For a life lived hating Hillary Clinton – take a bow, Maureen Dowd | Emma Brockes


One of the joys – or this time possibly the only one – of an election year is the nerd pageant of political commentators who, after broadcasting in the dark for four years, burst into the light, high on facts and the novelty of prime time. The first Obama election in 2008 belonged to Rachel Maddow and MSNBC; the one after that went to CNN’s Candy Crowley; this year, Fox’s Megyn Kelly had her moment. And then there is Maureen Dowd.

Dowd has covered nine elections, never more energetically than when a Clinton is running, because, famously, the New York Times columnist hates the Clintons – particularly Hillary. Over the years, Dowd has called her “shifty” and a “dominatrix”, a “manly girl”, and written endlessly about her “creepy” marriage to Bill, which she once described as a “repugnant arrangement”.

When Hillary first ran against Barack Obama, Dowd wrote of how pathetic it was “that she has to wage a major offensive … to make herself appear warm-blooded”, and commentary this year includes the sour gem: “After running as a man last time around, Hillary Clinton is now running as a woman.” Since she has a book out – The Year of Voting Dangerously, a collection of writings on the season’s political insanity – Dowd popped up on talk shows last weekend; arch, brittle and fairly twitching with the strain of being caught between Clinton and a hard place. It was a small, thrilling piece of drama alongside the frankly exhausting spectacle of the main event.

That is the joy of Dowd these days; not that her laborious wisecracks hit home – she is neither subtle nor funny – but the showmanship that goes into creating them. If you look past the overblown language, a lot of what she has written about Clinton isn’t even that bad, but is a sensible critique of how the senator calls out sexism when it suits her and not when it doesn’t.

Sensible is not the effect Dowd is aiming for. In a monolithic media landscape, she is an increasingly eccentric figure, akin to Ann Leslie emerging from a dugout in a fur coat, the grande dame who doesn’t give a damn. She would probably hate this, but Dowd’s on the cusp of ageing into a national treasure.

Upper Middle Side


The Manhattan waterfront. Photograph: Alamy

In a country as large as the US, the middle ground is a much wider space than in a country like Britain. Nonetheless, there is one band the size of which never ceases to amaze me, and that is the middle class.

Clinton is campaigning on a platform of no tax cuts for middle-class voters – which, by her reckoning, means any household with an income of less than $250,000 (£205,000) a year. Median family income in the US is $52,000 but, for those in the most expensive cities, that is nowhere near a living wage. A study by the New York Times a few years ago concluded that, “to accommodate the cost of living in Manhattan, [a] salary would have to fall between $80,000 and $235,000. This means someone making $70,000 a year in other parts of the country would need to make $166,000 in Manhattan to enjoy the same purchasing power.”

However accurate it is, Clinton’s calculation would be unthinkable in Britain; even a Tory politician wouldn’t try to claim that a six-figure salary was one into which regular folk in need of tax cuts fell. And such a definition overlooks one key thing: you can always move.

Red hot sweater

Kenneth Bone listens as Hillary Clinton responds during the second presidential debate.


Kenneth Bone listens as Hillary Clinton responds during the second presidential debate. Photograph: Rick T Wilking/AP

Retailers in the US ran out of red V-neck sweaters this week as Kenneth Bone – or “red sweater guy” as Google knows him – the man who asked the penultimate question in the latest presidential debate at the weekend, became everyone’s hot favourite Halloween costume. On his account, I stand corrected: this season has, in fact, delivered two joys.



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