Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Problem with Maureen Dowd

I've sometimes wondered why the New York Times maintains Maureen Dowd as a regular opinion columnist. But then I realize that she attracts readers, like me, with her brand of acerbic wit and gossipy sarcasm.

No one takes her too seriously, and I trust she knows this. Today's column, for example, about Mr. Obama is another predictable iteration of her stereotyped view of the President: he is an aloof loner, who seems bored, like a bird in a gilded cage. She has played this tune for at least five years.

As with everyone who reduces complex issues to simplistic formulas, Dowd likes to skewer and satirize Obama, just as she stereotyped his predecessor, whom she called "W," and Mr. Clinton before him. And she has an attitude toward Hilary that has already been reworked many times. Attitude always replaces ideas for Dowd.

This is not to say that her criticism of Obama is without foundation.

As an intellectual who too often shuns wheeling and dealing a la LBJ, Obama is probably a political failure in a key area: negotiating with Congress. But he has been so reviled by members of the GOP, so resolutely opposed on nearly every issue, that he is given little respect as chief executive and even less leeway to get laws enacted.  And as a man of integrity who provides steady leadership, Obama deserves better treatment.

Rather than bored and detached, Mr. Obama seems to me to be exhausted; and who wouldn't be, given the problems he faces?

Like his predecessors in modern times, he has an impossible job and, as a person, is too complex to be reduced to the stereotypes that Dowd thrives on.

For eight years or more, she played, over and over, one theme with George W. Bush: his imagined rivalry with his father. It was all about the Bushes. Ideas about what went wrong in that presidency according to Dowd were replaced by snide attitude and the gathering of Washington gossip.

So readers find her columns often entertaining in that they provide supposedly the inside scoop on pols. What they don't find are original ideas or political analysis or suggested solutions to world problems.  What they are given is slick, superficial, and shallow.

Dowd has turned political writing into show biz.

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