“Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” – Sigmund Freud
Maureen Dowd and the New York Times (see "Boy, Oh Boy," 12 Sept 09) have made it official; Barack Obama has been granted ethnic immunity. Like Marion Barry, former mayor and now councilman in the District of Columbia, and Charles Rangel of the House Ways and Means Committee, any criticism of the president’s behavior might be dismissed as racism. Never mind that the president was raised by a white mother and abandoned by a black father. Never mind that he then enjoyed a privileged background which included the best prep school in Hawaii; followed by Ivy League undergraduate and graduate schools. Never mind that our first “black” president does not send his daughters to the self-segregating, all black, District of Columbia public schools. Never mind any of this; the new post-racial, bi-racial president is now just another victim of white racism.
Miss Dowd begins, as many such arguments do, with invective, an ad hominem attack. The purpose of name calling is to poison the well. Thus Joe Wilson (R-SC) is smeared at the outset as a “milquetoast” backbencher. Dowd goes on to say that she didn’t hear Wilson shout “you lie”, she heard him shout “you lie, boy” at the president. Like the thought police, Maureen now reads minds. Put aside, for the moment, Dowd’s vitriolic clairvoyance, which surely says more about her patronizing view of black men than it does about Wilson’s motives. More disturbing is her treatment of the facts. Surely, anyone who calls the president a liar on the floor of the House of Representatives can not possibly be a wimp. Just as surely, if the shout of “liar” could be heard by the President, Speaker Pelosi, and the entire nation, Wilson wasn’t speaking from the any literal or figurative “back bench”. Indeed, the most surprising part of the 9 September confrontation was that the shout of “liar” was only heard once.
If Wilson lacks tact, his candor more than compensates. This is more than we can say for Maureen’s hysterical reaction. She goes on in her column to use every snarky trick in the rhetorical playbook to impugn Representative Wilson’s integrity. We are told that he is a descendant of Confederates, a citizen of South Carolina, and similar innuendo or guilt by association attributed to conservative white males from south of the Mason Dixon. Between calling Obama a “boy” and savaging Wilson for being a southern “white male”, Dowd manages to validate many of the stereotypes about aging liberal spinsters; so much venom, so little time.
Yet, what Miss Dowd didn’t say is even more telling. She doesn’t say anything about the facts that might prove or disprove Wilson’s charge. He shouted “liar” at that point in Obama’s health care pitch where the president claims his bill would not cover illegals. A day or two later, House Democrats quickly inserted language in the healthcare draft to exclude illegals, in effect, giving more than a measure of truth to Wilson’s charges.
Dowd also ignores other distortions like cost, tort reform, and the impacts on Medicare and Medicaid. The most blatant mendacity she ignores might be Obama’s claim that a reordering of 20% of nation’s economy would not “add a dime to the deficit (sic).” Hearing all this, there are three possibilities; Obama is a liar, he is a fool, or he believes he is speaking to idiots. Most of the truth may lay behind door number three. Obama was addressing a joint session of Congress. P.J. O’Rourke has characterized that collective as a “Parliament of Whores”. In contrast, Miss Dowd labels the same forum as a “majestic chamber”. The space between these extremes is filled by opinion polls which now rate American politicians somewhere between the floor and dirt.
Indeed, former President Jimmy Carter has endorsed Dowd’s histrionics. Speaking to NBC’s Brian Williams on 15 September, Carter claimed that race was at the core of opposition to Obama. On the same day that Dowd’s piece appeared, Colbert King at the Washington Post flashed his race card too, capturing the moment with; “It’s all sweet music to the ears of Lee Harvey Oswald wanabees.” When the race card appears, it is often a symptom that someone is losing an argument.
Miss Dowd has made a cottage industry out of conservative cadavers; she has been dining out on the Bush family, in particular, for 20 years. When not conducting séances for the Times, Dowd and her Washington Post colleague, Sally Quinn, preside over Georgetown salons on the left bank of the Potomac. Indeed, if Helen Thomas is the dean of the White House Press Corps; Dowd has earned her giblets as doyenne of the Georgetown chapter of the Obama Girls.
Yet even self-anointed pom pom girls sometimes trip over their laces. Joe Wilson didn’t call the president a “boy”, Maureen Dowd did. In doing do, she resuscitated the original raps against the President – questions about his maturity and competence. Before coming to Washington, Obama had three bullets in his resume; two books about himself and a legislative record of voting “present” on any issue that might threaten his “political viability”. Using race to inoculate Obama against criticism isn’t doing the President any favors.
Indeed, the best advice for Dowd, her sycophants, and the New York Times appeared in the on-line commentary after her 12 September polemic; “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Grow up!”
- G. Murphy Donovan
- The author is a native of the Bronx, a transplant to DC. He is a Vietnam veteran and former USAF Intelligence officer with tours at all of the major 3 button Intelligence agencies. He is a graduate of the Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. School and Cardinal Hayes HS in NYC. He also has several degrees from less illustrious institutions. Check Six writes primarily at G. Murphy Donovan and Agnotology in Journalism. His work has appeared in various political, national security, and Intelligence journals.