Is someone trying to be the next Maureen Dowd?
The Times op-ed columnist made her name as a reporter by using stylish, slashing rhetoric in news stories, such as her famous lede for a 1994 story about Bill Clinton's return to Oxford: "President Clinton returned today for a sentimental journey to the university where he didn't inhale, didn't get drafted and didn't get a degree."
Jennifer Steinhauer's profile of Nancy Pelosi in the New York Times today is reminiscent of Dowd's approach. Steinhauer writes that, "For Republican strategists laboring to maintain control of Congress, [Pelosi] is the personification of liberal lunacy, an Armani-clad elitist who will help push lawmakers toward an agenda of multicultural, tax-raising appeasement." But what does "multicultural, tax-raising appeasement" mean? It's just a series of code words strung together nonsensically. Perhaps the phrase is meant to mock GOP rhetoric, but it's more likely to reinforce the Republican caricature of Pelosi.
It gets worse later in the piece when Steinhauer describes the Democratic leader's voting record as "among the most liberal in Congress," writing that Pelosi "favors alternative sentencing over prison construction, schools without prayer and death with taxes." The last two phrases are absurd representations of GOP spin.
First, what evidence is there that Pelosi "favors... schools without prayer"? As she noted in 1998, "Under the First Amendment, students and citizens are not prohibited from the opportunity for religious expression. Students are free to pray privately or at school." Her concerns were with the potential for coercion during organized periods for prayer in the classroom.
Similarly, Pelosi's opposition to the estate tax does not mean that she favors "death with taxes," a phrase that reinforces the "death tax" slogan that has misled so many people. Death is not taxed in this country. The estate tax applies only to a tiny percentage of the richest Americans - according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the threshold is $2 million and the tax only applies to the wealthiest .5% of those who will die this year. Moreover, Pelosi supports a Democratic alternative to estate tax repeal that would, she claims, "exempt 99.7 percent of all estates in America."
One Dowd is more than enough. Can't the Times do better than this?