“I love your hair!” That’s how Maureen Dowd began the conversation. I was surprised to see her sitting at the Mostly Books autograph table at the Tucson Festival of Books on Sunday, with only a few people hanging around. I stopped. I did a double take.
Maven of the New York Times Opinion Page for 20 years, Dowd was down-to-earth. I would definitely be friends with her if I lived in New York. Hell, I gave her my card. She thanked me.
I asked her how she liked Tucson. ” I like it but I’m so hot, and not in a good way,” she replied.
She admitted her nervousness the day before while speaking at the University of Arizona Student Union ballroom. I managed to get a ticket for her discussion of the 2016 election. No way could I miss that! Hundreds of people were turned away.
Writing about the current White House is, “in a weird way, like a bizarro civics lesson,” she told the audience of around 600 people. The president’s Russian connection is the strangest thing “we’ve ever seen in [American] politics.”
Trump is probably a psychopath with no empathy, but “I like my crazy straight up,” she said. Everyone is now “more awake and involved than I’ve seen since the ’60s.”
Comparing Trump to former Vice President Dick Cheney, who lied and disregarded checks and balances behind the scenes, Trump “does it in real time. We can fight back in real time.”
Trump was the most shocked of anyone that he won the election, noted Dowd. Replying to a question about forcing him out of office, she doesn’t think it will happen.
“Trump has reduced all politics to his ego. He will be there unless he’s [led out] in handcuffs.”
Why did the 1999 Pulitzer Prize winner think Hillary lost the election? Partly, it was Politics 101. Hillary didn’t go to Wisconsin and barely went to Michigan, she pointed out (and she’s not a fan of the “Clinton machine”).
“There was an intense hunger for change,” which Dowd said she learned from her very own “deplorables” (conservative family members), and others.
In two presidential elections — Democratic candidates Al Gore in 2000, and Hillary Clinton in 2016 — Bill Clinton could have saved the day, she opined. Gore didn’t allow Bill to campaign for him following the impeachment debacle. Hillary’s young campaign manager thwarted Bill from campaigning for his wife, despite his desire to reach Southern white males.
Yeah, who holds back possibly the best Democratic campaigner of all time? In hindsight, a big mistake.
Maybe Trumps’s narcissistic cluelessness will contribute to the U.S. finally electing a woman president? (Dowd doesn’t think Hillary lost because she’s a woman.)
And his denigration of the news media?
“Trump has completely rejuvenated the newspaper business,” she said, adding that the New York Times has developed an investigative unit to scrutinize possible conflicts of interest: “We’re all over that.”
Maybe she’ll return to Tucson when her next book is published.
“I love cacti,” Dowd quipped. “I identify with them.”