When the New York Times launched its ill-fated TimesSelect plan, which placed all of the newspaper’s columnists and editorials behind a paywall on its website, it was a mixed blessing. On one hand, this maneuver deprived most of America of All the Opinionators Fit to Print™. On the other, most of America didn’t want to read the New York Times’s opinion section.
To credit of the Times, when the paper recently gave up on TimesSelect, the paywall came down like the walls of Jericho, opening up the paper’s archives to all. But like Jericho’s piercing trumpets, the paper’s stable of oped contributors loudly announced their return to the national conversation.
Back is David Brooks: “You’ve never heard of Exurb? That’s because I made it up!”; Thomas L. Friedman: “In case you didn’t notice, that’s a metaphor for globalization — I’ll come back to it a few hundred more times, just so we’re on the same page”; Nicholas Kristof: “I know reading the African horror story du jour will merely assuage your liberal guilt because you think you’re so damn aware, but take your medicine anyway”; Bob Herbert: “You don’t know who I am? I write for the Times, or so they tell me”; and Paul Krugman: “As a trained economist, this statistical regression clearly shows that my certitude directly correlates to my insufferability quotient.”
But the biggest change has been the return of the most “colorful” writer in the Times’s stable, Maureen Dowd, whose biweekly hell-broth of tortured comparisons and pop culture references always entertain, if not illuminate. Though I haven’t read Ms. Dowd in well over a year (in addition to the impediment of TimesSelect, I confess I was not anxious to ascertain the answer to the titular question of her 2006 book, Are Men Necessary?), I recognized the opening of the columnist’s archives as a major research opportunity.
MoDo has followed an interesting path to fame and fortune as a columnist. In the 1990’s she established her brassy independence by daring to criticize Bill Clinton — though she always stopped short of a true condemnation. This earned her a Pulitzer, but her career path has proven shaky since then. The obsession with the Clintons remains; the point, however, is long gone.
In fact, as I’ve theorized for some time now, Dowd’s aimlessness has become so pronounced that it seems as though her florid sentences could be arranged at random, with little discernable difference to her usual columns. The opening of the New York Times archives has finally given me the opportunity to test this hypothesis.
I spent an afternoon reading Dowd’s columns from the past year, and have produced the world’s first op-ed column mash-up, or MoDo Mad-Libs. Each of the following Maureen Dowd sentences is taken out of context and reassembled into a new whole. The result is somewhat incoherent, disjointed, unintentionally funny, badly lacking context, and an entirely unfair assessment — in other words, it is exactly like a Maureen Dowd column.
Lost in Hillaryland
By Maureen Dowd
Of course, Hillary is never on her own. From the beginning, her campaign has relied on her husband’s donors, network, strategies, and strong-arming.(1) He allows Hillary to present herself as having the experience to be president just because she was married to one.(2)
They take affairs, illegitimate children, and tumultuous marriages in stride. But they suddenly turn traditional when it comes to the role of the first lady. (3) It almost made Bill and Hillary seem like a model of normalcy. Almost. (4)
When Alvy Singer and Annie Hall split up, he tells her a relationship is like a shark: “It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark.”(5)
The Yale-trained lawyer had one pump in the “The West Wing” and one in “Desperate Housewives,” one foot in the world of hotshot alphas ruling the globe and one in the world of middle-age women humiliated by their husbands’ dallying with office cupcakes.(6) But if you think that Hillary doesn’t have connubial contingency plans in place, you’re disregarding his DNA — and hers. (7)
In her acid flashback of a new book, ‘’For Love of Politics,’’ Sally Bedell Smith describes how First Lady Hillary routinely unmanned Bill and his aides, and engaged in sharp spurts of temper that sparked his temper.(8) (At least I wasn’t in the sections on Cougars, French Teetotalers, The Mildly Disordered, Aspiring Snipers, or Unisexuals.(9) )
He says he’s not particularly fond of Celine Dion, whose “You and I” is Hillary’s insipid jingle. (10) It was an acid flashback to the cultural wasteland of Bill Clinton’s reign, when instead of Pablo Casals, we got Kenny G. (11)
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. (12) Not the sort of person I’d like to tailgate with, listen to Marvin Gaye with, share Ripple or a Scotch and Drambuie or a blackberry brandy with — if I were still drinking. (13)
When she was little, Hillary Rodham would sit on a basement bench and pretend she was flying a spaceship to Mars. (14) As a woman, she clearly feels she must be aggressive in showing she can “deck” opponents, as she put it — whether it’s Saddam with her war resolution vote or Senator Obama when he encroaches on areas that she and Bill had presumed were wrapped up, like Hollywood, and now the black vote. (15) Meanwhile, Hillary’s Web site blared the headline “In Command” linking to “raves” of her confident debate performance. (16)
McGovernick? Meshugana! (17)
O.K., folks, you want the truth? The whole truth and nothing but? After all this time, you’re still dying to see the mystery solved? (18)
Oprah taught me how to stop abusing myself and learn The Secret. (19)
I need to examine my unforgiving stance toward them and use my power of visualization to let them know that in my consciousness and awareness, they cannot determine my destiny. I am severing those emotional and vibratory tonalities that keep me tied to their toxic energy, causing me to repeat the same old pattern of bemoaning in the newspaper. (20)
Thomas L. Friedman is off today. (21)
– Mark Hemingway is an NRO staff reporter.