About the kindest thing that I can say about Maureen Dowd’s writing is that in general, I hold her in minimal high regard. She writes like she is perpetually fourteen years old, her prose is predictable, flabby and mostly devoid of rigorous reasoning, and her voice is nothing short of grating. In general, she is a horrible writer. Just. Horrible. I will be forever smacked by gob that the New York Times chose and continues to choose to employ her.
But you know something? Dowd does have a point when she criticizes Barack Obama for being detached from the political game, and an ineffective political leader as a result. To be sure, Dowd–being Dowd–goes too far for essentially implying that the president should be faulted for being “an introvert in an extrovert’s profession” (to quote what Richard Nixon said about himself), and her claim that the president can fix his political problems by turning into Mr. Excitement and doing “something bold and thrilling” is nothing short of vacuous. But can there really be any doubt that the (very) broad and general outlines of Dowd’s argument is correct? The second term of the Obama administration has been, at best, a disappointment. At worst, it has turned into an outright failure with a disengaged president who would rather do1 anything but show leadership.2 This is what four more years of Hope and Change turned out to be? And I’m supposed to be impressed?
So, let this blog post serve as partial praise for Maureen Dowd. She actually blundered her way to making a valid point. And the president and his administration helped her do it. They must be so proud.
1. If the president is a restless intellectual, I am glad; it is better than being the alternative. But if the president really is bored with his job, why did he run for a second term? Only because he felt he had to, lest history treat him as a failure? That just wasn’t a good enough reason; can we agree to that?
2. Yes, yes, I know; there is no actual vacation from the presidency. But the optics were just awful, and much of leadership is about projecting the proper optics.