Fire Maureen Dowd!

Her “Heathers” approach to politics is more harmful than Rubin’s hackery. And she lies.

Yes, I like the idea of firing Jennifer Rubin, but if a genie gave me three wishes and I were going to use one on getting rid of an obnoxious columnist, it would definitely be Dowd. Her “Heathers” approach to politics is, in the long run, far more destructive than mere ideological hackery.

Worse, Dowd makes sh*t up; Al Gore’s non-existent “earth tones” wasn’t the first or the last example of that, though it might have been the most politically consequential.

And worse than that, Dowd is a flat-out liar. When Dowd was caught truncating a quote to make it seem as if Bill de Blasio’s wife had mocked his lesbian opponent’s childlessness, she blamed it on her tape recorder, made a grudging correction, and said “The substance is the same.” Ri-i-i-i-i-i-ght!

The original column identified the candidate’s wife as “a mother of two” and quoted her as saying of her husband’s opponent:

not accessible … She’s not the kind of person I feel I can go up to and talk to about issues like taking care of children at a young age and paid sick leave.

Here’s the corrected version:

Asked why Quinn was not rallying women, McCray, a mother of two, replied: “Well, I am a woman, and she is not speaking to the issues I care about and I think a lot of women feel the same way. I don’t see her speaking to the concerns of women who have to take care of children at a young age or send them to school and after school, paid sick days, workplace, she is not speaking to any of those issues. What can I say? And she is not accessible, she is not the kind of person who you can talk to and go up to and have a conversation with about those things, and I suspect that other women feel the same thing I’m feeling.”

Yes, the “substance” is the same. All that’s different is the only thing that mattered: the suggestion that it was Quinn’s childlessness, rather than her politics, that made her unattractive to some women.

A reporter who makes a mistake can be forgiven. A reporter who can’t admit that a mistake was made needs to be bounced.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

25 thoughts on “Fire Maureen Dowd!”

  1. Kevin Drum was really mad about this, too, and I just don’t get it. I can’t stand Dowd, and I wish she would crawl under a rock, etc, but this quote seems substantially the same to me. Wasn’t Dowd’s quote exactly what McCray was trying to get across, but more subtly? If anything, Dowd should have been calling McCray out for this transparently “anti-childless” quote. (If that’s not a word, it should be.) As a child-free person, I’m just as irritated by McCray’s original quote as Dowd’s doctored version.

    1. In McCray’s original quote she asserts Quinn isn’t vocally concerned with these issues, and McCray goes on to say she doesn’t feel she’d get a good conversation out of someone like Quinn on these issues.

      In Dowd’s doctored version McCray appears to say, out of the blue, that Quinn isn’t the sort of person who could talk about these issues, isn’t the sort of person who should be listened to on them. This immediately precedes several paragraphs about the various candidates’ or candidates’ spouses’ sexual history, not their level of engagement with pressing policy questions. This, whereas McCray was claiming something about Quinn’s level of engagement with policy concerns (accurately or not, I neither know or care).

      Let me put it this way: in the first, undoctored version you can substitute for “these issues” (or, in the original and doctored quotes, subsitute for “taking care of children at a young age”) almost anything – national missile defense, bike lanes, favorite Thai restaurant – and it becomes an assertion that (Quinn) is not publicly engaged with the issue, and just doesn’t seem bothered by it. In the doctored quote, (Quinn) becomes the weird sort of person who would by nature never be bothered by the issue. The difference is really rather important.

  2. The best Dowd comp for vacuity, fake liberalism, sexual weirdness, and all-around uselessness at the WaPo of course wouldn’t be a surly hack like Rubin– it would be Richard “I’m a funny guy” Cohen.

    But since I live in New York, yeah, Dowd is the one I most want gone.

    1. “The best Dowd comp for vacuity, fake liberalism, sexual weirdness, and all-around uselessness at the WaPo of course wouldn’t be a surly hack like Rubin– it would be Richard “I’m a funny guy” Cohen. ”

      During the Plame affair, Cohen explicitly stated that it wasn’t the job of journalists to investigate the ‘dark alleys’ of politics. It’d be like a priest explicitly denying God. While still drawing pay – of course, in the case of the Washington Post, one could reasonably assume that their pay isn’t for journalism.

  3. At some point in Dowd’s career – and this is perhaps 15 years ago – she was selling a book, and was interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air. The interview was largely about her personal history, a topic she seemed to enjoy, and she bragged about how vacuous she was. She explained that she had been assigned by The New York Times to be their official White House Correspondent – an extremely prestigious post. Once installed, she discovered she had absolutely no interest in doing the job, and found it frankly boring. She therefore didn’t do it, until the exasperated editorial staff, desperate to have someone actually do the job they paid her for, freed up the White House Correspondent slot by promoting her to the Op-Ed page. I don’t know if the story is true, but it’s the story she told, and she seemed quite proud of it.

    1. I heard her on the radio speaking to a group (Commonwealth Club?) and she was really good. Her ‘standing by the back fence, passing along gossip of low quality information’ works well as a speaking style so long as you don’t take her seriously, but is horrible at the Times.

      The Pulitzer she received was a disgrace.

  4. I followed your link and it looks like the “earth tones” thing was taken, with attribution, from two Time reporters–Michael Duffy and Karen Tumulty. In this case, Dowd appears to be not guilty. (Either the Duffy-Tumulty duo got it wrong or it actually happened.)

    Also the $15K/month and “earth tones” details seem too weirdly specific to be fake. I’m going to go along with Dr. Lionel Tiger, Ph.D: Al Gore lost the Presidency because he tried to swallow his wife on the dais at the convention and everyone was annoyed by the word “lockbox.” It was totally worth it to get an incompetent, war-mongering, deficit-exploding, Constitution-shredding, torture-ordering buffoon elected just to see the look on old Albert Jr.’s face.

    1. Yeah, no. Gore lost because the “liberal” press corps hated his guts even more than they hated Clinton’s. They ran “he said he invented the internet!” for months. They hissed him when he debated Bradley. When he debated Bush and he sighed at every lie, all they could report was the sighing, not the lying.

        1. And not a G-d*mned one of them suffered for it.

          I know that many peasants die before a lord suffers, but our country is seriously afflicted by an elite which doesn’t suffer, no matter how bad things get.

          I hope that Bezos purges the WaPo in a way which makes Stalin look cute and fuzzy, but I doubt that a billionaire buys a newspaper because he wants honest reporting.

          1. Part of becoming a billionaire comes from not accumulating powerful enemies. Those who could potentially destroy you in the future must be befriended or ingratiated or assuaged/massaged/placated etc. in the present.

            (I still think Cohen and Rubin could be quietly pole-axed for the health of our Republic but it would have to be done slowly and not abruptly so as to look as inconspicuous as possible. Biding time is also a valuable skill.)

  5. Maureen Dowd is trying to be another Sally Quinn, who (when I lived in DC in the early 70s) was the social scene reporter. But in DC the social scene is/was highly political, like reporting on who was standing next to Mao and who was whited out of the picture. Dowd is more like the fluff that you pick out of your navel.

    1. No, and I suspect from reading comments to her columns that a high percentage of NYT readers are equally offended. I have stopped reading her at this point. I used to think that her main use, from my perspective, was to capture conventional wisdom on how a politician or person is being perceived with respect to some issue (like, say, Bengazi) right before it became accepted as the consensus — but I have noticed that with respect to Obama, she does not have nearly the same level of accuracy she did with the Clintons and Bush. She really doesn’t like him. She gives him no credit at all for anything. And yes, she calls him Barry, as if she gets to bestow nicknames the was G. W. Bush was reputed to do. It’s obnoxious.

  6. What I don’t get is why the people who read Rubin and believe her (e.g., Romney is a genius and is going to win!!!) don’t turn on her when she is completely wrong.

  7. Dead or In Jail says:
    August 22, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    “(I still think Cohen and Rubin could be quietly pole-axed for the health of our Republic but it would have to be done slowly and not abruptly so as to look as inconspicuous as possible. Biding time is also a valuable skill.)”

    I have high but likely fruitless hopes that Bezos brooms out the Op-Ed group at the WaPo.

  8. It’s been years since I bothered to read Dowd. But I also never cottoned to Rich or many of the other NYT op-ed writers, except Krugman, who always has a point.

    I also notice that out of the dearth of prominent female reporters/columnists, we are trashing two of them. (I’ve probably never read Rubin and only know her name from the previous scandal, which I’ve forgotten. All I read at WaPo are Ezra Klein/Wonkblog and sometimes Caroline Hax, who is very good, almost as good as Philip Galanes (NYT), who is almost perfect.) I’m just pointing this out. (The LAT folk are more or less not worth mentioning, I’m sorry to say. Except Morrison, and she’s been sidelined. Lopez is still good but getting a little b****y, imo.)

    Here’s my beef with the NYT, which I *love*: what is up with the magazine? I used to really like it, but for several years, “meh.” Why? Is it that they are all profiles of people who don’t interest me? Is it that I don’t care about profiles themselves anymore? And don’t get me started on how much I hate theme issues… Anyone else? Anyone got a theory?

    Oh yeah, plus, ten or so years ago, the Saturday Arts editor was really good. No idea what happened to that either. It’s very mysterious. But there must have been a reason or a person responsible, who got axed or transferred.

  9. Oh, and on the topic of female writers, behold the fabulousness that *is* Chrystia Freeland. Not only is she intelligent, she is actually running for office in Canada. Not just complaining, but actually doing something.

    Check it out: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/08/16/why-is-chrystia-freeland-leaving-journalism-to-run-for-office/

    I freaking love Canadians.

    Zasloff should get some of his blue Canadian friends to give her money, if they do that up there. Probably they are too civilized though and they have public campaign finance [sigh].

    1. I think Ms Freeland would be a good Member of Parliament – better than a woman trying for the nomination of the (mildly) social-democratic party, Linda McQuaig, who sees a conspiracy, usually US-based and capitalist, every time she opens her eyes. But not ‘blue Canadian friends’, I fear. Blue is the colour (as we spell it here) of the Conservative party, some members of which have Republican ambitions, and the current governing party. The Liberal Party for which Ms Freeland wants to be a candidate uses red. The New Democratic Party (social-democratic, and currently the Official Opposition in Ottawa) uses orange. The Green Party, of course …

  10. Reading Maureen Dowd is very much like reading old(forties) copies of Photoplay, especially Sidney Skolsky.Ms. Dowdy conflates reality with soap opera characters and plots. It reminds me of her attacks on Dan Quayle for his attacks on Ms. Bergen, reminding him that there was no bastard child, just a plot twist. Yet, she never fails to use movie and TV(eg, Mad Men)issues to make her own specious points.As for childless politicians, I recall that my youngest son and his family were referred to in San Francisco as “Breeders”.

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