Report: Maureen Dowd repeatedly uses gender to mock Democrats

››› ››› LAUREN AUERBACH & TOM ALLISON

A Media Matters for America review of Maureen Dowd's columns since the beginning of 2007 reveals that Dowd frequently characterized Sen. Hillary Clinton as masculine, while portraying Sen. Barack Obama and John Edwards as feminine. By contrast, Dowd rarely feminized the all-male Republican field and, during the period Media Matters reviewed, has never feminized Sen. John McCain, whom she has referred to in one column as a "tough guy[]."

A Media Matters for America review of Maureen Dowd's New York Times columns between January 1, 2007, and June 8, 2008, reveals that Dowd has frequently characterized this election cycle's leading Democratic candidates -- Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and former Sen. John Edwards (NC) -- using gendered language, specifically characterizing Clinton as masculine, and Obama and Edwards as feminine. For example, Dowd wrote on March 3, 2007: "If Hillary is in touch with her masculine side, Barry [Obama] is in touch with his feminine side." On June 4, Dowd asserted: "Barry [Obama] has been trying to shake off Hillary and pivot for quite a long time now, but she has managed to keep her teeth in his ankle and raise serious doubts about his potency. ... Hillary's camp radiated the message that Obama was a sucker who had played by the rules on Florida and Michigan, and then reached an appeasing compromise, and that such a weak sister could never handle Putin or I'm-A-Dinner-Jacket." Besides characterizing Clinton as masculine, Dowd often portrays the New York senator and former first lady as domineering, having called her "Mommie Dearest" and "Mistress Hillary. Dowd also often compares Obama to a child, calling him "boy wonder" and "the Chicago kid." By contrast, Dowd rarely feminized the all-male Republican field, and, during the period Media Matters reviewed, has never feminized Sen. John McCain, whom she has referred to in one column as a "tough guy[]."

Obama

Dowd has described Obama as "the diffident debutante" and "America's pretty boy." She has characterized him and his campaign as seemingly "effete," writing on March 9: "Obama's multiculturalism is a selling point with many Democrats. But his impassioned egghead advisers have made his campaign seem not only out of his control, but effete and vaguely foreign -- the same unflattering light that doomed Michael Dukakis and John Kerry." Similarly, in an April 2 column, Dowd claimed that "[h]is strenuous and inadvertently hilarious efforts to woo working-class folk in Pennsylvania have only made him seem more effete." Later in the column, she wrote: "At the Wilbur chocolate shop in Lititz Monday, he spent most of his time skittering away from chocolate goodies, as though he were a starlet obsessing on a svelte waistline."

Dowd wrote on January 30: "Obama is the more emotionally delicate candidate, and the one who has the more feminine consensus management style, and the not-blinded-by-testosterone ability to object to a phony war." Similarly, on February 24, Dowd claimed:

And when historians trace how her [Clinton's] inevitability dissolved, they will surely note this paradox: The first serious female candidate for president was rejected by voters drawn to the more feminine management style of her male rival.

The bullying and bellicosity of the Bush administration have left many Americans exhausted and yearning for a more nurturing and inclusive style.

Later in the column, Dowd wrote that Clinton "tried once more to cast Obama as a weak sister on his willingness to talk to Raúl Castro" and that "Obama tapped into his inner chick and turned the other cheek."

Further, in a June 4 column, Dowd wrote: "And, even though Democrats were no longer listening, Hillary's camp radiated the message that Obama was a sucker who had played by the rules on Florida and Michigan, and then reached an appeasing compromise, and that such a weak sister could never handle Putin or I'm-A-Dinner-Jacket."

Dowd has also frequently characterized Obama as a child. On March 3, 2007, Dowd compared Obama to a "schoolboy who's being bullied," and later called him "Obambi." Dowd has also referred to him as "the Chicago kid," "Dreamboy," "Boy Wonder," "Wonder Boy," and a "new kid in school." In a December 2, 2007, column, Dowd claimed that, in presidential races, "Americans seek a patriarchal figure. ... But with Barack Obama, this dynamic seems reversed. He seems more like a child prodigy." Dowd wrote:

Customarily in presidential races, Americans seek a patriarchal figure, a strong parent to protect the house from invaders and financial turbulence.

But with Barack Obama, this dynamic seems reversed.

He seems more like a child prodigy. Those enraptured with his gifts urge him on, like anxious parents, trying to pull that sustained, dazzling performance out of him that they believe he's capable of; they are willing to put up with the prodigy's occasional listlessness and crabbiness, his flights of self-regard and self-righteousness. Despite his uneven efforts and distaste for the claws of competition, they can see he is a golden child, one who moves, speaks, smiles and thinks with amazing grace.

Clinton

Dowd called Clinton "The Man," following Clinton's win in the May 6 Indiana primary, writing:

She showed again with her squeaker win in Indiana that for many white working-class men, she is The Man -- more tenacious and less concerned with the judgments of the tony set, economists and editorial writers. Talking up guns, going to the Auto Racing Hall of Fame, speaking from the back of pickup trucks and doing shots of populism with a cynicism chaser, Hillary emerged from a lifetime of government limos to bask as queen of the blue-collar prom.

Dowd also asserted of Clinton's political message: "In Iowa, her national anthem may have been off-key, but her look wasn't. It was an attractive mirror of her political message: man-tailored with a dash of pink femininity." Further, Dowd has repeatedly claimed that Clinton based her votes on Iraq and Iran on her desire to prove her masculinity:

  • On October 10, 2007, Dowd wrote: "It was odd, given her success in the debates conveying the sense that she is the manliest candidate among the Democrats, that she felt she needed to man-up on Iran."
  • Again, on January 9, Dowd claimed:

Gloria Steinem wrote in The Times yesterday that one of the reasons she is supporting Hillary is that she had "no masculinity to prove." But Hillary did feel she needed to prove her masculinity. That was why she voted to enable W. to invade Iraq without even reading the National Intelligence Estimate and backed the White House's bellicosity on Iran.

  • Similarly, on February 24, Dowd asserted:

Hillary was so busy trying to prove she could be one of the boys -- getting on the Armed Services Committee, voting to let W. go to war in Iraq, strong-arming supporters and donors, and trying to out-macho Obama -- that she only belatedly realized that many Democratic and independent voters, especially women, were eager to move from hard-power locker-room tactics to a soft-power sewing circle approach.

Dowd has also frequently compared Clinton to aggressive, ruthless, or violent characters, describing her efforts to obtain the Democratic nomination as "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman," and writing that she "seized the chance to play Godzilla." On June 20, 2007, Dowd claimed that, "like Tony [Soprano], Hillary is so power-hungry that she can justify any thuggish means to get the prize." Similarly, on March 23, Dowd wrote:

It's impossible to imagine The Terminator, as a former aide calls her, giving up. Unless every circuit is out, she'll regenerate enough to claw her way out of the grave, crawl through the Rezko Memorial Lawn and up Obama's wall, hurl her torso into the house and brutally haunt his dreams.

In addition to characterizing Clinton as masculine and aggressive, Dowd has portrayed Clinton as domineering, referring to her as "Mommie Dearest." Of Clinton's "3 a.m." ad, Dowd wrote, "It's rather Mommie Dearest for the first serious female contender to try to give the kiddies nightmares." Similarly, in a November 18, 2007, column, Dowd called Clinton the "debate dominatrix" and "Mistress Hillary," and wrote that "[s]he has continued to flick the whip in debates."

Edwards

Dowd has described Edwards as a "Breck Girl," a "Material Boy," and a "glamour boy[]," and has called him the "Secretary of Hairdressing." In a September 16, 2007, column, Dowd wrote that Edwards and Obama seemed to be "hiding behind their wives' skirts," after asserting that they had "tiptoed around her [Clinton], letting their wives take shots at the front-runner."

Republican candidates

By contrast, Dowd rarely feminized the all-male Republican field, and Media Matters found no instances of her doing so with McCain this election cycle since January 2007. (In her April 30, 2000, column, Dowd compared McCain to Diana Ross and called him "McDiva.")

In a September 9, 2007, column in which Dowd did appear to question the masculinity of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson (as well as President Bush), she also referred to McCain and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani as "tough guys."

Dowd has made several references to Giuliani's appearing in public in women's clothes, and in her January 27, column, she wrote of Giuliani's faltering campaign: "I longed for the Manhattan diva to reprise Maria Callas doing one of her famous Donizetti mad scenes that he loved so much."

But Dowd has also used gendered language in contrasting Democrats with Republicans -- at times suggesting that Giuliani is tougher and more masculine than Obama and Edwards. In her September 16, 2007, column, for example, Dowd juxtaposed Giuliani with the "comely" Obama and Edwards, who -- she wrote -- seemed to be "hiding behind their wives' skirts" in their campaigns against Clinton. Dowd then added: "Enter Rudy. He may wear skirts, but he's not afraid to take down a skirt." She continued:

He put up an ad Friday on his campaign Web site slamming her as a hypocrite for running an antiwar campaign after supporting the president on the authorization for war.

Obama has been trying to make this point for quite a while, but so gingerly that every time he sneaks up on it, Hillary surges ahead.

Rudy doesn't do ginger.

Hillary has been trying to Rudy-up, corralling ground zero and playing the fear card, saying that if there were a terrorist attack before the election, only she could stop Republicans from keeping the White House. But Rudy aims to de-Rudy her. His ad is an instant cult classic, with a solemn trumpet that is reminiscent of "Taps" and a narrator who sounds like the guy who does trailers for "In a World Gone Wrong" disaster flicks.

Just when Hillary was basking in her reinvention of herself, Rudy sprang out of the Republican primary shadows and shoved her back.

He ignores her attempts to be New Hillary, a senator who loves men in uniform, who is not afraid to use military power, and who is tough enough to deal with bin Laden. He recasts her as Old Hillary, a Code Pink pinko first lady and opportunist from a White House that had a reputation for having a flower-child distaste for the military, a left-wing shrew who made a secret socialist health care plan and let gays into the military and certainly can't be trusted to fight the jihadists.

Later in the column, Dowd wrote that while Giuliani can't campaign on policy issues, "he can be the only man in the field tough enough to slap around a woman," adding, "The irony is that if you could loosen up Hillary with a few Jack and gingers, she would probably be closer to her reinvention than to his caricature. She probably secretly supports the surge, knowing that after it sputters, she may reap the whirlwind. And then the Republicans, who have lied, stalled and mismanaged in every way imaginable, will paint her as Ms. Cut and Run, turning her back on the military again."

Similarly, Dowd introduced her November 18, 2007, column, by writing: "The debate dominatrix knows how to rattle Obambi. Mistress Hillary started disciplining her fellow senator last winter, after he began exploring a presidential bid. ... She has continued to flick the whip in debates. She usually ignores Obama and John Edwards backstage, preferring to chat with the so-called second-tier candidates." Dowd concluded her column by stating: "Hillary has her work cut out for her. Rudy will not be so easy to spank."

Media Matters found no instances in which Dowd used gendered language to describe former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

All references to McCain, Giuliani, Romney, Thompson, and Huckabee between January 1, 2007 and June 8, 2008, are listed below.

Date

John McCain

6/8/08

And Hillary did it to Obama's detriment with her female fan base, stirring up such fury that some women are still vowing to jump to John McCain, even if it means voting against their self-interest.

6/4/08

Barry has been trying to shake off Hillary and pivot for quite a long time now, but she has managed to keep her teeth in his ankle and raise serious doubts about his potency. Getting dragged across the finish line Tuesday night by Democrats who had had enough of the rapacious Clintons, who had decided, if it came to it, that they would rather lose with Obama than win with Hillary, the Illinois senator tried to celebrate at the St. Paul arena where Republicans will anoint John McCain in September.

[...]

Clintonologists know that Hillary is up to something, but they aren't sure what. Theory No. 1 is that it's the Cassandra "I told you so" gambit: She believes intensely that he's too black, too weak and too elitist -- with all his salmon and organic tea and steamed broccoli -- to beat her pal John McCain. But she has to pretend she'll do "whatever it takes," even accept the vice presidency, a job she's already had and doesn't want again, so that nobody will blame her when he loses on Nov. 4. Then she can power on to 2012.

Theory No. 2 is that it's a "Bad stuff happens" maneuver, exemplified in her gaffe about the R.F.K. assassination, that she figures that at least if she moves a few blocks from Embassy Row to the Naval Observatory, she'll be a heartbeat away from the job she's always wanted.

Either way, by broadcasting that she's open to being Obama's running mate, she puts public pressure on him similar to the sort of pressure Walter Mondale was under from rampaging feminists when he put Geraldine Ferraro on the ticket. Mondale ended up seeming henpecked, as Obama would seem if he caved to the women who say they will write in Hillary's name or vote for anti-choice McCain before they'd vote for Obama.

5/28/08

"Hey, Bill, please, stop wagging your finger at me. Call off Harold Ickes and the Hillaryland Huns. You're right. I can't win without her. The two of us can clean McCain's grandfather clock."

[Note: This transcript is fictionalized.]

5/25/08

The macabre story of 2008 is that the vice presidential picks are important. On the Republican side, it's because of John McCain's age and history of skin cancer, and that's openly discussed.

5/21/08

"Besides that, Hillary. Seriously, you don't want your delusion to put John McCain in the White House. Or maybe you do. You have no shot. I'm 60 delegates away from nomination nirvana. You should stop stalking me. I come down to Florida for a victory lap and you follow me down here and call for a recount. Look what that did for Al Gore. If you show a shred of common sense and take a powder now, the party will put you on a pedestal."

[...]

"Tell me about it. But he'd be way over on Massachusetts Avenue, a completely different ZIP code than the White House. And Cheney built that underground bunker there, so we'd always have someplace to stash him. If you don't put me on the ticket, I'll signal my faithful to vote for John McCain. He's more fun than you, anyhow."

[Note: This transcript is fictionalized.]

5/14/08

Obama breezed through West Virginia, the state he couldn't charm even wearing a flag pin and promising to invest in "clean coal." Fast Barry shot some pool Monday afternoon at Schultzie's Billiards in South Charleston, including prophetically sinking an eight-ball in the pocket, and then fled from Hillary territory to pursue white, blue-collar workers in battleground states and convince them not to vote for John McBush.

4/27/08

James Clyburn, the influential black congressman from South Carolina, says that some blacks are buying into the 2012 Tonya Harding conspiracy theory: that the Clintons know they can't beat Obama this time, so they are "hell-bound," as Clyburn put it, to shred him so he'll lose to McCain and Hillary will be able to try again in 2012 -- when McCain is 76.

4/23/08

But the Democrats watch in horror as Hillary continues to scratch up the once silvery sheen on Obama, and as John McCain not only consolidates his own party but encroaches on theirs by boldly venturing into Selma, Ala., on Monday to woo black voters.

[...]

The Democrats are eager to move on to an Obama-McCain race. But they can't because no one seems to be able to show Hillary the door. Despite all his incandescent gifts, Obama has missed several opportunities to smash the ball over the net and end the game. Again and again, he has seemed stuck at deuce. He complains about the politics of scoring points, but to win, you've got to score points.

4/20/08

Like Bill, John McCain has his hot-headed flashes and struggles to stay cool.

4/9/08

Many words hovered Tuesday in the Senate - including some pointed ones by the woman and two men vying to be commander in chief. But the words seemed trapped in a labyrinth leading nowhere.

[...]

Condi is too busy floating trial balloons about being John McCain's running mate to bother about the fact that she was instrumental in two historic blunders: 9/11 and Iraq.

[...]

John McCain seemed to repeat his recent confusion over tribes, mistakenly referring to Al Qaeda again as a "sect of Shiites" before correcting himself and saying: "or Sunnis or anybody else."

4/6/08

John McCain's saucy mother says her boy was always a scamp and a hell-raiser. And one of the senator's great charms is that he wore those appellations proudly.

So it was quite disheartening Thursday to see a McCain spokeswoman telling The Associated Press, in a story about how Cindy McCain helped her husband's political career bloom with her multimillion-dollar fortune from the family beer business, that the senator is a virtual teetotaler.

''Senator McCain rarely, if ever, drinks alcohol,'' Jill Hazelbaker averred.

McCain's pals know him as a man who enjoys libations of vodka with little green cocktail olives. Over the years, at dinners with reporters, I noted he had the habit of ordering one double vodka and sipping it slowly. And there was that famous Hillary-McCain Estonian drink-off in 2004, when Hillary instigated a vodka shot contest and McCain agreed with alacrity (even though he later offered a sketchy denial).

Maybe now that he's the presumptive Republican nominee, his campaign wants to put his vices in a vise and sanitize the wild side of the man whose nicknames in high school were ''Punk,'' ''Nasty'' and ''McNasty.''

Next they'll deny he likes to gamble in Vegas (''I'll put $50,000 on Bomb Iran, with 3-to-1 odds''), socialize with liberals and lash out at people who annoy him. (As a toddler, he had ''tiny'' rages. ''I would go off in a mad frenzy and then, suddenly, crash to the floor unconscious,'' he wrote. His parents would drop him into a bathtub of icy water.)

If his campaign is bowdlerizing, let's hope it stops before he's a bland McNice.

[...]

Do we really need McCain obfuscating on drinking, and Obama putting up a smoke screen on smoking?

[...]

In his book and last week's bio-tour, McCain painted himself as a cool bad boy. He was a girl-loving, authority-defying, plane-crashing Top Gun.

In his memoir, Obama played up his vices to depict himself as a cool bad boy, too, recalling that he had smoked pot and done ''a little blow.''

But now the two men are sticking to the straight and narrow. Everyone may imagine that Obama and his press corps spend all their time quaffing Champagne and celebrating the astonishment of his very being. But the candidate is boringly abstemious -- and reporters traveling with him find him aloof. On a 2005 trip to Russia, he priggishly requested that his vodka shot glass be filled with water.

3/30/08

Pas si vite, mon vieux. In terms of style, the Obamas could give Carla Bruni-Sarkozy a run for her euros. And at least Obama is not in a fantasy world on Iraq, as W. and John McCain are, insisting it's improving while we see it exploding.

3/26/08

Even some Clinton loyalists are wondering aloud if the win-at-all-costs strategy of Hillary and Bill -- which continued Tuesday when Hillary tried to drag Rev. Wright back into the spotlight -- is designed to rough up Obama so badly and leave the party so riven that Obama will lose in November to John McCain.

If McCain only served one term, Hillary would have one last shot. On Election Day in 2012, she'd be 65.

Why else would Hillary suggest that McCain would be a better commander in chief than Obama, and why else would Bill imply that Obama was less patriotic -- and attended by more static -- than McCain?

3/23/08

Extolling John McCain as ''an honorable man,'' and talking about McCain's friendship with his wife, the former president told veterans: ''I think it would be a great thing if we had an election year where you had two people who loved this country and were devoted to the interest of this country. And people could actually ask themselves who is right on these issues, instead of all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself on our politics.''

3/16/08

Even though he ordinarily hates being kept waiting, he made light of it while cooling his heels for John McCain, and did a soft shoe for the White House press. Wearing a cowboy hat, he warbled a comic Western ditty at the Gridiron Dinner a week ago -- alluding to Scooter Libby's conviction, Saudis getting richer from our oil-guzzling, Brownie's dismal Katrina performance, and Dick Cheney's winsome habit of withholding documents.

3/9/08

Ma Clinton knows where Obambi's soft spots are; she knows he likes being petted on his pedestal, that he's unnerved by her, and that he can never fully accept how shameless she is. What could be more shameless than suggesting to Democrats that John McCain would make a better commander in chief than Obama?

3/2/08

Obambi-No-More briskly dismissed Hillary's attempt to cast him as a global ingénue. ''Senator Clinton may not be aware, but we already had a red phone moment,'' he said at an outdoor rally here, with the crowd of 8,000 booing at the mention of Hillary's ad. ''It was the decision to invade Iraq. Senator Clinton picked up the phone and gave the wrong answer. And John McCain picked up the phone and gave the wrong answer. And George Bush picked up the phone and gave the wrong answer.''

1/27/08

Watching him in colorful Miami in his funereal dark suit, I wondered, where's the red meat? I missed his showman's appreciation for pouncing on the news of the day and grabbing headlines with some outrageous, provocative aria. Surely, The New York Times's McCain endorsement -- harshly branding America's Mayor ''a narrow, obsessively secretive, vindictive man'' who spurred racial polarization and exploited 9/11 for his business and political purposes -- gave Rudy the lyrics for an operatic rant against The Times that could have replaced his milquetoast stump speech and delighted conservative audiences.

1/6/08

I interviewed three Republicans in the Obama section of the caucus who were ready for the red state, blue state merger. They said they didn't want Hill and Bill back in the White House, and that John McCain was too much of a yes man for W., who had betrayed Republicans with his handling of the Iraq war and his fiscal irresponsibility.

10/14/07

While my hat is not presently in the ring, I should also point out that it is not on my head. So where's that hat? (Hint: John McCain was seen passing one at a gas station to fuel up the Straight Talk Express.)

[Note: In this column, Dowd wrote of Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert: "I called Colbert with a dare: if he thought it was so easy to be a Times Op-Ed pundit, he should try it." This reference to McCain is attributed to Colbert.]

9/12/07

John McCain was standing behind Mr. [Sen. Joe] Biden [D-DE], waiting to sit down for the next hearing -- the Armed Services Committee -- with the witnesses.

First, the Republican presidential candidate smiled archly at having to cool his heels as the Democratic presidential candidate yakked -- sniffing at the Surge that Mr. McCain supports. Then Mr. McCain turned to his G.O.P. colleague Susan Collins and flapped his fingers in the universal hand sign for yakking.

It pretty much said it all.

[...]

Asked by Senator McCain if he was confident that the Maliki government will get the job done, the ambassador said dryly: "My level of confidence is under control."

9/9/07

As Michelle Cottle wrote in The New Republic, far more than puffy-coiffed Mitt and even more than tough guys Rudy and McCain, the burly, 6-foot-5, 65-year-old Mr. Thompson exudes "old-school masculinity."

[...]

Democrats pounced. John Edwards issued a statement saying, "That bin Laden is still at large is Bush's starkest failure." John McCain and Rudy Giuliani also stressed the need to take out Osama.

7/25/07

"W.'s loyalty to Cheney has hurt his presidency," she [Dowd's sister, Peggy] says sadly. "When Cheney picked himself as vice president, W. should have said, 'Bug off.' He could have made his own banquet instead of choosing leftovers. If only he had dialed his father or listened to Powell instead of Cheney and Rumsfeld on Iraq. Not only has W. brought himself down, he's brought down John McCain, who I wanted to support but can't because of the war.

7/11/07

The Iraq war she [Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice] helped sell has turned into Grendel, devouring everything in sight and making it uninhabitable. It has ravaged Iraq, Bush's presidency, the federal budget, the Republican majority, American invincibility and integrity, and now, John McCain's chance to be president.

[...]

It was ironic that his strongest supporter to the bitter end was the Republican who was once his bitter rival. There was speculation that Mr. McCain would come back from his visit to Iraq and revise his bullish support of the war to save his imploding campaign. But the opposite happened.

As his top advisers were purged, Mr. McCain went to the floor of the Senate to reassert his warped view that "there appears to be overall movement in the right direction."

Like W., Senator McCain values the advice of Henry Kissinger and said, "We can find wisdom in several suggestions put forward recently by Henry Kissinger."

Why they continue to seek counsel from the man who kept the Vietnam War going for years just to protect Richard Nixon's electoral chances is beyond mystifying. But Mr. Kissinger holds their attention with all his warnings of "American impotence" emboldening radical Islam and Iran. Can't W. and Mr. McCain see that American muscularity, stupidly thrown around, has already emboldened radical Islam and Iran?

6/20/07

A Los Angeles Times article notes that the paradox of the race is that voters want a Democrat to win, but when they are offered a head-to-head contest between Hillary vs. Rudy, John McCain or Mitt Romney, many switch allegiance to the Republicans. There is, the article said, "a sour aftertaste from controversies of her White House years with President Clinton."

6/10/07

At the memorial for Mark Bingham, the gay 6-foot-5 rugby player who was on Flight 93 on 9/11, John McCain said he might owe his life to the young man who helped fight the hijackers, bringing down the plane aiming to crash into the Capitol.

But Senator McCain wants gay troops to stay closeted. The policy, he said, is "working." But it's not. The Army in Iraq is like that exhausted nag Scarlett O'Hara whipped on to Tara. Yet Republicans surge on, even as they expel gays.

[...]

The Republican field seems stale and out of sync. They should have listened to the inimitable Barry Goldwater, who told it true: You don't have to be straight to shoot straight.

4/21/07

John McCain, who's supposed to be giving it to us straight, has a jaw-dropping herd of consultants to tell him how to do that. Dubbed "the 2007 Full Employment Act for Campaign Consultants," the McCain crew spent $645,000 on fund-raising consultants in the first quarter and $400,000 on political consultants in key states (four in South Carolina alone). His top political adviser, John Weaver, got more than $60,000 in just three months.

4/11/07

The Daddy Party, sick with desire for a daddy, is like a lost child. John McCain, handcuffed to the Surge, announced yesterday he has the support of Henry Kissinger. Why not just drink poison? As the Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi slyly said, "Leave it to Mitt Romney to shoot himself in the foot with a gun he doesn't own."

Rudy Giuliani, already haunted by the specters of Bernard Kerik's corruption and Judy Nathan's conjugal confusion, yesterday made things worse. He did the same thing John McCain did in South Carolina in 2000, a sickening pander the Arizona senator told "60 Minutes" Sunday that he did "for all the wrong reasons." As Marc Santora reports from Montgomery, Rudy said he would leave the decision about whether to fly the Confederate flag over the Alabama State Capitol to the people of Alabama.

2/24/07

(entire column reproduced)

So some guy stands up after John McCain's luncheon speech here yesterday to a group of business types and asks him a question.

"I've seen in the press where in your run for the presidency, you've been sucking up to the religious right," the man said, adding, "I was just wondering how soon do you predict a Republican candidate for president will start sucking up to the old Rockefeller wing of the Republican Party?"

Mr. McCain listened with his eyes downcast, then looked the man in the eye, smiled and replied: "I'm probably going to get in trouble, but what's wrong with sucking up to everybody?" It was a flash of the old McCain, and the audience laughed.

Certainly, the senator has tried to worm his way into the affections of W. and the religious right: the Discovery Institute, a group that tries to derail Darwinism and promote the teaching of intelligent design, helped present the lunch, dismaying liberal bloggers who have tracked Mr. McCain's devolution on evolution.

A reporter asked the senator if his pandering on Roe v. Wade had made him "the darling and candidate of the ultra right wing?" (In South Carolina earlier this week, he tried to get more evangelical street cred by advocating upending Roe v. Wade.) "I dispute that assertion," he replied. "I believe that it was Dr. Dobson recently who said that he prayed that I would not receive the Republican nomination. I was just over at Starbucks this morning. ... I talk everywhere, and I try to reach out to everyone."

But there's one huge group that he's not pandering to: Americans.

Most Americans are sick and tired of watching things go hideously backward in Iraq and Afghanistan, and want someone to show them the way out. Mr. McCain is stuck on the bridge of a sinking policy with W. and Dick Cheney, who showed again this week that there is no bottom to his lunacy. The senator supported a war that didn't need to be fought and is a cheerleader for a surge that won't work.

It has left the Arizona Republican, once the most joyous and spontaneous of campaigners, off balance. He's like a cat without its whiskers. When the moderator broached the subject of Iraq after lunch, Mr. McCain grimaced, stuck out his tongue a little and said sarcastically, "Thanks."

Defending his stance, he sounds like a Bill Gates robot prototype, repeating in a monotone: "I believe we've got a new strategy. ... It can succeed. I can't guarantee success. But I do believe firmly that if we get out now we risk chaos and genocide in the region."

He was asked about Britain's decision to withdraw 1,600 troops from Iraq. "Tony Blair, the prime minister, has shown great political courage," Mr. McCain said. "He has literally sacrificed his political career because of Iraq, my friends," because he thought "it was the right thing to do."

He said he worried that Iranian-backed Shiites were taking more and more control of southern Iraq. (That was probably because the Brits kept peace in southern Iraq all along by giving Iranian-backed Shiites more and more control.) And he noted that the British are sending more troops to Afghanistan, "which is very necessary because we're going to have a very hot spring in Afghanistan."

But then he got back to Tony Blair sacrificing his political career, and it was clear that he was also talking about himself. When a reporter later asked him if Iraq might consume his candidacy, he replied evenly: "Sure."

I asked him whether he got discouraged when he read stories like the one in The Wall Street Journal yesterday about Ahmad Chalabi, the man who helped goad and trick the U.S. into war, who wound up with "a position inside the Iraqi government that could help determine whether the Bush administration's new push to secure Baghdad succeeds."

Or the New York Times article yesterday about a couple of Iraqi policemen who joined American forces on searches in Baghdad, but then turned quisling, running ahead to warn residents to hide their weapons and other incriminating evidence.

He nodded. "One of the big question marks is how the Maliki government will step up to the plate," he said.

And how, I asked him, can Dick Cheney tell ABC News that British troops' getting out is "an affirmation that there are parts of Iraq where things are going pretty well," while he says that Democrats who push to get America out would "validate the Al Qaeda strategy"? Isn't that a nutty contradiction?

But Senator McCain was back on his robo-loop: "I can only express my gratitude for the enormous help that the British have given us."

Sometimes I miss John McCain, even when I'm with him.

2/7/07

That's the straight talk I like to see. No pandering, like Hillary's telling Iowans she likes ethanol, and John McCain's telling Christian conservatives he likes Christian conservatives.

[...]

"They are going to be angry," he [Sen. Biden] agreed. "Republicans are trying to avoid embarrassing the president. If you took a secret ballot, I'd be dumbfounded if 20 senators thought sending 21,500 troops made any sense." He said John McCain wouldn't think it made sense either "because he has called for sending many more."

1/24/07

Vice got an extra dose of unflattering limelight in the debut issue of The Politico, a Capitol Hill publication. In an interview with Roger Simon, John McCain stopped pandering to the White House long enough to lambaste Dick Cheney for stirring a "witch's brew" of a "terribly mishandled" war. What took the brave senator so long?

"The president listened too much to the vice president," he said, adding, "Of course, the president bears the ultimate responsibility, but he was very badly served by both the vice president and, most of all, the secretary of defense."

[...]

In their questioning, Senator Joe Lieberman and Mr. McCain seemed most interested in enlisting the general's prestige for their own campaign to discredit colleagues in both parties who are tired of passively watching W.'s disaster unfold.

If the Senate sends the additional troops but conveys the belief they cannot succeed, Mr. McCain asked, "what effect does that have on the morale of your troops?"

1/6/07

If W. is trapped on a tiger, he's not the only one.

John McCain can't get beyond seeing himself as a maverick now that he's become a nonmaverick, a right-wing Republican urging an escalation of a hopeless war, even though he's already lived through an escalation of a hopeless war.

"There are two keys to any surge in U.S. troops," Senator McCain told an appreciative audience at the American Enterprise Institute yesterday. "It must be substantial, and it must be sustained."

Date

Rudy Giuliani

1/27/08

I expected more of Rudy.

Not a better message. It figured that he would snowbird his strategy, taking his New York subtext of blacks-want-to-mug-you-and-I-can-protect-you down to Florida and switching it to Arabs-want-to-kill-you-and-I-can-save-you.

And I wasn't surprised that he continued to run on fear and divisiveness, zeroing in on Florida the way he used to target Staten Island, Bay Ridge, Queens and parts of Manhattan where the elderly lived. Hizzoner always focused on those who supported him and ignored those who didn't.

I simply expected that Rudy would rise to greater heights as he fell behind, that he would self-immolate in a dramatic way befitting a man who loves opera and the ''Godfather'' movies. I longed for the Manhattan diva to reprise Maria Callas doing one of her famous Donizetti mad scenes that he loved so much.

Watching him in colorful Miami in his funereal dark suit, I wondered, where's the red meat? I missed his showman's appreciation for pouncing on the news of the day and grabbing headlines with some outrageous, provocative aria. Surely, The New York Times's McCain endorsement -- harshly branding America's Mayor ''a narrow, obsessively secretive, vindictive man'' who spurred racial polarization and exploited 9/11 for his business and political purposes -- gave Rudy the lyrics for an operatic rant against The Times that could have replaced his milquetoast stump speech and delighted conservative audiences.

And how could he pass up the chance to mock his old nemesis Hillary, the feminist icon who is totally dependent on her husband to do the heavy lifting?

[...]

Facing possible catastrophe last week, Rudy stolidly stuck with peddling a plan for a national catastrophe fund that would make property owners' insurance more affordable to Floridians whose rates have been driven up by hurricanes. (Doesn't the man who attacks Hillary for socialized medicine worry that this is socialized homeowners' insurance?)

His deep investment in one state and a one-dimensional message do not seem to have paid dividends. He needs to quit talking about 9/11 and dial 911. His numbers have dropped by half in the year he has campaigned here. The more he has wooed, the less he has won. His campaign may have always been doomed, given that he was unacceptable to so many other Republicans. But the final act seems sad -- sputtering, stalling and dying like a bad engine on an old car.

Could it be over before the fat lady sings? If early-bird voters don't save him and he comes in third here, will he get out of the race so he doesn't suffer the indignity of losing New York, a scene so melodramatically implausible that even Verdi wouldn't try to pull it off?

One top Democrat, shocked that Rudy had run a race so minimalist that it would make a front-porch campaign look expansive, wondered if it was really some ploy to pump up his business. And perhaps his low-energy windup was meant to maintain dignity for Giuliani Partners.

At a Rudy rally in Boca on Thursday, there were snowbirds and transplanted New Yorkers. Some, naturally, loved Rudy and some, naturally, loathed him.

Ed Wenger, 65, a retired aerospace executive who used to live in Long Island, hailed the former mayor as ''fantastic.'' ''He turned Times Square from a hooker's paradise to Disneyland,'' he said.

Nearby, Norman Korowitz, 66, a snowbird, retired guidance counselor and Billary fan from Suffolk County, called Rudy ''an optical illusion.''

''He's Bernie Kerik's partner,'' he said. ''And family values? He makes Bill Clinton look like a young upstart.''

11/18/07

Other guys, like Rudy, wouldn't even be looking for a chance to greet Hillary, as Obama always does. Other guys, like Rudy, wouldn't care if she iced them.

[...]

If Rudy's the nominee, he will go with relish to all the vulnerable places in Hillary's past. At the Federalist Society on Friday, he had barely spoken the word ''she'' before the audience began tittering appreciatively.

He went through a whole faux-bemused riff on Hillary's driver's license twists without ever uttering her name: ''First, she was for the idea, and supported Governor Spitzer, who wanted to give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. Then she was against the idea. Then she was for and against the idea. And then finally she said it should be decided on a state-by-state basis. This is the only time in her career that she's ever decided anything should be decided on a state-by-state basis. You know something? She picked out absolutely the wrong one. Right? I mean, this is one of the areas that is given to the federal government to deal with under our Constitution, the borders of the United States, immigration.''

Rudy laced his speech with faith references, including the assertion that America has ''a divinely inspired role in the world'' and a mission to ''save a civilization from Islamic terrorism.''

Hillary has her work cut out for her. Rudy will not be so easy to spank.

11/11/07

Bernard Kerik and his old pal Rudy Giuliani had the good luck to have Mr. Kerik's corruption indictment handed up after the TV zone of ridicule was blacked out.

10/31/07

Few are concerned that Hillary is strong enough for the job. She is cold-eyed about wanting power and raising money and turning everything about her life into a commodity. Yet, the characteristics that are somewhat troubling are the same ones that convincingly show she will do what it takes to beat Obama and Rudy. She will not be soft or vulnerable. She will not melt in a crisis.

10/28/07

RUSSERT: Conservatives are tossing around some lock-and-load language. The president is talking about Iran sparking a ''nuclear holocaust'' and World War III. Giuliani adviser Norman Podhoretz thinks we're in World War IV. Shouldn't you at least give the new sanctions against Iran a chance to work?

[...]

CHENEY: You really want Rudy Giuliani playing with the nuclear button, Tim? Now, that's insane.

[Note: This transcript is fictionalized.]

10/24/07

Or World War IV, as Norman Podhoretz, a neocon who is a top Giuliani adviser, says. Podhoretz urges bombing Iran ''as soon as it is logistically possible'' and likened Ahmadinejad to Hitler, as Poppy Bush did with Saddam.

Rudy is using his more martial attitude toward Iran as a weapon against Hillary, painting her as a delicate ditherer on the topic, and Obama is using his more diplomatic attitude toward Iran as a weapon against Hillary, painting her as a triangulator and a two-time administration patsy.

10/17/07

''I don't know if you've noticed this about the Democratic debates,'' Rudy Giuliani said, ''but they never use the word 'Islamic terrorist.' Ever.''

''They have a very hard time getting those words out of their mouth,'' he continued, to the delight of his listeners. ''I think it's quite clear to me now, having listened to seven or eight of their debates, that they think it's politically incorrect to say the words. I don't know exactly who they think they're offending. I don't know what kind of view of the world they have. I understand when I say 'Islamic terrorism,' I'm not offending all of Islam. I'm not offending all of the Arab world. I'm offending exactly who I want to offend and making it clear to them that we stand against them.''

As the phlegmatic Fred Thompson plummeted in the polls and made a lackluster appearance at the forum, a juiced Mr. Giuliani preened in front of an audience that loved him.

He went through his greatest hits: The time he yanked Yasir Arafat out of Lincoln Center during a performance of Beethoven's Ninth. ''The thing that really bothered me was, he didn't have a ticket,'' Rudy recalled. ''He was a freeloader!''

The time he tossed back a $10 million check for 9/11 families from the Saudi prince who urged America to ''adopt a more balanced stance toward the Palestinian cause.''

''You know, Israel's not perfect, and America's not perfect, but we're not terrorist states,'' he said.

There has been much discussion about liberal Rudy stances on guns, gays, abortion, divorce and comic cross-dressing that are well-suited to Manhattan but not to G.O.P. primary voters. But there's also his bearhug with Israel, so hearty that even W.'s embrace seems tepid in comparison.

But Rudy seems out of the Republican mainstream on even giving lip-service to Palestinian aspirations. He has no patience for buttering up the Arabs, or the Republican men's club attitude represented by Saudi-loving Bush senior and James Baker that has always favored a more ''even-handed'' policy in the Middle East.

[...]

W. blew off the Baker-Hamilton panel suggestions on Iraq that urged the administration to aggressively referee the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, to begin negotiations with Iran and Syria and called for Israel to return the Golan Heights to Syria. Imagine what Rudy would do.

Even though he has been closer to Israel than his dad, at least W. held the Saudi crown prince's hand in Crawford. (Bush senior and Dick Cheney were very tight with Saudi Prince Bandar. At a party at the vice president's mansion once, I watched Bandar greet waiters like old friends.)

Rudy would probably only take the hand of an Arab leader to throw him down a ravine, or a wadi.

''We need to isolate the terror-funding theocrats in every way possible,'' he told the Jewish hawks, during a rant on Iran. ''And we must end direct and indirect investment until they change their course.''

Rudy lambasted Hillary and Obama for their ''strong Democratic desire to negotiate, negotiate, negotiate and negotiate,'' and suggested again that he would be tougher on Iran than Hillary, and would never let it get a nuclear weapon.

Last night, when he and Judi were interviewed by Fox's Sean Hannity, Rudy ratcheted it up, saying that Hillary's ''ambiguity'' and ''shifting of position'' on Iran was ''a dangerous tendency, I think, in somebody that aspires to take on a position where you have got to be pretty darn decisive.''

He also bored in where Obama has been skittish about going: her experience. ''Honestly, in most respects, I don't know Hillary's experience. She's never run a city. She's never run a state. She's never run a business. She has never met a payroll. She has never been responsible for the safety and security of millions of people, much less even hundreds of people.''

He assured everyone he'd learned how to put his cellphone on vibrate. But he left himself at full volume.

10/14/07

Or Rudy Giuliani. I can't remember if I'm supposed to support him because he's the one who can beat Hillary if she gets nominated, or if I'm supposed to support him because he's legitimately scary.

[Note: In this column, Dowd wrote of Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert: "I called Colbert with a dare: if he thought it was so easy to be a Times Op-Ed pundit, he should try it." This reference to McCain is attributed to Colbert.]

10/10/07

But maybe she [Clinton] knows that Rudy will hurl thunderbolts at her, as he did in the debate yesterday, suggesting that she doesn't have the guts to use a military option to stop Iran from going nuclear.

9/23/07

The press piled into a hall near a pile of N.R.A. swag bags to watch Rudy stride into the ballroom.

Would the tough guy kowtow to the powerful lobby he once lambasted as extremist?

Would he have an epiphany about the Second Amendment -- the way he did about the First when he blew a gasket over that painting of the Madonna daubed with elephant dung -- and reinterpret the Bill of Rights to suit his needs?

The heat was on.

[...]

Rudy was going to have to think fast to keep up with that. He kept it simple, selling himself as the Gotham crime fighter, "because, after all, if you don't have a reasonable degree of safety, you can't exercise your other rights: the right of free speech ... even your right to bear arms is all based on a reasonable degree of safety that you have to have."

It's an interesting bit of casuistry: I'm going to make you safe by enforcing gun laws in case you want guns to keep you safe. Also, given that he was criticized for undermining free speech at the first sign of a little dung, his audience might not have been reassured.

Asked about a lawsuit he initiated in New York against American handgun manufacturers, Rudy said that 9/11 "cast somewhat of a different light" on Second Amendment rights. He said that "maybe it highlights the necessity for them more."

What, exactly, is that different light? You need some assault weapons to shoot at terrorists planting dirty bombs beneath your tulips?

In the end, no one was deconstructing Rudy's swerving stance because they were too busy obsessing on his strange interlude with his cell. Right in the middle of a disquisition about a legal decision underscoring the doctrine that "a person's home is their castle," the tiara-crowned queen of Rudy's castle called.

''Hello, dear,'' he said, with his toothy grin.

To the amazement of the audience, he interrupted his speech to have a lovey-dovey chat with Judi, who was about to get on a plane back from London.

After telling her that he was talking to the N.R.A. -- a big speech that you would imagine she would know about, and not want to interrupt -- he asked if she wanted to give a shout out to the gun-lovers and then paused while she spoke to him.

After saying ''I love you'' twice and signing off with another ''dear,'' he joked to the audience that he would have been in trouble if he hadn't taken the call, noting that ''this is one of the great blessings of the modern age, being always available. Or maybe it isn't; I'm not sure.''

It almost made Bill and Hillary seem like a model of normalcy. Almost.

The odd interval triggered a fusillade of analysis: was it creepy, cute, staged, spontaneous, rude, awkward or downright weird? Shouldn't Rudy have left the phone with an aide, or silenced it?

Was this a harbinger that President Rudy would interrupt other important stuff to talk to Judi in the White House? If Ahmadinejad goes crazy -- O.K., more crazy -- would Rudy be focused like a laser, or would he take a call from Judi about whether she could redecorate Air Force One in Louis Vuitton?

First The Times's Marc Santora noted that it wasn't the first time Rudy had interrupted an appearance to take a call from his Princess Bride, as Vanity Fair dubbed her. He did the same thing in June in Hialeah, Fla., with more mushy talk during a rally.

This suggests either that Friday's call was staged to humanize the dictatorial former mayor, or that Rudy is afraid of Judi's digital wrath, or that the candidate is still struggling with how to integrate his third wife into his campaign, after her puppy-killing, husband-hiding, cabinet-sitting rough start.

[...]

Who knows? It might be a valuable lesson for Rudy that guns and marriage don't mix.

9/16/07

It's on.

Or, rather, it's back on.

Rudy versus Hillary, a New York steel-cage match pitting two eye-gouging, hair-pulling, kick-em-till-they're-dead brawlers.

[...]

Enter Rudy. He may wear skirts, but he's not afraid to take down a skirt.

He put up an ad Friday on his campaign Web site slamming her as a hypocrite for running an antiwar campaign after supporting the president on the authorization for war.

Obama has been trying to make this point for quite a while, but so gingerly that every time he sneaks up on it, Hillary surges ahead.

Rudy doesn't do ginger.

Hillary has been trying to Rudy-up, corralling ground zero and playing the fear card, saying that if there were a terrorist attack before the election, only she could stop Republicans from keeping the White House. But Rudy aims to de-Rudy her. His ad is an instant cult classic, with a solemn trumpet that is reminiscent of "Taps" and a narrator who sounds like the guy who does trailers for "In a World Gone Wrong" disaster flicks.

Just when Hillary was basking in her reinvention of herself, Rudy sprang out of the Republican primary shadows and shoved her back.

He ignores her attempts to be New Hillary, a senator who loves men in uniform, who is not afraid to use military power, and who is tough enough to deal with bin Laden. He recasts her as Old Hillary, a Code Pink pinko first lady and opportunist from a White House that had a reputation for having a flower-child distaste for the military, a left-wing shrew who made a secret socialist health care plan and let gays into the military and certainly can't be trusted to fight the jihadists.

[...]

Rudy has decided that the best way to win his primary is to show he can beat the woman on the way to winning hers.

He can't campaign on family values or the sanctity of marriage. He can't whip up any fears on abortion or gays.

He can't campaign on his plan to get out of Iraq because he doesn't have one. He can't campaign as the tough-guy heir to Bush because nobody likes Bush. He can't campaign on attacking Iran because he'll sound like crazy Dick Cheney.

He can't campaign on the economy because he's W. redux, facing a possible recession because of the mortgage crisis. He can't campaign on Rudy's from-the-mountaintop "12 Commitments" because no one knows what they are, and they don't mention the word "Iraq."

But he can be the only man in the field tough enough to slap around a woman.

The irony is that if you could loosen up Hillary with a few Jack and gingers, she would probably be closer to her reinvention than to his caricature. She probably secretly supports the surge, knowing that after it sputters, she may reap the whirlwind. And then the Republicans, who have lied, stalled and mismanaged in every way imaginable, will paint her as Ms. Cut and Run, turning her back on the military again.

9/9/07

As Michelle Cottle wrote in The New Republic, far more than puffy-coiffed Mitt and even more than tough guys Rudy and McCain, the burly, 6-foot-5, 65-year-old Mr. Thompson exudes "old-school masculinity."

[...]

Democrats pounced. John Edwards issued a statement saying, "That bin Laden is still at large is Bush's starkest failure." John McCain and Rudy Giuliani also stressed the need to take out Osama.

6/20/07

A Los Angeles Times article notes that the paradox of the race is that voters want a Democrat to win, but when they are offered a head-to-head contest between Hillary vs. Rudy, John McCain or Mitt Romney, many switch allegiance to the Republicans. There is, the article said, "a sour aftertaste from controversies of her White House years with President Clinton."

6/10/07

At the G.O.P. debate in New Hampshire last week, the contenders were more homophobic than the mobsters on "The Sopranos," unanimously supporting the inane "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Even Rudy Giuliani, who loves to cross-dress and who stayed with old friends, a gay couple, to avoid Gracie Mansion when his second marriage was disintegrating, had an antediluvian answer.

Wolf Blitzer asked him about the Arabic linguists trained by the government who have been ousted from the military after being outed.

Mr. Giuliani, who procured three deferments to avoid Vietnam, replied that, with the war in Iraq raging, "This is not the time to deal with disruptive issues like this."

If he's so concerned with disruptive issues, maybe he should start worrying about this one: Two straight guys who slithered out of going to Vietnam are devising a losing strategy in Iraq year after year. W. and Dick Cheney have fouled things up so badly that Robert Gates and Tony Snow are now pointing to South Korea -- where American troops have stayed for over half a century -- as a model.

Mitt Romney agreed with Rudy on the issue. Instead of going to Vietnam, Mr. Romney spent two and a half years doing Mormon missionary work in France. Isn't that like doing Peace Corps work in Monte Carlo?

[...]

The Republican field seems stale and out of sync. They should have listened to the inimitable Barry Goldwater, who told it true: You don't have to be straight to shoot straight.

5/6/07

On stage, she [former French presidential candidate Ségolène Royal] channeled a divine aura, levitating her arms like a Blessed Virgin statue, presenting herself as a glowing beacon against the forces of darkness, a k a Nicolas Sarkozy. In the Ségosphere, the right-wing front-runner is a brute, Rudy Giuliani without the restraint, while she is a healer. She consciously casts herself as Marianne, the symbol of France -- playing "La Marseillaise" at rallies -- but comes across more like Marianne Williamson, the New Age spirituality guru, going for the chakra vote.

4/21/07

Americans have revered such homely leaders as Abe Lincoln. They seem open to balding pates like Rudy's and flattops like Jon Tester's. They don't want self-confidence to look like self-love.

4/11/07

Rudy Giuliani, already haunted by the specters of Bernard Kerik's corruption and Judy Nathan's conjugal confusion, yesterday made things worse. He did the same thing John McCain did in South Carolina in 2000, a sickening pander the Arizona senator told "60 Minutes" Sunday that he did "for all the wrong reasons." As Marc Santora reports from Montgomery, Rudy said he would leave the decision about whether to fly the Confederate flag over the Alabama State Capitol to the people of Alabama.

1/3/07

Hillary's bubble was full of mockery for another New Yorker in the National Cathedral: "You think you're so smart, Rudy, but you leave your entire presidential battle plan in a hotel room for your rivals to find? The victim role doesn't suit you."

Date

Mitt Romney

4/6/08

Americans, after all, don't trust candidates without any vices. They got turned off by the picture-perfect Mitt Romney, whose khakis were never wrinkled and whose hair stayed eerily in place even while he was jogging in a campaign commercial.

3/19/08

Certainly, Senator Obama was exercising sophisticated damage-control on his problem with Jeremiad [sic] Wright. But he did not pander as Mitt Romney did with his very challenging speech about Mormonism, or market-test his own convictions, as most politicians do.

1/27/08

It was Mitt Romney who scored the best Hillary line at the Boca debate. When Tim Russert asked him, ''How would you run against Hillary and Bill Clinton in November,'' Mitt replied: ''I frankly can't wait, because the idea of Bill Clinton back in the White House with nothing to do is something I just can't imagine. I can't imagine the American people can imagine.''

The audience laughed and Russert tried to pin down Mitt to see if he was implying any East Wing shenanigans. It does conjure up a disquieting image of Hillary in the Oval and Bill rambling around next door in the study right near that pantry. Romney has slyly used the word ''intern'' at least twice talking about Hillary, saying he had more business experience than she did and the White House was ''not a place for a president to be an intern.'' But slick Mitt slid away from Russert, replying, ''I just think that we want to have a president, not a whole -- a team of husband and wife thinking that they're going to run the country.''

Previewing a Republican race in the fall, he went on: ''She is Washington to the core. She's been there too long. Bill Clinton's been there too long. The last thing America needs is sending the Clintons back to Washington.'' Then he stole an Obama line, to go along with the Obama change mantra he snitched and put on posters, adding, ''Look, sending the same people back to Washington expecting a different result is not going to get America on track.''

12/19/07

Limbaugh finished up with this: ''Let me give you a picture, just to think about. ... The campaign is Mitt Romney vs. Hillary Clinton in our quest in this country for visual perfection, hmm?''

[...]

Mitt Romney, Barack Obama and John Edwards almost always look good, and pretty much the same, in dark suits or casual wear. Fred Thompson always looks crepuscular and droopy. Often Hillary looks great, and sometimes she looks tired, heavier or puffier. Jim Cole, The Associated Press photographer who took the offending shot, said that there were several other pictures that day where she looked ''radiant.''

12/9/07

You'd think Catholics, who watched with trepidation as J.F.K. battled prejudice, would be sympathetic to Mitt Romney.

But even for those of us in religions that were once considered cults by other religions -- my mom and another Catholic girlfriend actually had Southern Protestants ask them to lift up their hair so they could see the mark of the devil or the horns -- Mormonism is opaque.

Now in addition to asking candidates about boxers or briefs, we have reporters asking Mitt Romney if he wears The Garment, the sacred one-piece, knee-length underwear with Mormon markings and strict disposal rules.

''I'll just say those sorts of things I'll keep private,'' he told The Atlantic.

One of my Republican brothers told me he wished he could vote for ''a Protestant Mitt Romney.''

[...]

I called Mr. [Jon] Krakauer -- who also wrote the best sellers ''Into Thin Air'' and ''Into the Wild'' -- to get his opinion of Mitt's religion speech.

Mormons see themselves as the one true religion, and don't buy all of the New Testament, he said, ''which makes it curious why Mitt thinks evangelical Christians are his allies.''

[...]

The problem with Mitt is not his religion; it is his overeager policy shape-shifting. He did not give a brave speech, but a pandering one. Disguised as a courageous, Kennedyesque statement of principle, the talk was really just an attempt to compete with the evolution-disdaining, religion-baiting Huckabee and get Baptists to concede that Mormons are Christians.

''J.F.K.'s speech was to reassure Americans that he wasn't a religious fanatic,'' Mr. Krakauer agreed. ''Mitt's was to tell evangelical Christians, 'I'm a religious fanatic just like you.'''

[...]

Mitt was right when he said that ''Americans do not respect believers of convenience.'' Now if he would only admit he's describing himself.

9/23/07

Would he pull a Romney and pretend to be an avid hunter of small varmints?

[...]

The episode also provided ammunition to Mitt Romney's camp, which sensed an opportunity to highlight their candidate's scary-perfect wife and scary-perfect kids. They found video of the first cellus interruptus and sent reporters links to YouTube clips of both calls.

9/9/07

As Michelle Cottle wrote in The New Republic, far more than puffy-coiffed Mitt and even more than tough guys Rudy and McCain, the burly, 6-foot-5, 65-year-old Mr. Thompson exudes "old-school masculinity."

6/20/07

A Los Angeles Times article notes that the paradox of the race is that voters want a Democrat to win, but when they are offered a head-to-head contest between Hillary vs. Rudy, John McCain or Mitt Romney, many switch allegiance to the Republicans. There is, the article said, "a sour aftertaste from controversies of her White House years with President Clinton."

6/10/07

Be honest. Who would you rather share a foxhole with: a gay soldier or Mitt Romney?

A gay soldier, of course. In a dicey situation like that, you need someone steadfast who knows who he is and what he believes, even if he's not allowed to say it out loud.

Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue, as the gloriously gay Oscar Wilde said. And gays are the sacrifice that hypocritical Republican candidates offer to placate ''values'' voters -- even though some candidates are not so finicky about morals regarding their own affairs and divorces.

They may coo over the photo of Dick Cheney, whose re-election campaign demonized gays, proudly smiling with his new grandson, the first baby of his lesbian daughter, Mary.

But they'll hold the line, by jiminy, against gay Americans who are willing to die or be horribly disfigured in the cursed Bush/Cheney war in Iraq.

[...]

Mitt Romney agreed with Rudy on the issue. Instead of going to Vietnam, Mr. Romney spent two and a half years doing Mormon missionary work in France. Isn't that like doing Peace Corps work in Monte Carlo?

[...]

The Republican field seems stale and out of sync. They should have listened to the inimitable Barry Goldwater, who told it true: You don't have to be straight to shoot straight.

4/21/07

Obviously, there's a lot of waste in political campaigns. But you don't have to be as flinty as Mitt Romney -- who has made his staff triple up at cheap hotels -- to know there's something special about throwing away money on vanity.

4/11/07

The Daddy Party, sick with desire for a daddy, is like a lost child. John McCain, handcuffed to the Surge, announced yesterday he has the support of Henry Kissinger. Why not just drink poison? As the Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi slyly said, "Leave it to Mitt Romney to shoot himself in the foot with a gun he doesn't own."

Date

Fred Thompson

12/19/07

Mitt Romney, Barack Obama and John Edwards almost always look good, and pretty much the same, in dark suits or casual wear. Fred Thompson always looks crepuscular and droopy. Often Hillary looks great, and sometimes she looks tired, heavier or puffier. Jim Cole, The Associated Press photographer who took the offending shot, said that there were several other pictures that day where she looked ''radiant.''

10/17/07

As the phlegmatic Fred Thompson plummeted in the polls and made a lackluster appearance at the forum, a juiced Mr. Giuliani preened in front of an audience that loved him.

10/14/07

And Fred Thompson. In my opinion ''Law & Order'' never sufficiently explained why the Manhattan D.A. had an accent like an Appalachian catfish wrestler.

[Note: In this column, Dowd wrote of Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert: "I called Colbert with a dare: if he thought it was so easy to be a Times Op-Ed pundit, he should try it." This reference to McCain is attributed to Colbert.]

9/23/07

Fred Thompson had already spoken to the group, recalling palling around with Charlton Heston, shooting skeet with some good ol' boys from the N.R.A., and hanging out at gun stores and gun shows.

After guns, sports, Moses and a reference to his young 'uns, there was only one other ingredient needed for Flintstone Fred's testosterone cocktail: a sexy blonde. Introducing his wife, Jeri, he drawled, "I think she'd make a much better first lady than Bill Clinton."

9/9/07

(entire column reproduced)

Dying for a daddy, the Republicans turn their hungry eyes to Fred.

Fred Thompson acts tough on screen. And like Ronald Reagan, he has a distinctively masculine timbre and an extremely involved wife.

In his announcement video, Mr. Thompson stood in front of a desk in what looked like, duh, a law office, rumbling reassuringly that in this "dangerous time" he would deal with "the safety and security of the American people."

As Michelle Cottle wrote in The New Republic, far more than puffy-coiffed Mitt and even more than tough guys Rudy and McCain, the burly, 6-foot-5, 65-year-old Mr. Thompson exudes "old-school masculinity."

"In Thompson's presence (live or on-screen)," she wrote, "one is viscerally, intimately reassured that he can handle any crisis that arises, be it a renegade Russian sub or a botched rape case." But she wondered, was he really "enough of a man for this fight," or just someone who meandered through life, creating the illusion of a masculine mystique?

Newsweek reported that some close to the Tennessean "question whether moving into the White House is truly Thompson's life ambition -- or more the dream of his second wife, Jeri, a former G.O.P. operative who is his unofficial campaign manager and top adviser."

It took only two days of campaigning to answer the masculine mystique question. Fred gave an interview to CNN's John King as his bus rolled through Iowa.

"To what degree should the American people hold the president of the United States responsible for the fact that bin Laden is still at large six years later?" Mr. King asked.

"I think bin Laden is more of a symbolism than he is anything else," Mr. Thompson drawled. "Bin Laden being in the mountains of Afghanistan or -- or Pakistan is not as important as the fact that there's probably Al Qaeda operatives inside the United States of America."

Usually, you can only get that kind of exquisitely inane logic from the president. Who does Fred think is sending operatives or inspiring them to come?

Fred is not Ronnie; he's warmed-over W. President Reagan always knew who the foe was.

Fred followed W.'s nutty lead of marginalizing Osama on a day when TV showed another creepy, fruitcake manifesto by the terrorist, who was wearing what seemed to be a fake beard left over from Woody Allen's "Bananas" and bloviating on everything from the subprime mortgage crisis to the "woes" of global warming to a Kennedy assassination conspiracy theory to the wisdom of Noam Chomsky to the unwisdom of Richard Perle to the heartwarming news that Muslims have lived with Jews and not "incinerated them" to the need to "continue to escalate the killing and fighting" against American kids in Iraq.

Can we please get someone in charge who will stop whining that Osama is hiding in "harsh terrain," hunt him down and blast him forward to the Stone Age?

Fred must have missed the news of the administration's intelligence estimate in July deeming Al Qaeda rejuvenated and "a persistent and evolving terrorist threat" to Americans.

Pressed by Mr. King on the fact that the Bush hawks went after Saddam instead of Osama, Fred continued to sputter: "You -- you're -- you're not served up these issues one at a time. They -- they come when they come, and you have to -- you have to deal with them."

Democrats pounced. John Edwards issued a statement saying, "That bin Laden is still at large is Bush's starkest failure." John McCain and Rudy Giuliani also stressed the need to take out Osama.

Fred quickly caved on the matter of men in caves. At a rally later in the day he manned up. "Apparently Osama bin Laden has crawled out of his cave long enough to send another video and he is getting a lot of attention," he said, "and ought to be caught and killed."

He continued to insist that killing bin Laden would not end the terrorist threat, without realizing that this is true now because, by not catching bin Laden, W. allowed him to explode into an inspirational force for jihadists.

Republicans are especially eager for a papa after their disappointing experiences with Junior. After going through so many shattering disasters, W. seems more the inexperienced kid than ever.

In Australia, the president called Australian soldiers in Iraq "Austrian troops," and got into a weird to-and-fro on TV with the South Korean president.

W. cooperated with Ropert Draper, the author of a new biography of him, yet the portrait was not flattering. Like a frat president sitting around with the brothers trying to figure out whether to party with Tri-Delts or Thetas, W. asked his advisers for a show of hands last year to see if Rummy should stay on. And W. is obsessed with getting the Secret Service to arrange his biking trails.

"What kind of male," one of his advisers wondered aloud, "obsesses over his bike riding time, other than Lance Armstrong or a 12-year-old boy?"

7/8/07

He loves Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, who once defended the right of rich pols like him to talk about poor people. He says he's seen his fellow Southern lawyer Fred Thompson on "Law & Order" a time or two when flipping channels to get to sports. "I'm a huge Tar Heels fan," he says. "I know way too much about basketball and football."

7/4/07

"You focus on the big stuff, sweetcakes. I'll just be hanging with Vernon in the East Wing, or maybe in a suite at Blair House, organizing some spouse retreats. I think I could learn a lot from Cécilia Sarkozy. French, after all, is the language of diplomacy. And I could do some bipartisan outreach with, oh, I don't know, maybe Fred Thompson's wife? She seems smart."

[Note: This transcript is fictionalized.]

Date

Mike Huckabee

12/9/07

The problem with Mitt is not his religion; it is his overeager policy shape-shifting. He did not give a brave speech, but a pandering one. Disguised as a courageous, Kennedyesque statement of principle, the talk was really just an attempt to compete with the evolution-disdaining, religion-baiting Huckabee and get Baptists to concede that Mormons are Christians.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Gender
Network/Outlet
The New York Times
Person
Maureen Dowd
Stories/Interests
John Edwards, Barack Obama, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
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