The latest fact about Maureen Dowd’s clan!


Yes, this actually matters: Amazingly, this actually matters.

At the start of this morning’s column, Maureen Dowd offers the latest fascinating fact about her family background:
DOWD (2/26/14): I have long been opposed to gays marching in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Fifth Avenue.

It isn’t because my father was a past national president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, which ran the parade for a century and started the rule that no gays need apply. Faith and begorrah, heaven knows I have nothing against gays. I have something against Irish parades.
Good God! Who knew?

Fir the record, we’ve always denounced parades too. That said, the highlighted passage should be filed under “amazing factoids.”

As we’ve often noted, there’s obviously nothing wrong with growing up East Coast Irish Catholic in the middle part of the last century. To the extent that we ourselves had a cultural niche, we grew up East Coast Irish Catholic in the middle part of the last century too.

(In the summer of 1960, right before we entered eighth grade, our family decamped to the Bay Area, which was a different world. Our mother and our aunt were puzzled. Why in the world were the priests so friendly, so kind, so pleasant?)

Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with growing up East Coast Irish Catholic. But make no mistake—the mid-century culture within which Dowd was raised has played a major role in the journalism of the past few decades. That’s especially true of the anti-Clinton, anti-Gore journalism of the 1990s and Campaign 2000.

We know you think that can’t be true. In thinking that, you’re wrong.

As we’ve discussed in the past, the mainstream press corps of the 1990s had a very substantial East Coast Irish Catholic contingent. At NBC News, Jack Welch virtually built an entire news division out of sons and daughters of the old sod.

We’re going to say that it showed.

We Irish! No one screeched about Clinton’s sexual conduct more than We Irish did. Beyond that, we’re going to tell you that We Irish had problems with the southern-ness of Clinton and Gore as well.

We know, we know—you think that’s crazy. In thinking that, you’d be wrong.

The cultural norms of homes like Dowd’s were rampant in the anti-Clinton press corps. Is all political craziness local? The late Michael Kelly was one of the craziest anti-Clinton, anti-Gore voices—and he was a childhood friend of Dowd’s, right there in Washington, D.C. On occasion, Dowd likes to write about the connections in those days between her brothers and the Buchanan clan—Pat Buchanan, who denounced “Clinton and Clinton” at the 1992 convention.

The cultural norms of homes like Dowd’s drove much of that decade’s journalistic craziness. Then too, there was the Irish Catholic network assembled by Welch.

It’s amazing that the press has agreed not to discuss the comical and troubling way Welch assembled a news division almost wholly from the old sod. He recruited Tim Russert into the news business, put him atop Meet the press. He made Chris Matthews the face of NBC cable. Brian Williams rose under Welch to be Brokaw’s anointed successor.

Out on Nantucket, Russert and Matthews bought multimillion-dollar summer homes, part of the NBC Irish Catholic guild which summered on the island (text below). Bob Wright, Welch’s East Coast Irish Catholic CEO of NBC, summered on Nantucket too.

Welch built an Irish-Catholic news division. When Bush and Gore debated, this was the five-member pundit panel which discussed what occurred on NBC cable:

Brian Williams, moderator
Chris Matthews
Mike Barnicle
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Peggy Noonan

All five, East Coast Irish Catholics from the mid-part of the last century. First additional guest to opine? Russert! Who else?

Compute the probabilities of assembling a lineup like that by chance!

Obviously, there’s nothing “wrong” with hiring any of those people as pundits, although Matthews plainly went into the tank in the drive to send George Bush to the White House. That said, something was crazily wrong with pundit culture by the end of the Clinton-Gore years, including the two years of Campaign 2000. And the mid-century culture within which Dowd was raised played an extremely large part in the cockeyed pundit culture of that era.

Except for Joe Klein, everyone has agreed to ignore the fact that this cultural phenomenon ever occurred. We thought that biographical note by Dowd took this important bit of history to the next level.

Can Sallie Brady say this: The press corps never discusses such matters. That said, on one brief shining occasion, the Washingtonian’s Sallie Brady discussed the way the NBC gang would decamp to Nantucket to lounge among the swells:
BRADY (8/03): Russert is part of the Nantucket NBC crowd, one of the cliques that fuels the isle's social engine. It was Jack Welch, the story goes, the 20-year chairman and CEO of NBC's parent company, General Electric, who drew network folk to Nantucket.

Russert and his wife, Vanity Fair writer Maureen Orth, began summering on Nantucket in 1992. Russert has said he can go days without leaving his house except for a bike ride to get the newspapers. Then he'll sit in his rocking chair and watch the grass blow in the breeze.

Russert does make it back for Meet the Press, the show that made him and that helped finance the Nantucket hideaway he acquired in 1999. The sprawling gray-shingled house, with rooftop sundeck and cutting garden, lies down an unmarked dirt path through a secluded forest. Hanging over the portico, a wooden sign bearing the cottage's name says it all: SUNDAY MORNING.

Russert's boss, NBC CEO Bob Wright, is also on the scene. Add to the cocktail chatter the latest tidbits from the Oval Office, care of White House correspondent David Gregory, who was married on Nantucket and returns with his wife, Beth, for vacations; celeb updates from Access Hollywood host Pat O'Brien, who retreats here; and Washington gossip from News 4 anchor Barbara Harrison, and the only ones missing from the NBC lineup are Will and Grace.

Although Welch retired in 2001, he's still a power magnet. He holds court from a massive gray-shingled home festooned with window boxes, near Sankaty Head Golf Club. It was there that Welch once played Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, only to discover that two of the richest men in the world routinely bet only $1 a round.
Matthews arrived in 2004, purchasing a $4.4 million summer crib. (Russert’s “hideaway” was priced at $7 million.) Matthews “earned” that money trashing Candidate Gore for two solid years. Back then, Hillary too!

It was ugly, astonishing stuff. The careerists all agreed not to notice. Today, Matthews is hailed by Rachel Maddow as her “beloved colleague.” According to TV Guide, she hauls $7 million per year.

(Do you think that’s a good idea?)

We know—you think this can’t have mattered. In thinking that, you would be wrong, the victim of an undiscussed con.


  1. "We now interrupt or normally scheduled rant against Maddow and MSNBC to bring you this update: Maureen Dowd is still East Coast Irish Catholic."

    1. Folks, don't even try to deal with the Maddow troll patrol here. The fact that she's been turned into a sacred cow by these people is even more reason to criticize her.

      This reminds me a lot of how the Obama supporters behaved during the first primary against Hillary. Any criticism against him and the knives came out. It got so bad that even Digby (a Hillary supporter) had to get rid of her comments section.

      There's a lot not to like about Rachel Maddow. I'm glad Bob keeps bringing her up.

    2. "Folks, don't even try to deal with the Maddow Troll patrol ...ZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzz,

    3. Poor BOB, and after all he had to put up with during the Trayvon troll affair.

    4. And after that it was the Amanda Ripley Trolls.


  2. Are we to believe that just because a billionare is telling millionares what to tell us about how the other billionares are shaping national policy, that it has anything to do with us?

    Look, I'm sure that as long as they're helping our side, they'll uphold their end of the unspoken agreements. I mean, they're liberal billionares, right?

  3. And so NBC finally breaks the East Coast Irish Catholic stronghold and hires a multi-ethnic lesbian liberal -- including even Jewish roots to her surname. She quickly becomes the most successful commentator on the network. Accordingly, it seems, Bob, while claiming to have risen above the imperatives of his background, launches a vendetta of unprecedented ferocity and relentlessness against her. Somehow, the same level of invective cannot be summoned up for Chris Hayes or Lawrence O'Donnell, both of whom, except for their expressed political views, come from the Welch, Matthews, Williams, Gregory, Russert cultural tradition.

    Just sayin'. There certainly is some irony there. Tens of thousands of words have been spilled trying to stir up hatred for her, professionally and personally, and the author seems unable to comprehend that the quantity of words needed usually has a strong correlation with the weakness of the argument.

    As an aside, is it possible this whole cultural roots story shines a new light on the MSNBC's firing of Ed Schultz from the frozen heartland?

    1. urban - if you could please - how do you summarize the bob's argument against maddow? and what is your basis for saying it is weak? ie. do feel like she is performing strong journalism that is good for progressive interests in the long run? not saying you are wrong or dissing you - just wondering what you think the argument is.

    2. The fact that she's become "the most successful commentator on the network" kind of proves Bob's general point about both her and the network, doncha think? Or is that too ironical for you.

      Maddow used to be pretty good, but she's become quite a silly-billy lately. I'm not asking for another Pauline Frederick, but Maddow's shallow. I agree with Bob too that many of her stances are counterproductive. There's no bigger hate-engenderer than Rachel Maddow.

    3. She covers lots of issues. I personally think she is too much of a closet Third Way-er -- her friendship with Cory Booker and protection of him from his pro-private equity comments in 2012 being the most obvious evidence for that -- and her emphasis is on rights (women's rights, gay rights, voting rights) as argued by someone in the Rolling stone article. The things she does not cover -- including her failure to address the attacks on Susan Rice -- is perfectly fair game. It's fair, too, to criticize her when she is following the NBC corporate line (which the Rice omissions probably were, since, among other things, Rice's first appearance was on Meet the Press and John McCain, Rice's initial accuser, is a regular there.)

      However, it's one thing to identify specific omissions or errors, another thing to launch into these daily 2000 word personal assaults. She still does things about the economy -- the 1%, unions, need for spending on infrastructure -- and on straight politics that have a decided progressive view. The 77% critique by Bob and his groupies here is complete bullshit, as I do not think there is a single time she has actually stated that that figure "for the same work." All this stuff about "what she's become lately" or her "silliness" or how "cute" or "full of herself"is high-order generality and looks very much like the product of undue suggestibility among certain readers of this blog." And the idea that she is not going to toe an NBC line, or at least not push too far over it, should be a given for people who aren't political children.

      Stick to facts.

    4. So the argument is not weak, it's the length and consistency of it?

    5. "However, it's one thing to identify specific omissions or errors, another thing to launch into these daily 2000 word personal assaults."


    6. I don't agree. I have always found Maddow too cutesy and silly, even when she was on radio. It is doubly annoying because of her credentials because I assumed she was capable of doing better. I hated her cocktail receipes, for example. Now that she is on TV, there is a kind of cult of personality being formed around her.

      Urban, I cannot consider someone a champion of rights when she uses her position to get Alec Baldwin tossed off the air because of a remark he made under provocation. That isn't supportive of free speech at all. It is use of her position of power to persecute someone for their speech.

      She hasn't admitted to doing that, saying simply that she has never met him. That is an evasive remark and it is unclear what her role was. When on-air personalities use their power to affect the careers of colleagues I think a wrong is being done and it fits the picture Somerby has been describing of a clique or cohort of like-minded people influencing the media. I'm not saying Maddow is Irish, but I am saying she is picking and choosing who gets air-time and I don't think that should be happening based on things like who is in or out of grace with a special circle.

    7. "I don't agree. I have always found Maddow too cutesy and silly, even when she was on radio."

      Always on style points, never on substance.

      Rachel Maddow remains the only voice on TV pointing out the massive fraud of voter ID laws and their true purpose.

      She is the only voice on TV pointing to corporate ruination of the planet as they call for less regulation, not more.

      She has been a consistent voice against discrimination in all its forms, and for civil rights.

      And when she finds "gonzo political corruption" she reports it. And is often the first on national TV to do so.

      But hey, let's forget all that. She's "too cutesy." Besides, she's wrong all the time. How do I know? Somerby says so.

      Off with her head. We need fewer voices, not more, And only voices that aren't "too cutesy" for our personal tastes.

      And you also base this whole new theory of this "special circle" led by the powerful Rachel Maddow on Alec Baldwin's rant?

      Good grief, sir. You really do have problems, don't you?

      By the way, did you ever actually see Baldwin's show? You must have loved it. Nothing cutesy at all about an unprepared half-drunk.

      The "remark he made under provocation" was a nice excuse to pull the plug on a show before the ratings went down to an unprecedented Zero.

    8. 7:27

      did you know anger and frustration are usually emotions that are trying to tell you something important? usually something that you are in denial about. are you in denial that maddow is a poor journalist who is poorly advancing progressive interests if at all? and that her smug jon stewart ripoff is horrible?

    9. And yet another ironic comment to add to the pile.

      Anger? Frustration? No, the emotion I feel toward poor Bob is pity.

      Think of it. His college roommates found fame and fortune in politics and show business.

      Bob had a brief career as a teacher, a brief career as a stand-up comic for corporate conventions, a very brief career as an op-ed columnist for the Baltimore Sun, and a 16-year-run as a blogger, without doubt the longest he has held any job.

      And now he is on a six-year vendetta against Rachel Maddow.


    10. i thought your previous comment sounded angry.

    11. also, you may think about increasing your intake of omega3 fatty acids.

    12. "She covers lots of issues."

      Last night, she covered voter suppression efforts in Ohio, the veto of the Arizona anti-gay bill, efforts to simplify requests for government information, as well as Christie publicly supporting David Samson.

      But of course Bob will only tell his choir about her badgering poor Chris Christie again, and his choir will believe that's the only story she covered.

    13. Bob's choir? The New Sock Puppet Singer's?

    14. This is such a straw man. No one here believes she only talks about Christie.

  4. Parading is part of Irish culture. I'm not sure what Dowd or Somerby have against it.

  5. Thanks, Bob. I would never have read the Dowd column had you not wrote about it. Learned a lot from your analysis as usual.

    1. Not really. How many are from County Kerry. Who among them hail from Cork? What coverage was concocted there on Natucket. Surely he has only scratched the surface of the clannish crew.

  6. So, other than Irish Catholic newstalkers getting their noses out of joint over Slick Willie's blowjob because they were East Coast boomers repressed by angry priests and nuns, what else did their Emerald Isle ancestry impact?