Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I was a bit surprised when I read the new Maureen Dowd column. She talks about the likelihood that Michelle Obama will be the next target of the GOP smear machine, and she actually seems to think that's a bad thing:

...It's good news for Obama that Hillary's out of the race. But it's also bad news. Now Republicans can turn their full attention to demonizing Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama is the new, unwilling contestant in Round Two of the sulfurous national game of "Kill the witch." ...

Dowd, surprisingly, seems to have some admiration for Michelle (in part, as a contrast to her twin Antichrists, the Clintons):

...When she's on her game, after all, Michelle is a knockout. And as one Obama booster enthuses: "Michelle's story is a lot more mainstream American than Cindy McCain inheriting a brewery."

...she clearly scored a pre-emptive hit both with her chic style -- Vogue’s Andre Leon Talley declared in The Times the dawn of "a black Camelot" -- and with her playful fist pump....

The dap or pound, as it's also called, was a natural and beguiling moment that showed the country that, even though she started out as her husband's boss and has a resume that matches his, she likes him and is rooting for him, and is not engaged in a dreaded Clintonesque competition with him....

And she doesn't seem to like what she says is coming (and is already here):

...There are creepy Web sites, like, dedicated to painting Michelle as a female version of Jeremiah Wright, an angry black woman, the disgruntled, lecturing "Mrs. Grievance" depicted on the cover of National Review.

On that site and others around the Internet, the seamy rumors still slither that there's a tape of Michelle denouncing "whitey," a rumor that Barack Obama disdained last week as "scurrilous."

E.D. Hill, the Fox anchor who said that the celebrated fist pump between Michelle and her husband the night he snagged the nomination could be called a "terrorist fist jab," apologized Tuesday.

In their narrative of how Hillary lost in The Times on Sunday, Jim Rutenberg and Peter Baker said that Mark Penn argued that Hillary should subtly stress Obama’s "lack of American roots."

That's a good preview of how Republicans will attack Michelle, suggesting that she does not share American values, mining a subtext of race....

But is Dowd criticizing the Obamas' political enemies -- or (in advance) herself?

After all, while chastising other Michelle-bashers, she also says this, with no finger-wag:

...Michelle has not always hidden her jangly opinions so well. She has spent more time dwelling on the ways in which society can pull down the less privileged and refers a lot to a callous but unnamed "They."

"Michelle," as one political observer puts it, "is a target-rich environment." ...

That suggests to me that she'll be ready to jump into the scrum herself any minute now. Given how much of the current column is taken up with Dowd's usual Clinton-bashing, it's likely that she's holding back only because, for now, Michelle is the anti-Hillary. If Hillary's not the VP choice, Michelle could easily become the new Hillary.

If you doubt that, recall this Dowd column from April 2007, in which Michelle was called "emasculating" (OK, it was actually "others" who "worried that her chiding was emasculating"). And recall this Dowd column from a couple of weeks ago, a fantasy conversation between Barack Obama and Bill Clinton about the second spot on the ticket. The nominee speaks first:

"... We're going to have an administration so squeaky clean that it makes Jimmy Carter look like Marc Rich. All your trips abroad will have to be authorized by a higher authority."

"The State Department? Fine, I'll check with them."


"Oh, no. Not that."

"Yes, Michelle. She'll have you on a much shorter leash, Bill, and it's not so fun. There'll be no more Ron Air, no Burkling and Binging. Eight long years of Michelle watching your every move. No eruptions of any kind...."

And this image of Michelle as Scary Taskmistress Bitch turns out to be precisely what persuades Bill that a VP slot for Hill might not be a good idea. Oh, those terrifying female dominatrixes!

I suspect that's the direction Dowd's writing on Michelle is going to take -- it nicely complements her emasculating "Obambi" imagery for the candidate -- however much sympathy she seems to be showing now.


dnA isn't even half-impressed:

...unsubstantiated rumors and innuendo are in fact, the only thing Dowd writes about. So she introduced the tape in this column as a rumor "other people are talking about" so that she can continue to write about it endlessly, all Summer and into the Fall, even though no tape will ever materialize. She takes the positioning of criticizing the Right Wing Noise Machine's attack on Michelle Obama even as she legitimizes a story that, with the exception of Roger Stone, they decided was so untrue not even they'd run with it.

And in every column, she will produce the same paper-thin empathy towards Michelle Obama that she offers all women she smears, a rhetorical device that can't hide the contempt she feels for women on the national stage....

I don't think this column is quite that bad, but I think future columns will be.

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