It’s hard to say that Maureen Dowd’s column is an embarrassment to political punditry given the state of the profession, but it is rapidly becoming one to the still-great newspaper that carries it, The New York Times.
To take just one example, on April 30 Dowd penned a juvenile and intellectually incoherent column, obnoxiously headlined Is Barry Whiffing? In it, she eschewed any form of evidence or common sense to give voice to the now-platitudinous Beltway belief that Obama should just fix everything already. This view has come to be known as the “Green Lantern theory” of presidential power, after the comic book superhero; according to this theory, the reason Obama has not been more successful is that he has failed to bring Congress to heel the way superior leaders like Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan did during their presidencies, through sheer force of will. But it might be more appropriately dubbed the “Glinda theory,” after the Good Witch of the North who advises Dorothy to close her eyes, tap her heels three times and think to herself, “There’s no place like home.”
There is certainly no place like the one these pundits imagine Obama to be living in—one in which the likes of Vladimir Putin, Bashar al-Assad, Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz and Eric Cantor can be forced to behave responsibly by presidential fiat. But Dowd, like so much of the punditocracy, writes as if she lives in just such an Oz-like dream world. Here she is, for instance, discussing Republican recalcitrance, which, naturally, she blames on Obama (as if those flying monkeys were Dorothy’s fault): “It is his job to get them to behave. The job of the former community organizer and self-styled uniter is to somehow get this dunderheaded Congress, which is mind-bendingly awful, to do the stuff he wants them to do. It’s called leadership.”
Actually, it’s called fantasy, but this view has become so common in the mainstream media that the White House Correspondents’ Association should probably have given out an award for it last week at its nauseating “nerd prom.” (Call it “The Broder.”) That this fantasy has been thoroughly and repeatedly debunked—most recently by Norm Ornstein in The National Journal, who noted that “LBJ and Reagan had willing partners from the opposite party; Obama has had none”—has made no impression on the pundit corps, whose prejudices Dowd distills in her columns.
In that same column, Dowd, addressing the president, writes, “It doesn’t feel like leadership. It doesn’t feel like you’re in command of your world,” and instructs Obama on the dos and don’ts of proper presidential etiquette, based apparently on her memorization of a pile of old Aaron Sorkin scripts: