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June 13, 2007

Maureen Dowd, pwn3d

As a dead-tree subscriber to the New York Times (I blame my wife, who succumbs to just that one vice), I have free access to Times Select, but I almost never read Maureen Dowd. If I have to explain why, maybe you should just scroll down to the next post. I also almost never read letters to the editor of the Times, because they're totally insufferable, like the editorial pages themselves.

But I did both of these things today, and I'm glad I did.

Steven Berkowitz, a letter writer in today's Times, gets 100% of the credit for puncturing Dowd's balloon, for totally pwning her. Dowd began her most recent column (behind the Times Select firewall) this way:

Be honest. Who would you rather share a foxhole with: a gay soldier or Mitt Romney?

A gay soldier, of course. In a dicey situation like that, you need someone steadfast who knows who he is and what he believes, even if he’s not allowed to say it out loud.

Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue, as the gloriously gay Oscar Wilde said. And gays are the sacrifice that hypocritical Republican candidates offer to placate “values” voters — even though some candidates are not so finicky about morals regarding their own affairs and divorces.
As Berkowitz notes, however, that wasn't Oscar Wilde's line at all. "Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue" (which, by the way, is a brilliant observation) belongs to La Rochefoucauld, as even an elementary Google search would have disclosed, to say nothing of actually cracking open a dictionary of quotations.

But that would have distracted from Dowd's narrative, which is that a line from a gay author showed that Romney is a hypocrite on gays in the military, as are all the other Republican presidential candidates. (She, on the other hand, thinks the war in Iraq is a crime, but it's a scandal that gays aren't allowed to die in it.)

Berkowitz doesn't make the point I've just made, but he does cite an excellent anecdote about Wilde that makes Dowd look even more foolish. I cited the same anecdote in a post of mine back in January. From Berkowitz's letter:
Wilde was known to take credit for the wit of others. There is the perhaps apocryphal story of Wilde’s saying, upon hearing a comment made by the American artist James McNeill Whistler, “I wish I had said that,” to which Whistler replied, “You will, Oscar, you will.”
So if you're Maureen Dowd, just ask yourself: Was today a good or a bad day?