I’ve written more than once about the Washington Post’s obsession with the Clintons, one that goes back to the 1990s. But the other journalistic “institution” that has an unhealthy fixation with Bill and now Hillary Clinton is the New York Times. If you’re too young to remember the 1990s version, the Times is probably worse than the Post, which was often a “me too” reflection of the Times when it came to Whitewater and the ruinous five years of political inanity that resulted. I was going to throw a link or two in, but there are too many choices - use your Google machine and search “New York Times Clinton rules” or a similar search.
Or you could just save the trouble and focus on the one Times employee who’s been there the whole time and has probably the most bizarre and screwed up obsession with Hillary Clinton in particular. Even a narrowed down “Maureen Dowd Hillary Clinton” search yields tens of thousands of results over two decades. And Dowd shows no signs of letting up. Just in the past year, she’s: criticized the Clintons for hiring “hit men” as advisers and being greedy, accused Clinton of being a control freak and dishonest, wrote a bizarre letter purporting to speak for “America” in criticizing Hillary Clinton for a litany of sins going back to the 1990s, compared Clinton as a candidate to Richard Nixon, simultaneously criticized Clinton for being too masculine in 2008 and too feminine in 2015, trotted out a list of anonymous Hollywood celebrity quotes criticizing Clinton, criticized and psychoanalyzed Clinton’s position on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, compared Clinton to disgraced (but later vindicated) Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, and trashed Clinton’s universally praised performance before the Benghazi Committee. Out of 40 columns over the entire year, nine of them were hack jobs on Hillary and/or Bill Clinton. And two more were about the Clintons, but not quite as hackish as these nine.
Can’t some editor demand that Dowd get some therapy for her obsessions? It’s been 22 years now. It long ago became an embarrassment to the Times. Enough already.
Now, in 2016, it’s clear that we’re in for more of the same. This week’s effort is a strained comparison of Hillary Clinton and the character played by Leonardo DeCaprio in The Revenant, with the role of the bear being played by - fanfare of trumpets - Donald Trump. It’s bizarre.
And finally, of course, there’s the politician most like Glass in her willingness to crawl through glass, flip her positions and persona, and even bear up under a mauling by a merciless, manic bear to reach that goal most yearned for. In Hillary Clinton’s grimly relentless trudge toward the White House, the part of the bear is played by Donald Trump. (The bear in the movie is also a counterpuncher; when Leo tries to shoot the animal in the face, the grizzly races back to molest him again.)
Trump is like a CGI Rathtar or Indominus Rex, a larger-than-life, fight-to-the-death animated creature who improbably pops up in the ordinarily staid presidential campaign and stomps around, devouring attention and sinking his Twitter teeth into rivals. With his muddle of charm, humor, zest, vulgarity, bigotry, opportunistic flexibility, brutal candor, breathtaking boorishness and outrageous opening bids on volatile issues, he has now leapt into that most sensitive area: the Clintons’ tangled conjugal life.
Dowd is rooting for the bear, in case it’s not clear. She’ll criticize Trump, but ultimately, she’s OK with him, because he plays his gender role in what she has decreed to be an appropriate manner. He’s a boor, a rogue, a bully and a jerk, but that’s OK because he’s a man, and that’s what men are supposed to be like in Dowd’s retrograde view of men and women’s roles in the world. It’s appropriate. Boys will be boys and all that. Al Gore is a wuss because he let a woman tell him how to dress, and Dowd dubbed John Edwards the Breck Girl - lots of subtlety there. Hillary is too mannish or too girly, depending on the whims of Maureen Dowd’s feelings that week. Whatever she is, Dowd is unhappy, and ultimately, it’s because Maureen Dowd has determined that Hillary Clinton is illegitimate because she didn’t divorce her husband as early as the 1970s but certainly no later than 1998 or 1999. The idea that a woman - or a man - could make choices that Maureen Dowd wouldn’t is beyond her comprehension.
It also doesn’t hurt that Trump has given Dowd and others the excuse to revisit and relitigate the entire history of the Clinton Rules. Whitewater, Lewinsky, the Rose Law Firm records, Vince Foster, impeachment, all of it, is now fair game again. As I wrote a little while ago, welcome back to the 1990s. While the rest of us would just as soon not replay that era, Dowd and her cohort couldn’t be happier - another reason she adores Trump in her own special way.
She plays out her weird ideas in her weekly column, and it’s been going on for far too long. It’s a discredit to the Times that someone with relationship views stuck in the 1950s - and in some cases the 1920s- is allowed to spew out her problems in a weekly column taking up valuable and limited space in the pages of one of the world’s “best” newspapers. I’m not holding out hope that she’ll stop or that the Times will rein her in, but she is one of the most embarrassing and toxic columnists out there.