I realize that it's not exactly a breaking story that Maureen Dowd is a lunatic. That's been painfully obvious for a while. Her latest mental breakdown is called White Man’s Last StandNew York Times Online 07/14/09. The strangeness of this column is only fully apparent if you keep in mind that in the Bizarro World of our national press corps, MoDo is considered a liberal and a feminist.
You might think that a leading political columnist would have a number of constructive ways to approach the historic Sonia Sotomayor hearings. She could write about the nominee's judicial philosophy, for instance. Or key cases likely to come before the Supreme Court. Or contemporary legal philosophies. Or the odd political spectacle of a bunch of old (and not-so-old) Republican white guys working hard to insure that their Party will receive as few as possible of those Latino votes that might otherwise threaten to come to their candidates.
But for MoDo, the hearings bring to mind:
Gov. Mark Sanford's sex life
Babe Ruth (she gives Sotomayor his nickname of "the Bronx Bomber")
Uncle Tom's Cabin ("Sonia Legree"; MoDo likes the literary references)
If MoDo weren't so representative of the frivolous attitude of our national press corps, it would be easy to write her off as the crazy aunt in the attic, babbling about sex and tossing out random literary references. Though her columns would be more appropriate in the Style section.
But what MoDo really stresses about Sotomayor in this column is MoDo's own gender-nut obsessions. Despite her own position as a professional woman and an alleged feminist, women or men in the public eye who step outside the conservative gender-role assumptions she grew up with in her conservative Irish-Catholic family just send MoDo's troubled mind into orbit. So she paints Sotomayor as a cold-hearted bitch. Thus the "Sonia Legree" reference, which casts the first Latina nominee for the Supreme Court as the cruel white overseer in Uncle Tom's Cabin.
MoDo pounds on the point.
In the Babe Ruth reference, she writes that "the Bronx Bomber kept a robotic mask in place" during the hearings. I don't get any connection with Babe Ruth. But since some of the goofier precincts of the Republican world are comparing Sotomayor to one of the Reps' current favorite bogeymen, former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers, it's not a very funny reference. And, remember, MoDo passes as a "liberal"!
MoDo writes of the nominee's cold-heartedness, "the only bleeding-heart thing about her was the color of her jacket." Fashion is a comforting subject for MoDo's strange mind, it seems.
MoDo thought that Sototmayor made a "full retreat from the notion that a different life experience is valuable." Democrats in alleged liberal MoDo's view of the world are always big liars and hypocrites.
Sotomayor used "a flat tone" in talking about 9/11, Lady MoDo complains.
"Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer gamely tried to make the judge seem even more coldhearted," she reports.
The nominee responded to one question with "an iciness that must have sent a chill up the conservative leg of Alabama’s Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, even as it left Obama hanging out on an empathy limb." You see, in DowdWorld, Obama is a big sissy girly-man because he once said something positive about empathy (or something like that) while Sotomayor is a cold-hearted, mannish shrew because she tried to sound like the professional judge she is.
Near the end, MoDo goes into her own version of liberal boilerplate:
Besides, it’s delicious watching Republicans go after Democrats for being too emotional and irrational given the G.O.P. shame spiral.
It's all very amusing to Lady MoDo. To steal a Bob Somerby phrase, this is what life looks like from within the walls of Versailles.
W. and Dick Cheney made all their bad decisions about Iraq, W.M.D.’s, domestic surveillance, torture, rendition and secret hit squads from the gut, based on false intuitions, fear, paranoia and revenge.
And during those years, MoDo was obsessing about Monica Lewinsky, Hillary Clinton (also a mannish shrew in DowdWorld) and ridiculing those big sissy Democrats John Kerry and Barack Obama. MoDo devoted far more thought (if you can call it that) and emotion to the unspeakable vileness of Hillary Clinton than she did to any of those "bad decisions" she sniffs about in retrospect. Not content with humdrum facts, MoDo can read the minds of Cheney and Bush to know what motivated those decisions. In the reality-based world, it's still quite a mystery what actually motivated their Iraq War drive, in particular.
Sarah Palin is the definition of irrational, a volatile and scattered country-music queen without the music. Her Republican fans defend her lack of application and intellect, happy to settle for her emotional electricity.
MoDo's obsessions occasionally glob on to Republican targets, like Sarah Palin. Palin remains an object of general derision to the Beltway Village press. But you don't have to go further than Time magazine to see how easily ridicule can morph into admiration of Palin's supposed touch for the common folk. It should be obvious from this column devoted to attacking Sotomayor's robotic cold-heartedness, it's not a criticism for MoDo to talk about Palin's "emotional electricity".
And what was Lady MoDo saying about the Republicans' White Princess during the 2008 campaign? This, for example:
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.
In the column after that, MoDo was evidently ecstatic about the fact that she had a new sex angle to run with:
Only four days into her reign as John McCain’s “soul mate,” or “Trophy Vice,” as some bloggers are calling her, on the ticket known as “Maverick Squared,” Palin, the governor of Alaska, has already accrued two gates (Troopergate and Broken-watergate), a lawyer (for Troopergate), a future son-in-law named Levi (a high school ice hockey player, described by New York magazine as “sex on skates”), and a National Enquirer headline about the “Teen Prego Crisis” with 17-year-old daughter Bristol. [my emphasis]
The National Enquirer is a little high-brow for MoDo's taste, I would have thought.
If Barack Obama had chosen Hillary Clinton as his running mate, we would now be looking forward to the greatest night in the history of American politics: the Oct. 2 vice presidential debate between Ma Barker and Sarah Barracuda.
MoDo was hearing voices in that one. MoDo didn't sound nearly so negative on Palin then as she was on Hillary Clinton:
Sarah, who is now so renowned that she is known merely by one name and has a name ID of 90 percent, has to be a Kmart mom who appeals to Kmart moms and dads. She’s already shown that she can shoot the pig, put lipstick on it, bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan. Now all she has to do is also prove that she can be the leader of the free world on a moment’s notice, and field dress Putin as adeptly as she can a moose.
MoDo certainly seemed to have a more favorable view of Palin than of girly-man Obama:
Sarah has single-handedly ushered out the “Sex and the City” era, and made the sexy new model for America a retro one — the glamorous Pioneer Woman, packing a gun, a baby and a Bible.
Her explosion onto the scene made Obama seem even more like a windy, wispy egghead. Like W., Sarah has the power of positive unthinking.
Back to her current column:
And then there’s the Supreme Court, of course, which gave up its claim to rational neutrality when the justices appointed by Republican presidents — including Bush Sr. — ignored what was fair to make a sentimental choice and throw the 2000 election to W.
MoDo, like the rest of the Beltway press, spent 1999 and 2000 attacking Al Gore for being contemptible in about every imaginable way. Dowd devoted three columns during that period to Gore's bald spot.
But now she's sorry about the way it turned out. It's against the iron law of the Village press, though, for MoDo to breathe a word about how her own irresponsibility and that of her fellow celebrity reporters and columnists played such a huge role in putting Dick Cheney and George Bush in control of the country. MoDo herself played a key role in spreading the themes about what a liar and phony and sissy that Gore supposedly was. Gore went on to win the Nobel Prize and do useful things in the world. MoDo continues to have her regularly scheduled twice-weekly breakdowns on the high-value journalistic real estate of the New York Times op-ed page.