The real Dowd scandal

Why are people getting so worked up about Maureen Dowd's dubious dateline, when the content of that column was egregiously incorrect?

Here's the eighth graf of "Can Hillary Cry Her Way Back to the White House?":

At the Portsmouth cafe on Monday, talking to a group of mostly women, she blinked back her misty dread of where Obama’s "false hopes" will lead us — "I just don’t want to see us fall backwards," she said tremulously — in time to smack her rival: "But some of us are right and some of us are wrong. Some of us are ready and some of us are not."

Let's repeat: Clinton "blinked back her misty dread of where Obama's 'false hopes' will lead us."

The problem is, she didn't. Clinton used the phrase "false hopes" on Jan. 4, according to Reuters, and again on Jan. 5. She may have used it on other occasions prior to New Hampshire's Jan. 8 primary. But despite Dowd's obvious insinuation, she didn't use it in the run-up to her emotional moment in Portsmouth. And neither did her questioner. From CNN's write-up of that incident:

At the close of a Portsmouth campaign stop, Marianne Pernold-Young, 64, asked Clinton: "How do you do it? How do you keep up ... and who does your hair?" [NOTE: here's another version of the question.]

Clinton said she had help with her hair on "special days," and that she drew criticism on the days she did not.

Then she added: "It's not easy, and I couldn't do it if I just didn't, you know, passionately believe it was the right thing to do.

"You know, I have so many opportunities from this country, I just don't want to see us fall backwards," she said, her voice breaking a bit. The audience applauded.

"This is very personal for me, it's not just political, it's [that] I see what's happening, we have to reverse it," she said emotionally, adding that some "just put ourselves out there and do this against some pretty difficult odds.

"But some of us are right and some of us are wrong. Some of us ready and some of us are not. Some of us know what we will do on day one, and some of us really haven't thought that through enough."

Don't get me wrong: those closing lines are pretty obvious shots at Obama. But hammering her main rival after a rare show of emotion--one elicited by an ostensibly personal, non-political question--is different than Dowd's imaginary scenario, in which Clinton chokes up because the prospect of an Obama presidency is so painful to contemplate. (For one thing, Dowd's framework--in which Obama-induced tears are quickly followed by a nasty Obama-directed jibe--hints strongly that the whole episode was staged.)

Sloppy stuff.

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