Dowd and Sheehan, soul sisters


Maureen Dowd has resumed writing her column, thus reclaiming her title as America's Stupidest Columnist at a Major Newspaper. Richard Cohen of the Washington Post, the runner-up for that title, performed the official SCMN duties during her absence, but Cohen will occasionally surprise you by being thoughtful or non-ideological. Dowd is pitch-perfect, reflecting the views of the elite journalistic world with not a trace of critical thought.

Almost all of her columns are truly masterpieces, because we know that her zig-zagging logical paths and tortured sentences are intentional. She isn't a nobody with a Typepad account, she is somebody with a huge newspaper's full panoply of resources behind her -- there are copy-desk editors, the editorial-page editors, the senior editors who, one assumes, will at least occasionally read what appears in their paper. The New York Times employs research staff, administrative assistants, and other literate persons. Yet not one of them has the guts to tell Maureen Dowd that she writes unreadable dreck, and she should thus make a concerted effort to re-learn how to compose a polemical essay, if indeed she ever knew how. To wit:

The Bush team tried to discredit [Cindy Sheehan] by pointing reporters to an old article in which she sounded kinder to W. If only her husband were an undercover C.I.A. operative, the Bushies could out him. But even if they send out a squad of Swift Boat Moms for Truth, there will be a countering Falluja Moms for Truth.
How to unpack this three-sentence paragraph? Cindy Sheehan did meet with the president and she did not sound angry after she emerged; nobody "outed" any CIA operatives except at least one journalist; the White House didn't send out the Swift Boat Veterans -- the vets sent themselves. But if you are Dowd, that doesn't matter, because your goal is to make at least three venomous anti-Bush attacks per column inch.

A smarter columnist would try to feign intellectual honesty; she would throw in a few statements like "Bush might think he's doing the right thing by doing _____, but he's not," or "It's understandable that Rumsfeld might say _____, but he is incorrect." But Dowd, and her many, many compatriots on the left, have two explanations for any action of the Bush administration, or anyone on the right: they're either evil or dumb. The prose they generate could be distilled into simple binary patterns which newspapers could print, e.g., "evil, dumb, dumb, evil, dumb, evil, evil, dumb," to spare us the trouble of having to read their rubbish.

This would shield us from the stylistic mistakes, too. Dowd writes about "the more than 13,000 wounded, many shorn of limbs," apparently unaware that the word "shorn" is the past tense of "shear," and is used in connection with cutting, not explosions or bullet wounds, which is how most amputees lost their limbs. The only people "shorn" of anything in Iraq are the decapitated victims of terrorists, for whom Dowd shows no recollection or outrage.

Luckily, we have Christopher Hitchens as an antidote. Hitchens, an erratic and indispensible commentator, addresses the case made by Dowd and Cindy Sheehan and reduces it to rubble:

Sheehan has obviously taken a short course in the Michael Moore/Ramsey Clark school of Iraq analysis and has not succeeded in making it one atom more elegant or persuasive. I dare say that her "moral authority" to do this is indeed absolute, if we agree for a moment on the weird idea that moral authority is required to adopt overtly political positions, but then so is my "moral" right to say that she is spouting sinister piffle. Suppose I had lost a child in this war. Would any of my critics say that this gave me any extra authority? I certainly would not ask or expect them to do so. Why, then, should anyone grant them such a privilege?
I am inclined to ignore Sheehan's words and actions, except to note two things: first, her opinions are indistinguishable from the bleary-eyed hysterics who post things on Daily Kos and the other left-wing blogs. She has drunk deeply from the poisonous brew of "no blood for oil/Halliburton/those filthy Jew neocons," and her paranoic rantings should be dismissed, though we should heap contempt on those who exploit her grief and loss for their own desire to score the cheapest of political points.

Second, Cindy Sheehan demeans her son by treating him as something less than he was. Casey Sheehan was a 24-year-old man who voluntarily re-enlisted in the military, and volunteered to go on the particular mission in which he was killed. He was not a child in need of protection. He knowingly risked his life on the field of battle against a vicious enemy that slaughters the weak and the innocent in the name of God.

But our news media glamorizes a risk-free protest by an unhinged mother, instead of the heroism of her dead son. Such is the debasement of our national culture.

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Dowds columns always manage to sound like unhappy libs at a cocktail party. I can picture MD, the life of the party, with a glass of white zinfandel in her hand and a circle of friends nodding in agreement... That type of conversation is almost 100% content free.

I was trying to find the column she wrote in honor of her mother, who passed away a few weeks ago at age 97. The elder Dowd sounded like she'd be fun at a cocktail party.

Ah ... good to have Eric back. That way I doesn't have to smoke ya out by calling the marines a buncha pansies.

Mark Steyn's latest column, posted today (, is an even more comprehensive deconstruction of Sheehan than Hitchens, hilarious and illuminating though that one also is.

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This page contains a single entry by Eric Johnson published on August 16, 2005 2:20 PM.

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