Friday, February 16, 2007

Personal Aside: “The New York Times” Coverage of the Obama Gaffe…Al Salvi and Mike Noonan on Sunday’s “Political Shootout.”



I haven’t seen any coverage in “The New York Times” of Barack Obama’s charge that due to George W. Bush, the lives of 3,000-plus U. S. troops were “wasted.” Perhaps it appeared in the New York edition but it certainly wasn’t in the Midwest; probably it was tucked in someplace in the general news and carried over to page A23. But yesterday mention appeared in the coverage of Obama by the “Times’” Maureen Dowd. She gave it all of one sentence which read: He made his first Swift-boat-able slip when he had to apologize for talking about soldiers’ lives “wasted” in Iraq. It appears in paragraph 11 of her editorial page piece.

Pulitzer-prize winner Dowd is my favorite liberal columnist: favorite because of her cunning style which mixes pop culture, movies and classic literature with political analysis. She has the claws of a true savage, honing them on the Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal for which she won the Pulitzer in 1999 but has been positively a terrorist on people she dislikes—including the man she calls “W” and Benedict XVI. She rages with a feminist’s vitriol, stemming from her Irish Catholicism, the daughter of a Washington, D. C. cop who began as a sportswriter for the old “Washington Star,” the spectacle of a beautiful woman who gave up chances at marriage and now interiorly regrets it but not to admit it—her latest book, “Are Men Necessary?” telling more about her than she wishes you to know.

The more she outrages me the more I run to her column. In fact, “The Times” is, for all its leftism, the masterpiece of a brilliantly written advocacy newspaper—the kind I think should exist; her column ties with that of David Brooks in my view.

Concerning Obama, Dowd’s piece had the trappings of a bouquet tied up in a ribbon but which underneath contained some vicious barbed wire sublimated under fluff. Showing her real sympathies are with Hillary Clinton, she said that Obama’s big problem is “he so hung up on being seen as thoughtful that he sometimes comes across as too emotionally detached and cerebral with crowds yearning for an electric, visceral connection. JFK mixed cool with fire.” Dowd is not just a brilliant wordsmith, she takes a novelist’s license of reading people’s minds—wonderful for those she likes, tough for those she dislikes. And it’s obvious that Bambi isn’t her cup of tea. Here are some capsule IDs of Obama:

“…at a press conference in Ames on Sunday where he was getting irritated at suggestions that he lacked substance and at the specter of his vanishing privacy…The Illinois senator didn’t have on an implacable mask of amiability, as Hillary did in Iowa. He didn’t look happily in his element, like Bill Clinton. But he certainly didn’t look as if he was straining to survive the Q & A’s as W. did in the beginning…Beyond his smooth-jazz façade, the reassuring baritone and that ensorcelling smile,* the 45-year-old had moments of looking conflicted…Senator Obama’s body language was loose—and he’s so slender his wedding band looked as if it was slipping off—but there was a wariness to his dark eyes…He sounded self-consciously pristine at times, as if he was too refined for the muck of politics. That’s not how you beat anybody but Alan Keyes.”

He snapped at the press which evidently was waiting for the substantive beef in his talk to high-school journalists: “Take some notes, guys, that’s how it’s done.” Here’s a tart Dowd-ism, unusual in covering a liberal star: “Using the dreaded third-person that some candidates slip into, he told the press that one of their favorite narratives boiled down to `Obama has a pretty good style, he can deliver a pretty good speech but he seems to prioritize rhetoric over substance.’ After an odd to his own specificity he tut-tutted, `You’ve been reporting on how I look in a swimsuit.’” Then she added with an uppercut: “He poses for the cover of Men’s Vogue and then gets huffy when people don’t treat him as Hannah Arendt.”

More: “For a man who couldn’t wait to inject himself into the national arena, and who has spent so much time writing books about himself, the senator is oddly put off by press inquisitiveness. When The Times’ Jeff Zeleny asked him on his plane whether he had a heater in his podium during his announcement speech in subzero Springfield, Mr. Obama hesitated. He shot Jeff a look that said, `Are you from People magazine?’ before conceding that unlike Abe Lincoln, he’d had a heater.”

She winds up applying his own words to the press corps: “Take some notes, senator, that’s how it’s done.”

And there’s usually a word-lesson a day in a Dowd piece. Yesterday it was the word “ensorcelling” for Obama’s smile. Meaning betwitching, it is not just French from the original ensorceler, it’s an allusion to the Old French ensorceror.

Salvi & Noonan.

Former U. S. GOP senatorial nominee Al Salvi will appear on “Political Shootout” with Democratic strategist Mike Noonan…Salvi still one of the bright young assets of the Illinois Republican party and who, along with his wife Kathy, is half of a very attractive youthful duo that can still attain great benefits for the GOP. Noonan is the best political brains the Democrats have and is not surpassed by any other young Dem leader.


  1. Tom-
    I don't understand how an astute newshound like yourself can overlook "The Story," (U. of IL dumps longtime Illini Mascot). Man, that is piercing. What a marvelous courageous breathtaking bold stroke! My heart is a flutter.

    May I suggest you poll your readers to offer the name of the new mascot(s)?

    I offer "The(PC)Idiots," or "The Falsetos" (The Sopranos being already in use).

  2. Tom,

    I was a bit surprised by your comment about Al Salvi. I honestly thought that he did not have much of a future in politics after what happened in the past.

  3. I doubt that Salvi has a future in Illinois politics, but he deserves hearty congratulations for his performance on your show tonight. He is the first Republican on your program to best Mike Noonan, and he "bested" him big time with a combination of fact, logic, and good-natured disdain. A great show!

    -Mike Buck

  4. Salvi did well on the show Sunday. He also did well vs. Durbin and White-- nobody has done as well. He should be proud of "what he did in the past."