The Buzz

Dowd's Undistinguished Commentary

The Buzz concedes that it has not read Maureen Dowd for some time, but it did read her Sunday New York Times column regarding the tarmac contretemps between President Obama and Arizona governor Jan Brewer. Dowd’s literary schtick is to get laughs at other people’s expense, normally people other than those she likes. But she has to build a column around these thrusts of rapier jocularity, so there must be some kind of effort at analysis. On Sunday, she devoted a third of her column to recounting another episode from the last campaign when Obama had a tarmac exchange with a different women—in that instance, his opponent for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton.

Having pulled this four-year-old episode from the archives of memory, Dowd had a literary obligation to explain what the two episodes had to do with one another and why, taken together, we might find some significance in them. Thus, she writes: “Usually, tarmacs are for joyous welcomes or teary goodbyes. But No Drama Obama saves his rare tempests for the runway.” In a Dowd column, this passes for analysis.

But this column had two other apparent purposes. One was to direct her famous thrusts of insult at Brewer, whom she doesn’t seem to like much. Some characterizations: “toxic dominatrix of illegal immigration”; “the woman who turned every Latino in her state into a suspect”; “fat-headed”; “Cruella de Vil.”

The other was to hint darkly at Obama—or “Barry,” as she calls him—that he needs to get tougher in debates if he is going to prevail against his presumed general-election opponent, Mitt Romney—or “Mittens,” as she calls him. The president’s problem, she said, was that he has “refused to accept debates as alpha combat rather than beta seminars.” Left unclear was why he needs to be an alpha combatant against a guy named “Mittens.”

Dowd was a fine reporter when she covered the White House for the Times during the George H. W. Bush days. A little reporting now might turn a frivolous column into something with actual reading value. As it is, flawed.