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April 21, 2007

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Aren't these stories even more meaningless without any report on how much George Bush spends on his haircuts for comparison? Laura has been known to spend $700 for one of hers.

And I must say I can't remember splash-of-coffee-gate, though it was apparently one of Dowd's formative political experiences.

$6.05 for haircuts at Fort Riley. That kind of information definitely impacts the perception many men have of a candidate. There is a youtube video of Bush and Edwards both doing their hair that gets passed around too. I can't give the link since youtube is blocked, but it is worth watching for entertainment value.

How about the $1 trillion GWB spent because he was too lazy and stupid to swot up on Middle Eastern culture and history? I figure we could have paid for quite a bit of private tutoring for that much.

Dowd is a f*cking clown.

Jrudkis, you're saying Bush flies to Kansas whenever he needs a haircut? How much does the use of Air Force One add to the $6.05? Does the cost of suits affect real men's perception of a candidate? How about the cost of publicity stunts involving an aircraft carrier?

Actually I of course agree that stories about haircuts affect public perception. I just question how much is about real differences between candidates behavior and how much is about differences in the media's coverage depending on what fits into the storyline they've developed about a candidate (or a party in general). That at the ability of Drudge and the rest of the right-wing noise machine to get their messages into the media.

Every time I see a politician or a journalist on TV, they have a visible line on their necks where the orange pancake stops.

I was under the impression that Dowd was a fashion writer for a while before becoming an opinionista. If that is the case, I would expect her style to be catty and concerned only about image.

"I was under the impression that Dowd was a fashion writer for a while before becoming an opinionista."

Your impression is in error.

There's also a useful way to actually look up this sort of information, in under one second, by the way; it's called the internet. It may be more useful to spend a literal two seconds googling something, rather than spread falsehoods.

Maureen Dowd, winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary, became a columnist on The New York Times Op-Ed page in 1995 after having served as a correspondent in the paper's Washington bureau since 1986. She has covered four presidential campaigns and served as White House correspondent. She also wrote a column, "On Washington," for The New York Times Magazine.

Ms. Dowd joined The New York Times as a metropolitan reporter in 1983. She began her career in 1974 as an editorial assistant for The Washington Star, where she later became a sports columnist, metropolitan reporter and feature writer. When the Star closed in 1981, she went to Time magazine.

No fashion reporting. (She's "into clothes," though, if that helps; here is the New York profile of her from a while ago.)

Every time I see a politician or a journalist on TV, they have a visible line on their necks where the orange pancake stops.

Is that what they call the Visible Pancake Line?

I can't say whose "writing" I detest more: Dowd's or Mona Charen's. Dowd won the Pulitzer Price in '99 for her commentary on Bill and Monica. Her rebuke of NOW and the Democrats for letting a young woman get smeared in the press to take heat off of the Clintons was admirable, except that she repeated all the smears and imagined some of her own while she was doing it.

So, yes, this is a woman who would write about haircuts.

I have never understood Dowd's popularity. She isn't particularly amusing. Nor perceptive. Nor does she ever provide a unique view on any issue. Her main talent appears to be an inconsistent snarkiness. I say talent in the loosest sense, since from the beginning of one of her columns to the end of it, she meanders about as if lost in a maze of sarcasm, whimsy and nonsense. Some find it refreshing; I'm not one of them.

longing for molly ivins...

sigh.

Is that what they call the Visible Pancake Line?

No. That's the line you get when you eat a lot of pancakes and your belt gets too tight.

I gotta say that you sound like a Lutheran preacher out of an old Bergman film, Hilzoy. I think Maureen Dowd is funny, an equal opportunity skewerer, if you will (but I guess you won't). You know there is no one running for president who isn't (a) egocentric (b) at least a little vainglorious, and (c) sometimes a bit silly. That probably even goes for Obama, although he's got the dignity shtick down pretty good, even if that means avoiding taking difficult positions once in a while. All of that is part of Dowd's natural turf as a columnist. In that she does a good job. She does have a talent for pointing out the frivolous vanity implicit in some of the actions of these public figures. So, you don't like it- don't read it.

It's not about Edwards' haircut.

It's all about Dowd.

Everything she writes is meant to demonstrate how witty she is.

In the circles made up of those who do the same for a living as she, they give prizes to such wits.

Most of them are half wits, who, like she, are found entertaining by those that share such views.

Be that as it may, she is unkind to mostly every politician, and this is how she makes a living.

Its the New York Times by whom she is employed. A familiar name that many confuse with a newspaper that decades ago had crediblity.

Media coverage of haircut costs is similar to the press questions over how much a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk costs-it is really meaningless as to whether or not a candidate is competent, but it doesn't make for good press either.

I do think having your campaign pay for the $400 haircut isn't well done, I think Edwards should have picked up the costs of his own haircut and not asked his supporters to pick up the tab.

"...questions over how much a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk costs" aren't "meaningless."

They very specifically may give a clue as to whether a candidate has an accurate sense of what goes into the weekly budget of the average citizen.

Positive (accurate) answers aren't dispositive (perhaps the candidate is simply well-briefed), but negative (inaccurate) answers reveal that the candidate doesn't actually shop in groceries, and isn't familiar with the current grocery environment.

There are certainly other, perhaps more important, criteria for judging the worth of a candidate, but the above small amount of information isn't, in fact, "meaningless."

It doesn't, I agree, speak to the candidate's competency, of course. Merely to awareness, which is not insignificant.

Gary, how many candidates are actually buying gallons of milk, especially if they don't have young children? Even if some of them are, is that really a meaningful piece of information when deciding whether they'd make a good president? I definitely want candidates to understand how well average (and below-average) Americans are doing economically, but I don't think that question is a good proxy for that understanding.

"...but I don't think that question is a good proxy for that understanding."

I didn't say it particularly was. I simply defended the notion that it wasn't "meaningless."

It's not a high bar to cross, actually.

Well, the comment you were replying to said "meaningless as to whether or not a candidate is competent". I suppose if you want to take an hyperliteral interpretation of "meaningless" you could say that it's meaningful if the candidate answers by raving about how Martians (or Islamofascists) are setting the price of milk, or even if the candidates thinks milk costs a million dollars a gallon, but I don't think that has anything to do with why the question is being asked or how it's reported on or what's has a nonnegligible chance of happening. In the way language is normally used, something might have some insignificant amount of meaning even if it's described as "meaningless".

grackel: More me-as-Lutheran-preacher-in-Begman-film (Fanny and Alexander?) in my next post. But then, if anything deserves full hellfire-and-brimstone mode, the article I link to there does.

True enough and I agree with you there. I know it's unpopular these days to defend - or even like- M Dowd but it seems to me that sometimes she is on the mark. Her take on the human foibles of politicians has a place in the common discourse, although I would agree she can get repetitive. In this case, it seems to me fair to point out that a politician who has taken a stance contrasting the relative statuses of the poor and the rich deserves some scrutiny when his publicly observable grooming habits place him firmly in the orbit of those he is opposing.

It's not just Dowd. As the primary season heats up, watch how many columnists suddenly have the 'courage' to trash Democratic candidates.

And if a Democrat wins the presidency in '08, watch how many columnists proclaim that they won't repreat the timidity of their Bush administration coverage.

The timing, of course, will be perfectly coincidental.

Or so they will say.

grackel: I thought the point about his house was legitimate, sort of, though I would argue that his house is a lot less important than his commitment to ending poverty (and selling it would make a very small difference in that regard.) I'd also say that his views shouldn't make him "against" the rich, or even "against" enjoying many of the things they have (big houses: fine; unfair privileges: not). It should rather make one committed to seeing that everyone else gets them as well.

The hairdresser point is different: of course he would pay for a hairdresser to come out to see him, if he had the money, and of course he gets makeup people to do his makeup before he appears on TV. In the house case, I think there's a serious argument; in this case, I really don't think so.

What's more, I think MoDo knows this.

Though, as you say, sometimes she deploys her style to good effect.

heck, I don't know how much a pint of milk costs, I go to Tescos, by stuff that'll last me a few days and pay £20-30, so I'm doing bulk calculations - am I out of touch with the common man?

Aren't these stories even more meaningless without any report on how much George Bush spends on his haircuts for comparison? Laura has been known to spend $700 for one of hers.

I've seen this comment before, and I loathe it -- nothing personal -- because it implies yet again that Democratic men are unmanly. Or, to be pointed and cruel, are weak like women.

[Usual disclaimers: I don't believe that about women, it's just the trope that seems burned in our national political psyche. Women are sufficiently empowered, they need a man over them, they can't be trusted in the White House, etc.]

Anarch, I used the price of Laura Bush's haircut because that was the only one I could find. I assume that most wealthy public figures sometimes pay hundreds of dollars for a haircut -- at least if they have hair that worth doing anything with (and even if they don't, in the case of Donald Trump, but he's surely not someone to emulate).

I too felt a bit uncomfortable about the comparison. I suppose we'll have to hold off on any such comparisons until the day we can assume only a insignificant proportion of the audience views women as weak. But it is an awkward position to have to treat being compared to a woman or a gay man as a deadly insult while simultaneously maintaining that there's nothing wrong with women or gays.

The original context from which I took the price of Laura's haircut was imagining how big a story it would have been if it had come out that Hillary had had a $700 haircut while she was First Lady, so it's not just about differences between expectations of men and women. It's more about the media's treatment of Democrats.

This story actually got batted around quite a bit on NPR. I wanted to scream when they interviewed some political analyst discussing the class-identity ramifications of Edwards' haircut--there was nothing in there at all pointing out that it was a bog-standard sexual-identity attack on a male Democratic politician as effeminate. Republicans have been calling Edwards "the Breck girl" since 2004.

hilzoy, twice you called her Maureen "Down."

pedant: Eek! How did that happen? In any case, thanks; it's fixed now.

Good post.

Posted by: Marty | April 21, 2007 at 05:27 PM

Exactly, it's always about Dowd. She can be incisive, but she's normally pretty shallow. She's about making the cocktail quip, even if it's inaccurate. Bob Somerby has been following her pretty closely over the years.

Jrudkis, you're saying Bush flies to Kansas whenever he needs a haircut? How much does the use of Air Force One add to the $6.05? Does the cost of suits affect real men's perception of a candidate? How about the cost of publicity stunts involving an aircraft carrier?

From my personal perspective, I do question the priorities of any man who spends more than $20 on a hair cut. The stuff grows back if you don't like it. And if it is a bad cut, tell them to cut it shorter till it is even.

On the other hand, landing on an air craft carrier sounds like a pretty fun thing, so an understandable adventure.


"I do question the priorities of any man who spends more than $20 on a hair cut."

This is pretty much a class issue, you know. Different assumptions and responses to this question will flow from different economic and culture boxes.

Jrudkis: From my personal perspective, I do question the priorities of any man who spends more than $20 on a hair cut.

As Hilzoy says, I'd question the priorities of a political candidate on the campaign trail who wasted time driving to get to a hair salon rather than paying a professional to come to him. I doubt if Bush pays any less when he's on the campaign trail.

I honestly had no idea it was possible for a male to spend $400 on a haircut. Even now I have a hard time imagining how that could be possible. Clueless of me, I suppose.

(I sometimes spend something like $35-40 on a very nice salon wash and cut; can't imagine what else could take place that would jack the price up beyond that. sexual favors? insider stock tips? truffles? glimpses of the beyond?)

damon: can't imagine what else could take place that would jack the price up beyond that. sexual favors? insider stock tips? truffles? glimpses of the beyond?)

You don't need to imagine, you just need to read Hilzoy's post with care and attention: certainly when Edwards is on the campaign trail, the person who cuts his hair goes to him: Edwards doesn't drive to them.

So, think about it. Edwards is paying for this person's time - if it takes this person a full day to get there and back, that's what Edwards pays. Plus, the cost of transport. Plus, I would imagine, a healthy tip. The actual cost of "a very nice salon wash and cut"... trivial by comparison.

What this actually has to do with is that while I doubt Bush pays much less for haircuts, certainly not when he's on the campaign trail, the principle in our culture is that women are supposed to pay a great deal in order to look good. In any "unisex" hair salon, there will always be two pricelists: women will always be charged more than men for the same cut, even if it's the same length of hair. (I keep my hair short and have tried arguing about this with hair salon owners: finally I gave up and just go to a barber's shop where they cut my hair how I like it and charge me a third of what a hair salon would.)

It's a given, in most such circumstances - getting a haircut, buying a pair of shoes, buying a t-shirt - that what's available for men will be cheaper and of better quality than what's available for women. This is the case all the way up the class structure - I'm prepared to bet that when George W. Bush summons someone to cut his hair when he's on the campaign trail, he pays about the same as John Edwards, but that Laura Bush got charged more. And this is taken for granted (damon, note that you said "I honestly had no idea it was possible for a male to spend $400 on a haircut." and jrudkis said "I do question the priorities of any man who spends more than $20 on a hair cut.") - women are charged more than men for the same service, but this is nearly always put as women "pay more" - as if we wanted to have to lay out more money to get the same deal! Still, it's a cultural given: women's haircuts are expensive.

But the effect, when pointing out how much John Edwards pays for a haircut (while carefully avoiding the fact that George W. Bush would have paid the same) is to claim without actually saying it that Edwards is effeminate. It's no better than Ann Coulter's faggot "joke" that her conservative audience found so amusing.

There's certainly rom for reporting on the kinds of things that pile up campaign costs, and how many of them are related to our mass media's dominant culture: the haircuts, the makeup, the constraints on suits and other clothing because of the limitations of video's rendering of colors and textures, and so on. But by acting like some of the candidates do not incur all these expenses, Dowd is simply perpetrating more of the fluff-mongering that gave us Bush in the first place. An honest study would look at what all major candidates for national offices incur in common.

What Jes said above is a more eloquent version of what I was aiming at. Ta.

I was misled into thinking that the qualifier "under the impression" indicates a less than complete certainty in the accuracy of what it qualifies. I suppose that is false as well.

When I read that Dowd was a metropolitan reporter my reaction was, "What does that mean?" since my ignorance is not specific to Ms. Dowd but extends generally to the entire reporting industry. So in fact it would have taken two Google searches to educate myself, which is far beyond my pay grade.

Posted by: jrudkis:

"On the other hand, landing on an air craft carrier sounds like a pretty fun thing, so an understandable adventure."

True. Unless one has a position of great authority, responsibility and power, in time of war. I which case anybody who's competant would not waste time on that, but would be taking care of his responsibilities.

It is probably because I see extensive hair care as being a feminine trait. Had he spent $400 for a paint job on the gas tank of a motorcycle, I would not think that was a bad priority of funds, despite being at least as wasteful.

MoDo's frustration is palpable.

Barry,

Are you saying that in time of war, president's are expected to refrain from playing golf, going to the Correspondent's Dinner, church, watching movies, reading books, etc? Perhaps they should remain in the White House until the crisis is over?

I can understand criticism of the event as a stunt, but every President takes time away from a long term crisis for other things, unrelated to his responsibilities. And it is probably necessary, just as I think everyone needs time to back away from a problem for a little while to take a break before reengaging.

"Had he spent $400 for a paint job on the gas tank of a motorcycle,.."

Could be worse. Edwards could have his own campaign reality show, with one segment devoted to the trip to the Salon, maybe with a little catty dissing toward the salon employees afterwards.

Or .. he could have taken his campaign bus into the shop to pay big loud, moody, beefy guys to chop it and outfit it with some pinstripe flourishes and a surfeit of chrome.

I, for one, blame the patriarchy.

Dowd began writing a regular column for the New York Times in 1995, and since then her career has been distinguished by an almost indiscriminate series of personal hit pieces on everyone from the Clintons to Al Gore to the Bush dynasty and now John Edwards. Her name has become a verb in some quarters, as in "to dowdify." If she has ever written a kind word about anyone in politics, or anyone at all, I must have missed it. (I readily admit, however, that there may be few reasons to write anything positive about our political classes.)

Being originally from Carolina myself, I love John Edwards, and have always resented the "secretly gay" comments. The purpose of these allegations against a happily married family man is, I am certain, to undermine him with people who might otherwise be moved by his concern for the poorest and most under-represented Americans. Some of these people come from demographic groups that are not only anti-gay but suspicious of any man who shows signs of what they consider to be personal vanity. Attacking him for being attentive to his appearance (as if that weren't true for every candidate) is a good way of undermining his credibility with the people who ought to be his base.

To be truthful, I'd mock anyone's $400 haircut, whatever the circumstances. In Edwards' case, it is perfectly legitimate to see the willingness to spend this much money on his appearance as somewhat at odds with his platform. It's that, rather than what it says about his personal vanity (if any), that is likely to haunt him.

I'm willing to roll my eyes at Dowd's commentary because it implies, as Hilzoy notes, that Edwards is the only candidate who takes steps to look fresh and youthful and energized on the campaign trail. But as a topic, it's fair game (as the flight suit was even BEFORE we understood the full irony of the MISSION ACCOMPLISHED sign). In his place, I'd have deferred the cut, but perhaps he was worried that showing up with too much hair would just feed into the "Breck Girl" (sheer envy) commentary.

I personally enjoy these moments of self-revelation and hubris by the candidates. It's up to them and their handlers to think about how this sort of information plays when presented to the public.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=WMvt7aye7K8

http://youtube.com/watch?v=2AE847UXu3Q

Two videos re: Edwards hair. Same Edwards clip with different sound tracks, but the first one has Bush in it doing his hair. If Bush is paying $400 for his hair cut, the barber should be fired.

Damozel: If your job requires you to, basically, look good in front of the camera -- you'd pay 400 bucks a haircut too. (Especially if that 400 bucks includes getting the stylist to come to you).

Part of running for President -- part of the job of any politician who spends any real time on TV -- is too at least look decently groomed and dressed. And that's not as cheap as it sounds.

You can make a serious run for President while getting 20 dollar haircuts and foregoing anything but the most amateur and perfunctory application of makeup for TV and stage appearances. What will happen is you'll look like crap, people will dismiss you, and you won't have a shot in hell of winning.

It may seem superficial, but it's certainly true.

"When I read that Dowd was a metropolitan reporter my reaction was, 'What does that mean?' since my ignorance is not specific to Ms. Dowd but extends generally to the entire reporting industry."

Metropolitan reporting is city reporting, which is to say, covering such beats as city hall, police stations, local labor unions, crime, (in NYC, Borough Halls and agencies), and all the other stories that occur within a city.

"heck, I don't know how much a pint of milk costs, I go to Tescos, by stuff that'll last me a few days and pay £20-30, so I'm doing bulk calculations - am I out of touch with the common man?"

I wouldn't want to define who is "the common man" (or woman or person).

But poor people count pennies, because they have to, and thus are acutely aware of the price of basics, such as milk, or whatever other staples they prefer.

That's all. It's not wrong to not be extremely, acutely, poor, of course.

How acquainted one should like a candidate to be with the lives of the very poor is an open question, I suppose.

This is just more typical MoDo, and it goes back a lot farther than Wesley Clark in 2004.

Bob Somerby has http://www.dailyhowler.com/h061500_1.shtml>all the details.

By the way, the verb is "to Dowd", as to invent a quotation that suits your point. Here is an example, from http://www.dailyhowler.com/dh100204.shtml>Kerry's campaign.


Barry,

"Are you saying that in time of war, president's are expected to refrain from playing golf, going to the Correspondent's Dinner, church, watching movies, reading books, etc? Perhaps they should remain in the White House until the crisis is over?

I can understand criticism of the event as a stunt, but every President takes time away from a long term crisis for other things, unrelated to his responsibilities. And it is probably necessary, just as I think everyone needs time to back away from a problem for a little while to take a break before reengaging."

Posted by: jrudkis

Good point, jrudkis, except for two things:

1) Flying in that landing (he didn't land the jet himself, of course) isn't recreation.

2) Recreation is quite suitable and necessary, once one has done one's job. It's a good point. However, Bush's life has been characterized by *never* doing his job. Let us just say that he hasn't earned his dessert yet; there are still vegetables on his plate.

Beyond saving the candidate time, having the hair stylist come to the candidate, it is safer... I doubt that the Secret Service (or whoever is providing security) wants to plan the transportation route to and the security sweeps of a salon. As to the make-up for TV appearances, you have to wear make-up of some sort because the TV lights really wash you out and if you didn't wear make-up, you'd look dead. (And I'm sure Ms. Dowd knows this.)

jrudkis, did I misunderstand something, or are you saying that Bush's Big Day At Sea was recreational? Most of us don't get to preempt prime time to show our home movies, so I'm fairly sure it was meant to be a workday.

Well, geez, me n' Tiffany and the girls at Delta Zeta thought Dowd's column was like wicked awesome. In fact, we were so impressed we wrote her a mash-note on Newsvine:

http://wood-s.newsvine.com/_news/2007/04/21/676040-an-open-letter-to-maureen-dowd-from-me-n-tiffany-at-delta-zeta

We can't think of anything more important in the world than hair, and when you aren't fixing up your own you should be making snarky remarks about everyone else;s. Especially in a week with all kinds of bummer news about 33 dead at VTI and 180 dead in Baghdad and Gonzales saying "I can't remember" 70 times. Thank goodness we have, like, Maureen to, like, remind us who we like totally don't want to rush for our sorority.

Liberals discover Maureen Dowd, and about time.
Somewhere back in the last decade or so I concluded that Dowd knows as much about politics and policy as a fish knows about physics. The shame isn't that this catty simpleton has a column but that the column is featured in the NY Times, a tribute to another moron's judgment, Pinch Sulzberger and a comment on the degradation of a paper that used to have some grounds for its pretensions.

Might anyone extrapolate from the presence of this ignorant, frustrated old hen in the Times to the overall quality of the paper, is Frank Rich so much better, it's reporters so much more honest and professional, it's standards still aspiring to the mundane and mediocre. Count to ten and think Duke Lacrosse players.

Did Maureen just become a trivia wallowing, snide ignoramus or was she that when writing her junior high school level witticisms at the expense of Republicans?
It's the same Maureen Dowd, shallow, dumb, and bitter. Remember that if you find yourself chortling when next she fixes her myopic sights on someone you don't like as opposed to someone you do and who will probably open a hair salon in the WH if elected.

Liberals discover Maureen Dowd, and about time.

ROFL!

The Democrats -- who are combat veterans and war heroes and generals -- get pitched as emasculated wusses, while the President, who was a male cheerleader back in the day, gets represented as a butt-kickin' cowboy.

No offense to male cheerleaders.

Apparently Bush doesn't get all his primping done for six bucks at Fort Riley. News flash: having a skilled and in-demand professional come to you to prepare you for an appearance on national television costs a few hundred dollars.

They are mad because Edwards is spreading the wealth...Besides, Dowd is a mannequin, she never has had anything real to say.

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