EVERYBODY LOVES A CHARADE: Maureen Dowd’s twenty-year charade!


Part 3—The empress’s very old clothes:
On an individual basis, Frank Bruni may be the world’s nicest person. We have no idea.

As a journalist—especially as a political journalist—he has long been a rather bad joke.

It started in the fall of 1999. For reasons we’ve never seen explained, the inexperienced youngish scribe was assigned to cover Candidate Bush for the New York Times.

Quickly, the fawning appeared. In September of that year, Bruni wrote a fawning, 1800-word profile of the candidate’s “almost preposterously charmed quest for the Republican Presidential nomination.”

The reporter started by praising Bush’s preposterously charmed footwear.

“When Gov. George W. Bush of Texas first hit the Presidential campaign trail in June, he wore monogrammed cowboy boots, the perfect accessory for his folksy affability and casual self-assurance,” Bruni wrote at the start of his preposterously silly report.

“But when he visited New Hampshire early last week, he was shod in a pair of conservative, shiny black loafers that seemed to reflect more than the pants cuffs above them.”

What did those shiny loafers “seem to reflect?” To answer that question, just click here. Prepare for preposterous fawning!

By late November, Bruni was setting world records in two journalistic categories—inanity of observation and unfettered fawning to power. By now, Bush’s large lead in the New Hampshire polls was almost gone. But so what? On page one of the New York Times, “Panchito” started like this:
BRUNI (11/27/99): As George W. Bush loped through the headquarters of the Timberland Company here, he might have been any candidate in the hunt for votes, any pol on the path toward the presidency. He tirelessly shook hands, dutifully took questions and let a multitude of promises bloom.

But there was something different about Governor Bush's approach, something jazzier and jauntier. It came out in the way he praised a 20-year-old man for his "articulate" remarks, then appended the high-minded compliment with a surprising term of endearment.

"Dude," Mr. Bush called his new acquaintance.

It emerged again when Mr. Bush crossed paths with an elderly employee, and she told him that he had her support.

"I'll seal it with a kiss!" Mr. Bush proposed and, wearing a vaguely naughty expression, swooped down on the captive seamstress.

Mr. Bush's arm curled tight around the shoulders of other voters; he arched his eyebrows and threw coquettish grins and conspiratorial glances their way. It was campaigning as facial calisthenics, and Mr. Bush was its Jack LaLanne.
Three years later, this “Jack LaLanne” would lead the U.S. to war with Iraq. This might suggest the need for a more serious approach to the coverage of White House campaigns.

Bruni was utterly clownish that day in November 1999. According to his front-page report, Candidate Bush was “physically expansive and verbally irreverent, folksy and feisty, a politician more playful than most of his peers.”

The fawning continued through the piece, which ended with this observation by Bruni: “With every wink, hug and bit of effortless banter, he projects a spirit as mirthful as many voters would undoubtedly like their futures to be.”

Two months later, Bush lost New Hampshire to John McCain in a 19-point blow-out. Bruni’s powers of observation had perhaps been too jazzy and jaunty that day.

Bruni maintained his ridiculous conduct right through November 2000. At the crucial first debate between Bush and Gore, he thought Bush was doing so poorly that he later remembered “thinking that Bush was in the process of losing the presidency.”

That’s what Bruni remembered later. But he didn’t remember or say this until 2002, when he published a book about the Bush campaign. In real time, he wrote a piece in the Times in which he mocked Gore’s performance at the crucial debate!

In even a slightly rational world, dissembling and clowning of this type would get a person run out of the journalism game. At the New York Times, extended clowning of this type qualifies the artist in question to write a twice-weekly column.

In 2002, Ann Coulter cited Bruni as one of the “long-suffering friends who give me ideas” in the acknowledgments section of her ludicrous book, Slander. In 2011, Bruni was unveiled as a twice-weekly columnist for the New York Times.

Back in 1999, did Frank Bruni actually think that Bush’s shiny black loafers seemed to reflect more than the pants cuffs above them? Everything is possible!

That said, it’s very hard to believe that Bruni wrote last Sunday’s column in good faith—the column in which he said he’s confused by Candidate Clinton’s use of the rather common term, “everyday Americans.”

It’s hard to believe that he doesn’t know who that term refers to. It’s hard to believe that he really thinks that voters may find it off-putting.

It’s easier to believe that Bruni was starting the latest charade, in which very strange people at very large news orgs pretend to discuss our endless White House campaigns.

In fairness to Bruni, everybody loves a charade at newspapers like the Times! On Sunday, Bruni seemed to be starting the latest procession—but so did columnist Maureen Dowd, who has been visibly crazy for a very long time now.

In the high-profile Sunday Review, Bruni pretended that he was “confused” by Clinton’s use of a very familiar term. By way of contrast, Dowd returned to her craziest theme, in which she complains that Democratic women behave like men while Democratic men behave like women.

Dowd never stops pushing this lunatic theme. On Sunday, she pimped it again, extending the inveterate Clinton/Gore hatred she will maintain until stopped.

At the start of the passages shown below, Dowd is pretending to discuss Campaign 2008. The “feminized man” to whom she refers is, of course, Barack Obama.

When we the people tolerate this type of charade, we play an active role in our nation’s rolling demise. We enable the nation’s dismantling:
DOWD (4/19/15): Hillary saw the foolishness of acting like a masculine woman defending the Iraq invasion after she fell behind to a feminized man denouncing it.


Hillary always overcorrects. Now she has zagged too far in the opposite direction, presenting herself as a sweet, docile granny in a Scooby van, so self-effacing she made only a cameo in her own gauzy, demographically pandering presidential campaign announcement video and mentioned no issues on her campaign’s website.

In her Iowa round tables, she acted as though she were following dating tips from 1950s advice columnists to women trying to “trap” a husband: listen a lot, nod a lot, widen your eyes, and act fascinated with everything that’s said. A clip posted on her campaign Facebook page showed her sharing the story of the day her granddaughter was born with some Iowa voters, basking in estrogen as she emoted about the need for longer paid leave for new mothers: “You’ve got to bond with your baby. You’ve got to learn how to take care of the baby.”

She and her fresh team of No-Drama ex-Obama advisers think that this humility tour will move her past the hilarious caricature by Kate McKinnon on “Saturday Night Live” of Hillary as a manipulative, clawing robot who has coveted the role as leader of the free world for decades. But isn’t there a more authentic way for Hillary to campaign as a woman—something between an overdose of testosterone and an overdose of estrogen, something between Macho Man and Humble Granny?
This craziness follows several decades of same. During those decades, Dowd repeatedly bashed Candidate Obama as a “diffident debutante” while trashing Candidate Edwards as “the Breck Girl.”

She said Candidate Gore was “so feminized he’s practically lactating.” Her attacks on the wives and daughters of male Democrats attained its high (or low) point wither her poisonous attacks on the clothing, make-up and horrible hair of Candidate Dean’s doctor-lady wife.

Candidate Obama’s wife was a bit of a bossy black b-word. And then, there were the many months of gender-crazed attacks on Candidate Clinton in 2007 and 2008.

In June 2008, the public editor of the Times savaged Dowd for this poisonous, lunatic conduct—for “the relentless nature of her gender-laden assault on Clinton.”

To read Clark Hoyt’s column, click here.

Hoyt spoke truth to lunatic power that day. That said, our favorite, highly-paid “liberal journalists” refuse to follow suit.

Maureen Dowd is a power within the business. Maddow and Hayes will never discuss her poisonous, lunatic conduct.

At some point, the charades of people like Bruni and Dowd constitute a basic challenge to us, the people. Like the famous child who famously noted his emperor’s famous lack of clothes, we are issued a basic challenge:

Are we able to see and describe what is right there before us?

Maddow isn’t going to help. Hayes will avert his gaze, as will Eugene and E.J. and Lawrence and Chris and the rest of the many charadists.

Joan Walsh isn’t going to help. Even Digby seems to lack the willingness to speak.

We the people are on our own. At some point, we must answer some basic questions:

Are we able to see the conduct of the Brunis and the Dowds for what it so plainly is? Are we able to see how faux it is? That it constitutes a charade?

Many of us aren’t able to see that. Like the citizens in that famous old story, we can’t see past the glare of authority. Thanks to the shine of Bruni’s loafers, we can’t see Dowd’s lack of clothes.

Here’s the more encouraging news:

In comments, more and more New York Times readers have been complaining about this gong-show charade. The rest of us need to stop looking to people like Rachel and Joan. We need to pattern ourselves on those commenters’ conduct.

On Friday, we’ll show you what some commenters said in response to Sunday’s two-headed charade. Tomorrow, we’ll explore an uglier story.

We’ll try to help you understand the depth of the current charade. We’ll show you what the august David Leonhardt chose to disappear.

Tomorrow: The thing you can never be told


  1. Warning to casual readers of this blog: These comments are unmoderated. They are infested by one or more trolls who routinely attack the blog author in a variety of ways, rarely substantive. Such attacks are not an indicator of the level of interest of other readers, the validity of the content posted nor of the esteem in which the blog author is held by others.

    1. Warning: were comments to be disabled, the blog author is aware that he would lose most of his traffic.
      Whether he is aware that his demands that Hayes and Maddow condemn Dowd and Bruni consitute a senile non-sequitur does not reflect on the esteem in which the previous warner holds said blog author.
      I came back hoping to hear thoughts on potential race riots in Baltimore, since the blog author is old enough to remember the last time protests took place.

    2. Most of the people who used to comment here are no longer present in the comments but they still read the blog. I read the blog for many years without ever reading any comments because they were as useless then as they are now. It would be nice if this were an interesting community of commenters but the persistent negative trolling inhibits that. There are other blogs that are moderated where such discussion can and does take place. Somerby doesn't care enough about these comments to provide that service so we are stuck with the daily garbage. I consider it a missed opportunity. Never doubt that Somerby has his readers and don't think for a minute that what you are doing is having any impact on them or the wider progressive community. You are just wasting your time.

    3. @ 1:31 in truth, liberals just aren’t very smart—and lord, how they love to lose!

    4. "I read the blog for many years without ever reading any comments because they were as useless as they are now."

      Somerby didn't even have a combox until 2011. Any other astute observations?

    5. "lord how they love to lose!"

      I guess that explains the results of the last 2 presidential elections, flamethrower.

    6. @ 6:05 Just because I quoted Bob Somerby doesn't make me a flamethrower.

    7. 5 years = many

    8. Looks like 6:05 just got Poe'd.

    9. @ 6:05 PM,

      I think the reference would be to the last two midterms.

  2. You are right Anon 1:31. I am on of those who used to comment but still reads. The comments are indeed a very sad spectacle. Can't Bob get one of his analysts to moderate? What is clear, given the monomaniacal, repetitious, and predictable nature of each comment thread, is that there is one, or several, troll(s) who are responsible for this state of affairs. Again, with his sprawling campus full of analysts, can't one check some IP addresses and get to the bottom of this?

    1. People are dead all over the world because Dowd and her colleagues did that. Gail Collins played those stupid games too in the twenty months of Campaign 2000. Today, she keeps typing shit like this.

    2. People are dead all over the world because there's money to be made by making war, not because Gore wasn't elected president in 2000. .

      Grow up!

    3. Opportunity for Immature Casual Readers:

      To grow up by finding all the people responsible for the dead all over the world as a result of Campaign 2000, please read more:

      Gene Robinson
      NO FAVORITE EXAMPLE LEFT BEHIND: Other examples discarded, ignored!
      THURSDAY, APRIL 16, 2015

      Chris Matthews
      Chris Matthews’ ridiculous present-day conduct!
      TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2014

      Brian Williams and the Chasers of mammon
      THE FOG OF BRIAN’S VARIOUS SONGS: Why was he in Iraq at all?
      WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2015

      Howell Raines on through to Frank Rich, Dionne and Alter
      Supplemental: Whoop, there it is!
      THURSDAY, OCTOBER 9, 2014

      Glenn Kessler
      We gaze on the lessened form of Glenn Kessler!
      TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2013

      Ben Bradlee
      SILLIEST TALES OF THE MSM: Lies and the journalizing journalists who sell them!
      FRIDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2014

      Maureen Dowd and Gail Collins
      FACT AND LEGEND: The New York Times is opposed to the crafting of legends!
      TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2012

      Joan Walsh and David Fineman
      MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2012

      Rolling Stone Readers (and the human race)
      THE AGE OF BELIEF: Do you believe in physics?
      TUESDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2014

      For a discussion of the role of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in deaths all over the world, consult another blog.

  3. Whoever is posting the "warning to casual readers of this blog" is performing a valuable service, and it's refreshing to see some other voices of reason joining him here.

    1. In comments, more and more Howler readers have been complaining about this gong-show charade. We need to quit whining to Bob about getting a moderator or looking to people like the analysts. We need to pattern ourselves on those commenters’ conduct.

  4. We find these comments very depressing. Here’s a recent capsule history of the liberal world:

    In the 1990s, the liberal world was asleep in the woods. The nation’s professors were napping as well. As conservative power hardened in Washington, the mainstream press corps staged remarkable jihads against both Clintons, then against Candidate Gore.

    1. And now it will happen to Hillary Clinton, unless readers of the NY Times and other publications push back. Huffington Post never misses an opportunity to slur Clinton and yet it pretends to be a left-leaing media source. Digby, DKos, Josh Marshall, Kevin Drum, and all the others need to get behind her if they don't want another Republican to be put into office by the Supreme Court after a squeaker of an election, the way offices were stolen from Gore and Kerry. There may be some balm in blaming Hillary for a poor campaign but in reality we will all be to blame and we will all suffer -- she'll go on to other things, as Al Gore did.

    2. Liberals slept in the woods all through the 1990s but after Iraq, began to rouse. In recent years, an unfortunate fact has become increasingly clear. Basically, liberals are highly tribal and dumb as rocks, not unlike the conservatives who managed to get themselves conned by Rush and Sean all those years.

      Let’s put that another way: The tea party is us!

      These are very depressing facts. Our nation is in big trouble.

    3. Through their utterly stupid remarks, Bruni and Dowd kept spreading a tired canard—a scripted, blindingly stupid notion which serves the plutocrats’ interests.

      Dowd's statement was typed from Hades itself—from the hell to which we all stand condemned by the triumph of Brunidowdism.

    4. Gail Collins is bad for your mental health. People are dead all over the world because of her past behavior. Collins has typed that stupid shit more than thirty times now. She doesn’t have the slightest idea what actually happened.

    5. Concern-Troll alert! Concern-Troll alert!!

      h/t Cecilia Mc

    6. Poor Cecilia. RIP. Victim of the grim Troll Infestation of '14.

      That one was so bad it even carried of the dead rats.

    7. I never miss a blog. All trolls can do is to make hash of a message board. They haven't managed to squelch the blogger.

    8. No, Cmc. And his message is now reaching the comment box of the NYTimes.

      Soon we will see the fruit of his labor when he repeats for us in a promised new post, his favorite items from the comment box of the New York Times.

      I hope the best comment will be repeated and linked in post after post just as the Hoyt column has been. Over and over again.

  5. Invitation to Casual Readers of this blog:

    If you are interested in finding out more about Clark Hoyt and his column savaging Maureen Dowd for her poisonous, lunatic conduct try these back issues of the Howler the casual nature of your reading might have caused you to miss:

    SPAWN OF DOWD: The planet's least likely job!
    Oct 29, 2011

    THE WAY WE ARE: The New York Times broke (almost) all the rules!

    Supplemental: The sounds of silence!
    FRIDAY, JULY 18, 2014

    Hockey breaks out on the Times op-ed page!
    THURSDAY, AUGUST 22, 2013

    Maureen Dowd can’t bottle it up!

    EPISTEMIC ENCLOSURES: The toy of race!
    TUESDAY, AUGUST 27, 2013

    Maureen Dowd’s full immersion!
    WEDNESDAY, MARCH 21, 2012

    Supplemental: How does Dowd connect to the right?
    THURSDAY, JULY 17, 2014

    ANTHROPOLOGY LESSONS: As the gods watch!
    MONDAY, JUNE 23, 2014

    Supplemental: Ruth Marcus seemed to be sifting the truth!

    The new and improved Maureen Dowd!
    WEDNESDAY, MARCH 14, 2012

    DOWD AND DOWDINPANTZ: Misogynistic illogic gone wild!
    MONDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2012

    ANTHROPOLOGY LESSONS: Joan Walsh disappears!
    TUESDAY, JUNE 24, 2014

    Maureen Dowd and the bigot’s impulse!
    TUESDAY, MARCH 20, 2012

    Dowd invents way to discuss family feud!

    For discussion of Hoyt's savaging Dowd in a Howler free of troll infestations, click on the link for The Daily Howler 1998-2011 at the top of this page.

  6. Wasn't Festus Matt Dillon's deputy in Gunsmoke?

    1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWR6FLnPack

    2. Perhaps in another life. Today he is a Warrior!


  7. Writes Old Bob about young Frank:

    "For reasons we’ve never seen explained, the inexperienced youngish scribe was assigned to cover Candidate Bush for the New York Times."

    For reasons we've never seen explained, Somerby considers the age of 35 to be "youngish."

    1. You don't? You must be twenty-something yourself.

    2. Nope. And I distinctly remember the difference between the two decades.

      I do fondly remember a fellow who would always introduce me to others or refer to me in third person as "that young man" well into my late forties. I attended his funeral a decade or so ago.

  8. Your Howler ReadersApril 23, 2015 at 11:22 AM

    For someone above: It is not a question of "getting behind" Hillary Clinton.

    What's called for is simply some honesty from press and pundits about the behavior of their own cohort.

    When a major NYT columnist reports on image rather than substance... that should be considered news, worthy of comment, mockery.

    When a major NYT columnist decides that gender stereotyping is a good basis for reporting their opinions of the candidates... that should be considered significant, deserving of attention and ridicule.

    When the editors and owners of the NYT judge such columns to be suitable for print... their actions ought to be considered newsworthy, their agenda in doing so ought to be evaluated.

    That's what's needed, not a simple "getting behind" one candidate or another.

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