Sunday, August 31, 2008


This morning I was arguing with several progressive, Obama-backing people about Maureen Dowd. They insisted that Dowd loathes John McCain and likes Barack Obama; to them, today's column was a smoking gun.

But to me, today's column is just more Obama-bashing in the guise of McCain- and Palin-bashing; I'd agree that it's equal-opportunity bashing (that's what people always say when you remind them of how often Dowd bashes Democrats -- "Oh, she hates everybody"), but it's just obvious to me where, on a gut level, her sympathies really lie.

The conceit of the column is that McCain's pick of Sarah Palin is a chick flick -- not just any chick flick but a "guilty pleasure ... a vacuously spunky and generically sassy chick flick." So this is something Dowd likes.

Now, I know I'm supposed to read that as sarcasm, as irony, but I don't see it -- her recounting of the "plot" of this "flick" is so full of joy that you know what she's really thinking: those Republican rascals, those awful-and-thus-delightful bad boys (they're only awful-awful after they're elected), are really going to get away with it.

And they're going to get away with it because Barack Obama is such a limp loser:

...It begins, of course, with a cute, cool unknown from Alaska who has never even been on "Meet the Press" triumphing over a cute, cool unknowable from Hawaii who has been on "Meet the Press" a lot.

(That's Obama's level of qualification: he's been on Sunday chat shows a lot.)

Americans, suspicious that the Obamas have benefited from affirmative action without being properly grateful, and skeptical that Michelle really likes "The Brady Bunch" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show," reject the 47-year-old black contender as too uppity and untested.

Do you know anyone rational who doesn't believe Michelle Obama grew up liking The Brady Bunch? Or who even considered that this might be a calculated statement? The only people who doubt this are insane PUMAs, racists who think black people only like black things ... and Maureen Dowd.

...Obama may have been president of The Harvard Law Review, but Palin graduated from the University of Idaho with a minor in poli-sci and worked briefly as a TV sports reporter. And she was tougher on the basketball court than the ethereal Obama, earning the nickname "Sarah Barracuda."

Obama is decidedly more qualified than Palin ... but he's a wuss! She could kick his butt in b-ball!

Sarah is a zealot, but she's a fun zealot. She has a beehive and sexy shoes, and the day she's named she goes shopping with McCain in Ohio for a cheerleader outfit for her daughter.

As she once told Vogue, she's learned the hard way to deal with press comments about her looks. "I wish they’d stick with the issues instead of discussing my black go-go boots," she said. "A reporter once asked me about it during the campaign, and I assured him I was trying to be as frumpy as I could by wearing my hair on top of my head and these schoolmarm glasses."

Here's where you see Dowd's sympathies. It doesn't take long in Googling Palin before you realize that she drops little interesting factoids about herself into practically every sentence she utters in the presence of the many, many reporters who just so happen to flock to her. And yet she somehow comes off as a who-me? naif who just so happens to live a life full of these cute details.

Now, a genuinely cynical person would call bullshit on this. People think Maureen Dowd is just such a person -- in fact, people think Maureen Dowd is the most cynical person ever. But not only is she swallowing this bull, she's retranmitting it, in a way that reveals zero skepticism.

And now for the end of the chick flick:

The movie ends with the former beauty queen shaking out her pinned-up hair, taking off her glasses, slipping on ruby red peep-toe platform heels that reveal a pink French-style pedicure, and facing down Vladimir Putin in an island in the Bering Strait. Putting away her breast pump, she points her rifle and informs him frostily that she has some expertise in Russia because it's close to Alaska. "Back off, Commie dude," she says. "I'm a much better shot than Cheney."

Then she takes off in her seaplane and lands on the White House lawn, near the new ice fishing hole and hockey rink. The "First Dude," as she calls the hunky Eskimo in the East Wing, waits on his snowmobile with the kids -- Track (named after high school track meets), Bristol (after Bristol Bay where they did commercial fishing), Willow (after a community in Alaska), Piper (just a cool name) and Trig (Norse for "strength.")

"The P.T.A. is great preparation for dealing with the K.G.B.," President Palin murmurs to Todd, as they kiss in the final scene while she changes Trig's diaper. "Now that Georgia's safe, how 'bout I cook you up some caribou hot dogs and moose stew for dinner, babe?"

Am I crazy to believe Dowd really digs this scenario? Maybe she doesn't even know she digs it, but she digs it. She's seeded the column with all the points against Palin, but the point of the column is to entertain you with everything about Palin that Palin calculatedly uses about herself, and to do it within a scenario that's essentially John McCain's argument for her suitability.

Am I wrong about this? I'll happily entertain other readings of this column. But I say it's pro-Palin -- and anti-"ethereal" Obama.

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