"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." -Aldous Huxley

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wSunday, November 06, 2005

I, RESENT: That was the title I stuck on my review of Maureen Dowd's new book for the Sunday books section of the Washington Times. My editor went with "Famed female columnist questions if men are needed." That works too. This was not the first bit of my writing to be carried by the Times, but it was the first piece written for the Times. Anyway, on with the review:

During the 1998 White House correspondents' dinner, President Clinton was having a bit of fun with the assembled ink-stained wretches. Most of the jokes were only so-so. Clinton's gag writers were never top notch and by that point in his administration, the normal second term exodus of staffers to gainful employment elsewhere was well underway. But the president did get a few laughs with fake headlines matched to names. Probably the best pairing was "Buddy Got What He Deserved," by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.

The reference was to the Clintons' chocolate Labrador, Buddy, getting neutered. Ms. Dowd was sitting in the audience and she was mortified. As fellow journalists laughed, she tells us, "I ducked down, praying the C-SPAN cameras were still on Paula Jones." After, she worried to the male colleagues at her table that "Now everyone will think I'm a castrating [rhymes with] witch." Their collective response was, "Now?"

In her new book "Are Men Necessary?: When Sexes Collide," the incident leads to overanalysis. Ms. Dowd begins by citing Sigmund Freud's observation that "humor is simply hostility masquerading as wit" and then frets and frets. She hadn't even "wanted poor Buddy . . . to go under the knife." She had simply used the dog as a way of getting at our "hound dog"-in-chief. And while the correspondents' dinner remarks were "all in the service of satire, a cause I cherish," she wondered how the joke would have turned if the scalpel was given over to fellow Times columnist Frank Rich.

You see, if a man "writes a scathing piece about some gaffe a politician has made, no one accuses him of hostility toward men," she explains. However, if a woman were to pen "the same scathing piece, the politician or his male aides will often suggest that her criticism is a reflection of some deep psychological problem. She is bitter about men. She hates men. She needs to get . . . a better love life. She is hormonally grumpy."

That last line is probably a reference to her unfortunate nickname. Over the last several years, as the quality and tone of her column have declined some, several writers have started to call her the Times' menopausal columnist. Ms. Dowd, still single at 51, has taken to complaining in print about former boyfriends and writing about how depressing the holidays are, as married women slave to cook and wait on their privileged, fat, oppressive husbands.

posted by Jeremy at 3:06 AM