The Maureen Dowd you've never seen


“I can’t believe he never called his dad for advice even when going to war in Iraq.”

Maureen expresses grudging admiration for Hillary Clinton, the woman she was hyper-critical of during the campaign. She quotes Harold Ickes, a key Clinton aide, as saying that Hillary told him during the campaign, “I knew that Bill was good at what he did and it was hard to be that good, but I had no idea just how hard it was.”

Dowd said Hillary had to go through the baptism of fire to become the good politician she now is.

Dowd started a Hillary blaze in February of 2007 by revealing that David Geffen, the Hollywood record mogul and key Clinton supporter, was switching allegiances to Obama.

At the time Clinton was considered a virtual shoe-in for the Democratic nomination, but the fissures which emerged after Geffen’s comments in Dowd’s column would never close over and heal.

As Patrick Goldstein wrote subsequently in the Los Angeles Times, “When historians start looking for turning points in the trajectory of the Obama campaign for the presidency, they will inevitably turn to February 21, 2007, the day that The New York Times' Maureen Dowd ran a column where Geffen blasted then-Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton.

“He didn't just say he disliked Hillary, he dismissed her as ‘the easiest [candidate] to beat.’

“He called Hillary overproduced and overscripted. ‘It's not a very big thing to say, 'I made a mistake' on the war, and typical of Hillary Clinton that she can't.’”

Dowd admits her interview with Geffen changed the presidential race forever, and she is grateful to Geffen for standing by his comments.

“He’s a good guy to have in a foxhole with you. Because oftentimes you get that intensity on you, I’ve had sources who were kind of shying away. He was fine,” she says.

“He just said bring it on when the controversy flared.  He didn’t back away, he didn’t say it was out of context, he just said, ‘Yep that’s what I said. That’s how it is.’”

Dowd rates Geffen as one of the few wise men left in a bleak economic landscape. Recently she asked him his opinion of the current climate.

“I was on business in Los Angeles and I had lunch with David Geffen and Oprah, and he knows a lot about money. He got out before the crash.” He said it was Joe Kennedy who got out of the stock market because he started getting stock tips from the guy shining his shoes. And he decided that’s it. “He had the same  feeling that too many people who shouldn’t have been involved were.”

She also asked him why he was the only one of his DreamWorks studio partners -- Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg the others -- not to get caught up in the Madoff scandal, and Geffen said simply because the two others did not call him.

“So he called them and he said, ‘Why didn’t you give me that tip? I would have told you not to do it, but you didn’t give me that tip.’”

Geffen, she reports, believes America may be in recession for up to 10 years.

Typically, Dowd has caught the zeitgeist moment in her columns on the financial scandals. She describes her recent columns attacking the crew on the ship of fools that ran the economy aground as inspired by her sense of “Irish class rage” against those that set themselves up as superior.

For decades, she says, many like her felt they were not part of that charmed circle that lived high and made fast money or were able to crack the secret code.

Now, like in Oz, the wizards of Wall Street are revealed as frauds, and Maureen Dowd is the first to skewer them and their pretensions.

You can see her mother and father’s values of hard work and disapproval of greed for greed’s sake.

She was intrigued that Obama’s Irish ancestors hail from a town called Moneygall in Co. Offaly. Immediately she began, as she always does, playing around with the word.

“That’s what this crisis is all about,” she said. “Money and the gall of people and how they treated it.”  

She also wants to go to Moneygall if and when Obama ever makes the trip to discover his Irish roots. Along the way, if the Irish 1911 census finally comes online for County Clare, she hopes to visit the graves of the ancestors who came before.

Her father, the young man who didn’t take the Titanic but embarked on a mighty journey himself that left him standing next to president’s, and the mother whose sense of decency and commitment to causes made her stand apart, would undoubtedly approve. In the end it’s about family for Maureen and Peggy.