DOES MAUREEN DOWD MEAN to call President Bush and Karl Rove “Butcher Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?” That seems rather nasty, and it’s a rather insensitively loaded term in wartime, isn’t it?
Speaking of insensitivity, note that although Dowd is careful to slip in that Bill Frist has been “scolded for racial insensitivity,” she doesn’t bother to say by whom, or for what. (A classic New York Times use of passive voice — Bill Hobbs explains this canard.) But that’s the folks at Old Media: presented with real “racial insensitivity” — as in Trent Lott’s case — they don’t even recognize it until someone else points it out. That’s because they’re too used to it as an invented item to even think about the real thing.
This is a lame effort, even by the standards of Maureen Dowd’s recent work.
UPDATE: Reader Gerald Berke suggests that I have it backward, and that the “butcher” point is aimed at Rove, not Bush — though he rather spoils it by then suggesting that nobody who’s massing troops for war should mind being called a butcher. (Is there anyone more bloody-minded than an antiwar liberal? They all seem to think the goal of war is killing, rather than winning. But that’s a topic for another post.) Berke’s snippiness notwithstanding, he’s probably right here — at least, it’s hard to imagine Dowd passing up an opportunity to call Bush a “kid,” in the apparent hope that if she says it often enough people will suddenly confuse him with Dan Quayle. How much better this makes Dowd look is a matter of opinion.
UPDATE: Reader and movie critic Bob Patterson offers this explanation of what Dowd was about:
The new film “Gangs of New York” contains a character Bill “the Butcher” Cutting (played by Daniel Day-Lewis) and “the Butcher” is (according to the NY Times review) a “swaggering monster.”
The film is a leading contender for Oscar consideration, but it is only being shown at theaters in Los Angeles and New York City.
Perhaps Ms. Dowd was overly anxious to display her command of the culture vulture hip/chic contemporary scene by making a comparison to this new film.
Folks who do not have ready access to this bit of cinema will not get the (possible) allusion.
[I, for one have issues with this "elitism" aspect of the Oscar season and will be writing a column about that in the near future. (On Friday, December 20, 2002 the USA Today newspaper listed the five leading contenders for Best Picture. Of the five, one "The Two Towers" had been out for about two days. Two, "Gangs of New York" and "Antwone Fisher" were coming out that day (at least in New York and L. A. as far as "Gangs" is concerned. The other two will be out in a few days. Is that elitism or what?)]
It would seem that Ms. Dowd is writing of/for/about/ and “to” an audience that is up on the latest “Oscar buzz.”
Again from the New York Times review of “Gangs” New York is “a city full of tribes and war chiefs.” “The Butcher has formed an alliance of convenience with Boss Tweed ([played by] Jim Broadbent), the kingpin of Tammany Hall and together they administer an empire of graft, extortion and larceny.”
It seems likely that Ms. Dowd was hoping that her readers would connect her words with this latest installment of Oscar elitism. Now that you’ve been updated on all the latest inside “Oscar” information, don’t you suddenly feel “groovy” or some such latest term for up to date and hip?
Yeah. Now Dowd’s column seems really “boss.” But an excessive effort to seem “hep” does seem to mark Dowd’s work, so this explanation makes sense.