Maureen Dowd Makes Nice With McCain, on Earmarks

Maureen Dowd sides with John McCain, the twittering King Lear, against the overly passive Barack Obama.

Conservatives likes to dump on Times columnist Maureen Dowd, and with ample justification, not just for her silly pop metaphors (George W. Bush as Luke Skywalker, Dick Cheney as Darth Vader) but for journalistic malfeasance, like her deliberate omission of part of a quote by President Bush to make him look ignorant in the war on al Qaeda (a story broken on Times Watch in 2003).

But to be fair, during the Clinton years those same kind of metaphors could pass for profound insights when directed against Hillary Clinton, as in a column Dowd wrote in 1996. Discussing a dinner she had with Hillary Clinton during the 1992 presidential campaign, before her husband won the White House, Dowd was scathing about the disconnect between Hillary's self-servingrole as secular saint,and the vengeful politician lurking behind the scrim:

She told a story about the summer during law school when she went to Alaska and got a job in a fish-processing plant. She was supposed to scoop out the entrails, but she began to get worried about the state of the fish.

They were purple and black and yucky looking," she recalled. She questioned the owner about how long the fish had been dead. He told her to stop asking questions. She didn't and was fired. "I found another job," she said coolly.


Now Mrs. Clinton is the authority, and she doesn't take kindly to being prodded. If anybody notices something yucky about her financial and political entrails they are supposed to trust that she is working for the greater good.

Dowd concluded:

As she must remember, the fish rots from the head down.

In a more serious vein, Dowdcondemned the first lady in an October 2003 column:

Feminism died in 1998 when Hillary allowed henchlings and Democrats to demonize Monica [Lewinsky] as an unbalanced stalker....

Even now, after eight years of slandering the Bush administration, Dowd will occasionally rope her undeniable (if not invulnerable) writing style around a topic conservatives can nod alongg to, as in her latest column, "Stage of Fools," in which she takes up the $7.7 billion of earmarks in Obama's spending bill, while mastering the tricky task of making John McCain look hip and plugged in:

If only Shakespeare had known how to Twitter.

There was a bit of King Lear in the scene on the Senate floor, a stormy, solitary John McCain on "this great stage of fools," as the Bard wrote, railing against both parties and the president in fiery speeches and rapid-fire tweets.

"He's mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf, a horse's health, a boy's love, or a whore's oath," the Fool told Lear.

And he's truly mad that trusts in the promise of a presidential candidate to quell earmarks.

The 72-year-old senator who seemed hopelessly 20th century when he confessed during the campaign that he didn't know how to use a computer or send an e-mail has now mastered the latest technology fad, twittering up a twizzard to tweak his former rival.

Before the Senate resoundingly defeated a McCain amendment on Tuesday that would have shorn 9,000 earmarks worth $7.7 billion from the $410 billion spending bill, the Arizona senator twittered lists of offensive bipartisan pork...

Dowd then went on to list some of the more offensive outlays in the spending bill, along with some of McCain's pungent twitterings in response.

$2 million "for the promotion of astronomy" in Hawaii, as McCain twittered, "because nothing says new jobs for average Americans like investing in astronomy."

Afterwards, she basically called Obama a hypocrite on spending. Dowd was vexed:

In one of his disturbing spells of passivity, President Obama decided not to fight Congress and live up to his own no-earmark pledge from the campaign.

He's been lecturing us on the need to prune away frills while the economy fizzles. He was slated to make a speech on "wasteful spending" on Wednesday.

"You know, there are times where you can afford to redecorate your house and there are times where you need to focus on rebuilding its foundation," he said recently about the "hard choices" we must make. Yet he did not ask Congress to sacrifice and make hard choices; he let it do a lot of frivolous redecorating in its budget.

Dowd named names, including Obama's:

It includes $38.4 million of earmarks sponsored or co-sponsored by President Obama's labor secretary, Hilda Solis; $109 million Hillary Clinton signed on to; and $31.2 million in earmarks sought by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood with colleagues.

(Even Barack Obama was listed as one of the co-sponsors of a $7.7 million pet project for Tribally Controlled Postsecondary Vocational Institutions until he got his name taken off last week.)