DOWD AND DOWDINPANTZ: Pundits’ delight!


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:
Stop scapegoating Susan Rice
A modern witch hunt
The first kill-joy is Robert Kagan, no liberal. He wants the scapegoating of Rice to stop.

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.


"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?’”
Darlings! If it weren’t for scapegoats, sex scandals and hot tubs, Americans pundits might have to think about topics like 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


  1. Suppose Rice made incorrect statements that that were known to be false by some people in the Administration. I don't think Rice deserves much blame. All she did was to repeat smoe talking points that had been given to her. It wasn't her fault that the talking points weren't accurate.

    But, then who should be blamed for Rice's (assumed) mis-statements? We don't know who provided Rice with the (assumedly) incorrect talking points. So, I guess, nobody gets blamed. We just become a smidgen more cyical.

  2. "Assumed" indeed. I mean, what a tendentious load of crap. Why don't you just go ahead and tell us what you find inaccurate about the talking points and then perhaps you could share with us your evidence that people in the "administration" (nice weasel word) intentionally doctored the talking points for political gain.

    1. Rice said there had been a demonstration in Benghazi prior to the attack that that was joined by extremists.

      As we now know, there was no demonstration in Benghazi prior to the attack.

      Here's the transcript from Face The Nation on September 16, 2012.

      BOB SCHIEFFER: And joining us now, Susan Rice, the U.N. ambassador, our U.N. ambassador. Madam Ambassador, he says this is something that has been in the planning stages for months. I understand you have been saying that you think it was spontaneous? Are we not on the same page here?

      SUSAN RICE (Ambassador to the United Nations): Bob, let me tell you what we understand to be the assessment at present. First of all, very importantly, as you discussed with the President, there is an investigation that the United States government will launch led by the FBI, that has begun and--

      BOB SCHIEFFER (overlapping): But they are not there.

      SUSAN RICE: They are not on the ground yet, but they have already begun looking at all sorts of evidence of-- of various sorts already available to them and to us. And they will get on the ground and continue the investigation. So we'll want to see the results of that investigation to draw any definitive conclusions. But based on the best information we have to date, what our assessment is as of the present is in fact what began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy--


      SUSAN RICE: --sparked by this hateful video. But soon after that spontaneous protest began outside of our consulate in Benghazi, we believe that it looks like extremist elements, individuals, joined in that-- in that effort with heavy weapons of the sort that are, unfortunately, readily now available in Libya post-revolution. And that it spun from there into something much, much more violent.

      BOB SCHIEFFER: But you do not agree with him that this was something that had been plotted out several months ago?

      SUSAN RICE: We do not-- we do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned.

      BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you agree or disagree with him that al Qaeda had some part in this?

      SUSAN RICE: Well, we'll have to find out that out. I mean I think it's clear that there were extremist elements that joined in and escalated the violence. Whether they were al Qaeda affiliates, whether they were Libyan-based extremists or al Qaeda itself I think is one of the things we'll have to determine.

    2. Hey Anon:

      I'm not interested in what "we now know" (and if I were you, I wouldn't be too sure about exactly what that is), I'm asking for you to provide evidence that, given what was known at the time, there was a deliberate effort to distort the talking points for political reasons. When you've got that, you have a scandal, albeit a somewhat minor one.

    3. The administration is telling us now that the talking points were edited to withhold information.

      That's not in dispute.

      The question is why was the CIA assessment edited?

      The administration says that had good reasons for doing so.

  3. Cui bono? What possible benefit accrued to Obama by blurring the description of what happened in Benghazi? Much as Romney was trying to gin up some outrage, he was having little to no success, mainly because the American public knows that very bad things can happen in unstable Islamic countries. If blame is to be directed at anyone, it should be directed at Petraeus, who apparently had resources available a couple of miles away. Why didn't the CIA ride in to the rescue? Some reports indicate that Petraeus didn't even keep Hillary Clinton in the loop. But I guess the neocons would never attack one of their own...

    1. "Cui bono? What possible benefit accrued to Obama by blurring the description of what happened in Benghazi?"

      Well, public knowledge of a terrorist attack on the consulate in Libya would tend to undermine the narrative that because Bin Laden is dead the fight against Al Qaida has been won. It would also undermine the narrative that Obama's policies have enhanced the stature of the US in the Middle East.

    2. The New York Times reports that the administration "blurred" the description to avoid tipping the suspected attackers.

      “The points were not, as has been insinuated by some, edited to minimize the role of extremists, diminish terrorist affiliations, or play down that this was an attack,” said a senior official familiar with the drafting of the talking points. “There were legitimate intelligence and legal issues to consider, as is almost always the case when explaining classified assessments publicly.”

    3. "Well, public knowledge of a terrorist attack on the consulate in Libya would tend to undermine the narrative that because Bin Laden is dead the fight against Al Qaida has been won. It would also undermine the narrative that Obama's policies have enhanced the stature of the US in the Middle East."

      And where do these "narratives" exist except in your own head?

  4. Now that Romney lost the election, will Mormons be put back on Billy Graham's cult list?

  5. Scapegoating?
    Pres Obama made Rice's position, UN Ambassador, a part of his cabinet. Further, there has been wide and open speculation that she will be his choice for the next Sec'y of State. Lastly, she wasn't accosted on the street by reporters, but was the chosen public face for the administration on this topic. She is a well informed and experienced political operator. Holding Rice accountable for presenting a skewed, possibly false, and partisan view of the Benghazi attacks on behalf of the administration she serves is the role the press should play in a successful democracy.

    The media should have pressed Condi Rice and GW Bush on CIA warnings before Sept 11. The media should have pressed Colin Powell about his UN presentation on Iraq WMD. The media should have pressed Romney about his tax plan math. And the media should press Susan Rice on how she thought, say, the 4 am attack on the CIA annex (over a mile from the consulate) was linked to any non-existent, spontaneous demonstration outside it.

    1. "The media should press Susan Rice on how the attack was linked to any non-existent, spontaneous demonstration."


      Because, see, what she *said* was that they were "linked" in that the demonstration, as far as was known at the time, was "hijacked" by the attackers.

      Wishing for a better press is nice and all, but what's wanted isn't appealing wishes, but evidence for any of the vague bullshit GOP case against Rice.

  6. Terrific analysis all through.


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