They might be forced to discuss tax rates—or even our spreading income inequality!
No scapegoats and no sexual witch hunts? What could Kagan/Ignatius be thinking in making this crackpot request?
Ignatius and Kagan don’t seem to grasp the shape of modern pundit culture. Long ago, a major pundit displayed her superior grasp of this subject.
We’ve often cited Joe Klein’s anecdote about the brilliant Maureen Dowd. Today, as Ignatius and Kagan rant, we cite his story again.
Dowd had just won the Pulitzer Prize for her year-long obsession with Miss Lewinksy. Klein offered his anecdote to Gay Jervey, who profiled Dowd for Brill’s Content and has never been heard from again:
JERVEY (6/99): Among Washington columnists, there is no keener observer of Bill Clinton than Maureen Dowd...[S]he seems obsessed with his personality, always looking for the key to his character—or rather, his utter lack thereof. In the summer of 1997, for example, when President Clinton installed a hot tub at the White House, Dowd traveled to Santa Monica to visit the showroom of the manufacturer who had made the President’s new toy. She wanted to test the waters.Darlings! If it weren’t for scapegoats, sex scandals and hot tubs, Americans pundits might have to think about topics like welfare reform!
"Maureen is very talented," observes Joe Klein of The New Yorker. "But she is ground zero of what the press has come to be about in the nineties...I remember having a discussion with her in which I said, 'Maureen, why don't you go out and report about something significant, go out and see poor people, do something real?' And she said, ‘You mean I should write about welfare reform?’”
Dowd was already quite savvy back then—and she’s every bit as savvy today. In this morning’s New York Times, she isn’t falling for Kagan/Ignatius’ silly old goo-goo trick.
Neither is Lord Dowdinpantz, her male counterpart, who writes in this morning’s Post.
In her new column, Dowd extends the scapegoating of Rice is her usual inane and ugly way. Essentially, Dowdinpantz writes the same column in the Washington Post.
According to Klein, Dowd was “ground zero of what the press has come to be about in the nineties.” And sure enough! She and Milbank are still ground zero today, a point we will be exploring over the next several days.
Their logic is often quite weak today—but their scapegoating skills are quite strong. These are very stupid columns—but they do define the shape of the modern pundit world.
Long ago—in 1992!—Katherine Boo presciently warned about the press corps’ “creeping Dowdism.” Just this past week, Boo won the National Book Award for a book about something significant.
That said, Boo and her book will be widely ignored. Maureen Dowd’s values still rule the press world, even if mossbacks like Kagan/Ignatius refuse to get the word.
Dowd is especially worthless today. Much of her column makes no sense at all. But on the bright side, she isn’t discussing welfare reform—and she won’t be criticized for her conduct in the career liberal world.
Just watch! Joan Walsh and Rachel won’t say boo. Lawrence won’t challenge this trend-setter either.
Dearest darlings! It just isn’t done! Scapegoats and sexual witch hunts are fun! So is that dog on the roof of that car, the iconic Irish setterwho led Lady Collins’ last column.
This piddle is never going to stop. Kagan/Ignatius need to grow up, need to grasp the true shape of the world.
Tomorrow—part 2: Lady Dowd’s relentless loathing
Tuesday: The logic of Lord Dowdinpantz