2003-08-29 / Columnists

The Rockaway Irregular

Puppets, Schumppets
by Stuart W. Mirsky
The Rockaway Irregular by Stuart W. Mirsky Puppets, Schumppets

New York Times syndicated columnist Maureen Dowd, the writer who takes the prize for showing the most contempt for a sitting American president since the media feeding frenzy of the Nixon years, has done it again. On the August 24 Times OpEd page, in a column headed "Gotta Lotta Stigmata," she gives us one of her typical anti-male screeds, going after all those awful male politicians who affect a strong (read "manly") stance for the media. Of course, after taking a few obligatory swipes at John Kerry, Howard Dean and even "wonky Bob Graham" for aping George W. Bush, as "immortalized with an action figure in a flight suit and the leghugging harness that made Republican women’s hearts go boom-boom" ... and going after Arnold Schwarzenegger for being, well, Arnold ... she gets around to what really yanks her chain.

Dowd, who recently gained national notoriety for misquoting Bush by lopping off part of what he said in order to make him sound as though he’d said something entirely different, can’t quite contain her feminist outrage where the Bushman is concerned. Noting that some conservative writers, and especially some women, see in Bush a president who "does what he says, whose every speech and act is not calculated" (Erica Walter in An American Enterprise Institute magazine article), Ms. Dowd let’s go with both barrels blazing.

Reporting that one David Gutmann, a professor emeritus of psychology at Northwestern University, says of Bush that he "bears important masculine stigmata: he is a Texan, he is not afraid of war, and he sticks to his guns in the face of worldwide criticism," Ms. Dowd opines "Stigmata, schtigmata. Shouldn’t real men be able to control their puppets?" Who and what does she have in mind? Well, it’s about Iraq, of course. "The Bush team could not even get Ahmad Chalabi and the Iraq Governing Council to condemn the U.N. bombing or feign putting an Iraqi face on the occupation," she fairly shrieks. "The puppets refused because they didn’t want to be seen as puppets." She goes on to note that "Rumsfeld & Co." erred  "thanks to the phony optimistic intelligence fed to them by the puppet Chalabi." Come again?

Maybe I missed something but, despite current and not unexpected difficulties in stabilizing post-war Iraq (everyone knew it was going to be tough ... that was one of the reasons many were uneasy about undertaking this effort in the first place!), I seem to recall that the war itself achieved its goals with surprising speed and record low casualties, thanks in no small part, to the intelligence fed to our military about what was waiting for them. The "puppet Chalabi" was not without some involvement there.

But more to the point, in Ms. Dowd’s mind, the Bush administration nefariously established a puppet regime through Mr. Chalabi (and we know they’re puppets because Ms. Dowd has told us!), and yet lack the machismo to make them act like puppets. Sounds a lot like Ms. Dowd’s stacked this deck, condemning her favourite testosterone-producing whipping boys, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al, for puppeteering ... and then going after them for not keeping their estwhile creations on a string. But at least one slightly more rational scenario is also possible here: that the "puppets" aren’t acting the part because they aren’t!

Holy smoking gun, Batman, maybe the Bush administration is serious about rebuilding a free, independent and modern Iraq, despite Ms. Dowd’s protestations to the contrary? But such logic seems to have no more impact on Ms. Dowd’s thinking than facts ... as in accurately quoting what presidents say. After poor-mouthing George Bush Senior, in the nineties, for being a privileged preppie without much backbone, she seems to think the son is, of all things, too macho! One begins to get the sense that something else is going on here. Maybe the good Professor Gutmann needs to look a little more closely at Ms. Dowd’s own "shtickmata" and why she has this thing about Republicans, the Bush family and testosterone?

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