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Dinner with Dowdy

November 17, 2008

by The Forum

Despite the urge to line this with alliterated, rhyming nicknames and irrelevant pop culture references, Maureen Dowd actually impressed me.  Or maybe she charmed me.  But I still can't take her seriously. To be honest, I don't like Dowd's NY Times columns.  Especially the one she wrote in half Latin (I made fun of her about that one tonight).  Why can't the Times hire a serious female op-ed columnist?  On the NY Times Op-Ed page, Gail Collins, the only other woman, is a bit more serious, but why is all the serious political and economic commentary and analysis left to the men-- Kristol, Friedman, et al.

As much as I enjoyed MaDo during dinner before the speech, her speech delivery wasn't very impressive-- she had her words typed out, so she just looked down and read it to us, but that's not uncommon for someone not used to giving speeches, and she spoke well.  The speech, which mostly made fun of Sarah Palin and other politicians, had the same trademark humor and wit as one of her columns, so it was well-received by the crowd.

During dinner, I asked her about her critical (and maybe sexist) coverage of Hillary Clinton during the Primaries and whether she now tries to write columns analogous to "make up calls in a sports game," such as her most recent column, "Team of Frenemies," which called for HRC to be appointed Secretary of State.  Dowd denied any resentment of any politicians, including the Clintons, and that her frustration came from HRC's entitlement and harm to the "feminist cause," as she has written in her columns.

Dowd also told the story about the McCain campaign plane snub.  To summarize, she thinks it was more of a Times snub than a personal snub and that maybe the McCain campaign was afraid of what Dowd would write about Sarah Palin ("but I wrote it anyway!" she said).  She also told stories about her prior relationship with John McCain and her expectation that once he found out about the campaign plane, he would fix it, but that it never worked out that way and she hasn't spoken to him since.

Other talk at the head table centered around Dowd's experiences with various politicians as a former reporter and columnist, her colleagues at the NY Times, especially Tom Friedman, who she tries to get public speaking advice from (they both work in the same DC office).

When Zephanii Smith '12 asked Dowd for career advice, she talked about her first job out of college.  "I worked at a country club... but my parents didn't like me going on dates to drive-in movies with lifeguards every weekend..."  In her answer, Dowd also recalled her interview this morning with a local news editor who outsourced his reporting on the Pasadena City Council to "journalists" in Bangalore, India.  She remarked that the journalism industry is changing and all that, but didn't say anything we haven't heard before.

Maureen Dowd was not the most eloquent or confident Athenaeum speaker this semester, but she was refreshing and fun.  And a hottie fo' sho'.

Update: Sahil Kapur '09 wrote his account of the night here.  Here's a bit from his post:

"Dowd's speech practically turned into stand-up comedy sketch – one with biting truth – once she mentioned Sarah Palin. As a journalist, she described Palin as "the love of her life," claiming that she "became God’s gift to journalism and comedy." Palin "revived not only her party’s base but also SNL," exclaimed Dowd. She dreamed up a Hollywood chick flick where a "two year governor of an oversized igloo becomes Commander-in-Chief after McCain chokes on a pretzel. "Doggone it!" declares Palin to Putin as she points her rifle at him, "back off dude, I’m a much better shot than Cheney. Shoo!" Dowd said that "as a journalist, I miss her dearly."

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