Wednesday, April 02, 2008


No one, left, center, or right, has been nastier to Hillary Clinton than Maureen Dowd. This campaign season, in particular, Dowd has been relentless in attacking the senator. So at first I was surprised to read today's Dowd column. Why so admiring all of a sudden?

...Hillary is cruelly misunderstood, and she deserves more credit for her benevolence....

Without Hillary, [Barack Obama] never would have learned to be a good debater. He never would have understood how to robustly answer distorted and personal attacks. He never would have been warned about how harmful an unplugged spouse can be. He never would have realized how a luminous speech can be effective damage control.

...Besides coaching Obama, Hillary is also shielding him. If she had not fibbed about the Tuzla airport landing, and then fibbed to get out of a fib, the press would have stayed focused on Wright. She has been an invaluable lightning rod....

I tell myself this is snark, then I read on and realize that no, it really isn't. What's up? After all this time, has Maureen Dowd suddenly concluded that Hillary Clinton is benevolent?

This change of heart seems awfully familiar. And then I suddenly realize why.

It's the plot of every romantic novel and chick flick ever. The woman finds the man boorish, if not brutish; she tells everyone what a jerk (or even lunatic) he seems to be -- and then, at the end, she realizes he's The One, in part because of what she saw at first as boorish or brutish.

In this plot template, Maureen Dowd is the woman.

Hillary Clinton is the guy.


Dowd is so confused about her unexpected attraction to the Hillary of her own imaginings, the saloon brawler Hillary, that she can't quite tell how the fights are going. She tells two different stories in two consecutive sentences, and doesn't seem to realize she's contradicting herself:

... the ultimate favor Hillary can do for the Illinois freshman is to fight him full-out until the finale and then gracefully release him so he can find happiness with another.

Hillary’s work is done only when she is done, because the best way for Obama to prove he's ready to stare down Ahmadinejad is by putting away someone even tougher.

So which is it, Maureen? Is Obama "putting [Hillary] away," or does the fight end only when Macho Man Hillary deigns to "gracefully release him"?

I think this is painful for Dowd either way. She wants Obama to be a two-fisted he-man, capable of "putting away" Hillary; if he does so, he'll be her dreamboat. But that will mean she's misjudged the current man of her dreams, Hillary -- he ain't so tough!

Of course, it's only a matter of time before Dowd starts crushing on John McCain, compared with whom either Obama or Clinton will be a big girl. Life will be simpler for Dowd then. But for now, her fantasy life is complicated -- and twisted.

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