The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Thursday, December 18, 2003  

Out to Dinner

Wondering how the Democrats are doing? Check in with someone who knows, someone with enough free time to give the party’s presidential prospects ample thought and a thorough analysis, someone with a deep understanding of the American political system, someone with a finger on the pulse of the American people.

Someone like Tina Brown.

Okay, Brown might not have been your first choice, but she’s what’s being offered up today by the Washington Post, what a wag once called the most self-important newspaper in the most self-important city in the world. So she must know something.

In “Tough Time for Democrats,” Brown shares her assessment of those considered to be the six leading contenders in the race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, and her insights into their prospects, insights gained, or at least confirmed, by Brown’s recent attendance at -- what else? -- a dinner party, or more specifically and impressively, “a media-heavy Manhattan dinner party.” (You didn’t think she went out noshing in Queens or anything, did you?)

That’s our intrepid columnist, going right to the source!

Here’s what the readers of the paper of record in the nation’s capital are reading this morning. Sen. Joseph M. Lieberman: “censorious smile,” “jungle-book voice.” Sen. John F. Kerry: “the talking tree with the `70s hair.” Sen. John Edwards: “hopelessly puppyish.” Ret. Gen. Wesley Clark: “cyborg hero of places no one can spell.” Howard Dean: “a pisher with no past and no neck.” Rep. Richard Gephardt: “retain[s] a certain Great Plains steadfastness,” albeit a little light in the loafers.

Drawing upon an analogy with -- what else? -- a TV program, and a cable TV program at that, Brown all but calls them a bunch of queers.

In contrast, there’s Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), speaking to that most effete of institutions, the Council on Foreign Relations, and just oozing masculinity: “[S]ure of her leonine power, she morphed her pinstripe pantsuit before our eyes into battle fatigues and flak jacket. Planted solidly behind the lectern with only intermittent reference to her notes she exuded the sense of a well-filled mind and life. Maybe not yet a credible commander-in-chief but at least a Democratic Major Barbara.”

Unfortunately, Brown tells us, we’ll have to wait four years for the Democrats to get in touch with their inner straight man, their inner he-man; four more years until the Democrats can even think about tapping a much needed wellspring of misplaced testosterone.

Brown’s offensive commentary would be an awful joke if it weren’t such typical fare, not only in the media writ large, but in the Post itself. You would think having one Howie Kurtz on staff would be enough, wouldn’t you? No, take two.

[Post-publication addendum: On “Major Barbara,” see not only, of course, Major Barbara’s blog, linked above (Arms & The Man), but also Sisyphus Shrugged. Apparently Julia thinks Tina makes no sense. Perish the thought!]

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