Friends of great journalism, we are witnessing a media miracle right in front of our eyes. Behold the comeback of Maureen Dowd.
Comeback? But, you might contend, she hasn’t gone anywhere. She has always churned out high-profile columns for the New York Times, right? Well, yes. But the difference for me, anyway, is that I’m reading them again. I’m making a point of reading Maureen Dowd again. She has something to say.
Dowd has regained her infamous edge and appears to be writing with a renewed sense of purpose. The Great Zinger is zinging again.
What had happened to Dowd reminds me of a baseball analogy. It’s as if a fearsome slugger fell into a slump and could no longer reach the seats. In national pastime circles, they call this syndrome “warning-track power.” For the past few years, Dowd has swung mightily, as ever, but couldn’t seem to hit home runs. And now she is once again belting tape-measure blasts.
So, what happened? It must be “The Hillary Factor.”
It’s fair to conclude that Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations have had a therapeutic effect on Maureen Dowd. Hillary’s jes’ folks campaigning style, while she is delivering double-talk about those missing emails, has offended and infuriated Dowd, as it has done to lots of Americans.
Clinton brings out the best in Dowd because Hillary is so nakedly ambitious. Even when Dowd projects a world-weary attitude, she gets right to the point and sees the big picture.
This is what she wrote about Hillary in March:
“If you, Hillary Rodham Clinton, are willing to cite your mother’s funeral to get sympathy for ill-advisedly deleting 30,000 emails, it just makes us want to sigh: O.K., just take it. If you want it that bad, go ahead and be president and leave us in peace. (Or war, if you have your hawkish way.) You’re still idling on the runway, but we’re already jet-lagged.”
At her best, Dowd comes across as writing with a sort of gleeful savagery. If she spots hypocritical behavior, she jumps on it, and we love her for that. Besides admiring her skillful turn of phrase, I lived vicariously through MoDo, particularly when she skewered the Not Ready For Prime-Time Players in the Dubya White House.
Before Hillary galvanized MoDo, she seemed only occasionally capable of zinging Barack Obama and others, such as when she wrote last August: “The president who was elected because he was a hot commodity is now a wet blanket.”
Perhaps you share my timeline of The Potomac Pundit: Once, primarily during the George W. Bush years, she was my favorite columnist and political observer. Just as Dana Carvey had weirdly and brilliantly done during the George H.W. Bush years, MoDo gave color and texture to a Bush presidency. Nobody did a better job of lifting the veil on “Dubya” during that time and revealing all of his character flaws and insecurities.
Then came Barack Obama. Dowd seemed oddly frustrated by Obama’s moodiness and his egghead demeanor, particularly in contrast to the cackling W. He seemed to bore Dowd.
Try as she might, she could not penetrate the Obama cool and find flaws to exploit.
The effect was that readers sensed that Obama had somehow neutralized the tart MoDo. Except for getting their kicks by calling him “Barry” here and there, the media hordes were all but reduced to ringing Barack Obama’s front-door bell and then running away before he could see them.
Thing is, we expected much more than our hero, MoDo. We expect her to speak for us in witty and analytical ways that are beyond the rest of us.
We Americans need Maureen Dowd “on that wall,” to borrow an analogy from A Few Good Men. We need her to tell us what’s really going on — and do it in a brilliant, satirical way.
As the journalistic ranks thin because of cutbacks, politicians are enjoying more freedom to lie and distort. The media aren’t as accountable as we used to be. Don’t let us down, MoDo, especially as we enter the 2016 campaign.
And happily, Maureen Dowd is delivering the goods, once again.