The Maureen Dowd you've never seen
NY Times columnnist reveals her first great love, her family's Irish ties and her take on Obama, Bush, Biden and Geffen
Maureen makes no secret of her admiration of Obama, and points out her gleefully her Republican sister, disillusioned with Bush, has become an “Obamacon.”
She says Obama is “doing really well. He inherited the worst foreign and domestic policy crises of anyone since FDR and Lincoln. Just what he has to deal with is mind-blowing.
“We grew up in Washington. We’ve never seen a president treat Washington like a real city. He and Michelle are out on date night, they are going to local restaurants and homeless shelters – that means a lot to me. As a native we’ve never had that.”
As for Obama’s cool image she says, “Americans love having a Joshua Bartlett type,” she says, referring to the fictional president of The West Wing TV show. “He’s elegant, intelligent, well-spoken.”
She has found him incredibly self-assured in private conversation. They also share a bond as children of immediate immigrants --Obama is the first president since Hoover to have a parent born outside the country, and only the seventh ever.
She says it is an overlooked factor about Obama, an issue that weighed heavily with other would-be White House contenders.
“I interviewed Mario Cuomo when he was thinking of running, and everyone said he was going to run, and he was obsessed with being the son of an immigrant. It reminded me of the Aesop Fable, where the dog has the steak in his mouth and he sees the reflection of another dog with a steak and drops it. He didn’t want to drop his steak.
“He had come so far, his father was an immigrant, he was the governor of New York, and he was all twisted about his worthiness as president. It was very ethnic to me, and I was going, ‘Yes but if you don’t run, you leave the field to people like George Bush Senior, who never question their worthiness.
“I had the same conversation with Colin Powell. Again, the son of an immigrant, he had achieved so much but he wasn’t sure, he didn’t know.
“But with Obama, it’s not that. He doesn’t have that sense of ‘Am I worthy?’ I love that he says he’s a mutt.
“I thought it was sad that the poor people who raised him weren’t there for his inauguration. He’s incredibly young, but they had all passed.”
As for any Dowd criticism of Obama? “He doesn’t like being made fun of. He’s not able to bat it back like JFK could. He gets a little prickly.
“He can be a little starchy,” she adds, like when Vice President Joe Biden cracked a joke about Chief Justice John Roberts muffing the lines on the swearing in ceremony, and Obama fixed him with a cold stare,
“But this is where he’s not Irish at all, and Biden and people say he’s not sentimental at all, and in a way that’s a really good trait in a leader. He cuts to the chase,” she says.
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