December 15, 2006

Barack Obama — He’s All Ears; Maureen Dowd Questions Whether He’s All Man

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:34 am

Note: Links in this post were updated in January 2008 to articles at the New York Times that became available when the newspaper took down its TimeSelect firewall in late 2007.


In the third-last paragraph of her October 21, 2006 “Obama’s Project Runway” column (the one that, luckily for Barack Obama, almost no one outside of Manhattan reads), the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd wrote this about Barack Obama:

He’s intriguingly imperfect: His ears stick out, he smokes, and he’s written about wrestling with pot, booze and ”maybe a little blow” as a young man.

On Sunday, December 10, roughly 50 days later, noted in a column by Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times, Obama took on Dowd over arguably the least relevant item in that sentence:

Obama is very sensitive about his press. After his press conference, he headed toward New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd and chided her — in a kidding way — for a comment in the 12th of 14 paragraphs in an Oct. 21 column. She wrote that Obama’s “ears stick out.”

“I just want to put you on notice,” he said.

“I was teased relentlessly when I was a kid about my big ears.”

Wow — 50 days later, the guy was still stewing over four words about his ears.

(Note: There appears to be a bit of debate over whether Obama was serious. Sweet obviously says “kidding” above. This commenter, and especially this one, at Lynn Sweet’s Sun-Times blog surely believe Obama was serious, as does Rush. Allah thinks he was kidding. I’ve heard it several times; I do NOT believe Obama was kidding [see more on his tone of voice later], and you don’t “put someone on notice” unless you’re serious.)

Rush played audio on Wednesday of the entire exchange (this may or may not work by the time you read this; it will probably load in your browser if it works) in a much longer show segment, and here’s the relevant portion (about 60% of the way through):

OBAMA (off mic): You talked about my ears, and I just want to put you on notice: I’m very sensitive about — What I told them was, ”I was teased relentlessly when I was a kid about my big ears.”

DOWD: We’re trying to toughen you up.

Put aside for the moment that Dowd would never cut a conservative politician a break like she just did to Obama in reaction to what he said. The exchange would be Exhibit A in her next column about what a weak, thin-skinned weenie the guy was.

But back to Dowd-Obama: The “ears thing” isn’t even the half of it.

Let’s look at a couple of other things MoDo has written about Obama recently.Here she is in her Nov. 11 column, four days after the mid-term elections:

Talking about hope and opportunity and inspiration has propelled Barack Obama into the presidential arena. His approach seems downright feminine when compared with the Bushies, or even Hillary Clinton. He languidly poses in fashion magazines, shares feelings with Oprah and dishes with the ladies on ”The View.”

Now to her Dec. 13 column — First the title (!), then the last two sentences.

Will Hillzilla Crush Obambi?

….. So there is a second question, perhaps one that will trump race and gender. It’s about whether he’s tough and she’s genuine.

Wow. Maureen Dowd has seen Barack Hussein Obama up close and personal. She has recognized the faux-forceful tenor of the voice that chided her and fears — nay, almost knows — that he is at best a fortysomething version of one of these. Even worse, she’s frightened to death that he could actually be one of these, or, conceivably, even one of these (item 3a at link).

MoDo knows her Democratic men, and she can spot serious trouble in a Democratic male candidate. It is clear from what she has written that she isn’t just trying to “toughen up” Barack Obama about his ears; no, she’s clearly worried that “toughening him up” is a comprehensive long-term project that has a high probability of turning out badly. I believe she would prefer that the project not be launched.


UPDATE: Here are links to a virtual Obamarama of “Earie” art and commentary — Return of the Conservatives, Riehl World View, Rush’s home page and supporting post (both will change Friday evening), Stuck on Stupid, Radio Equalizer, WmWms, American Harbinger, Hang Right Politics, Holy Coast, Right Jokester, and Church Militant.

UPDATE 2: America’s Next First Lady speaks to the Obama Ear Flap –

It’s not his big ears – but his big mouth that he should worry about. And now, Mrs. Obama, it’s your job to make him put a sock in it.

Geez, who’s the candidate here?



  1. Barack Obama vs. Maureen Dowd…

    Since I don’t subscribe to the New York Times De-Select service, I missed one of Maureen Dowd’s recent pithy insults. Word has it she poked fun at the size of Barack Saddam Obama’s ears……

    Trackback by Doug Ross @ Journal — December 15, 2006 @ 9:13 am

  2. Ah, here you go again. Still trying to pawn off that well debunked myth that liberal men (or, sorry, anything but conservative men) are pansies and wimps? I really can hardly believe that you spent the time you did putting this post together at almost 3am. Real men would be out conquering some stiff liquor at that hour and not pounding on their keyboards, no?

    PS – You’re on notice

    Comment by Eric — December 15, 2006 @ 10:23 am

  3. #2, temper, temper. Your problem is wth Modo; I’m just the messenger. :–>

    Entries can be prepared and scheduled for later posting, as I’m sure you know. This one got moved up to later in the am so that more will see it.

    Comment by TBlumer — December 15, 2006 @ 11:02 am

  4. ah, the old i’m just the messenger and scheduled my post trick. lol. sorry about your tubes being clogged.

    Comment by Eric — December 15, 2006 @ 1:15 pm

  5. Heck, my own parents made fun of my ears sticking out (they called them VW doors, as we had a Beetle, and my head did kind of resemble a bug with its doors open). In addition, my forehead and chin were made fun of. And then my glasses. And I was a girl.

    Let’s just say I toughened up about these comments before adolescence. If you’re a grown man sensitive about your ears, I’d say suck it up. And even if it’s a joke about putting MoDo on notice, it’s not one that comes over well. He could have said “Yeah, you know, I have to be careful going to Disneyworld, because I might be mistaken for Dopey.” (Yes, I was often called Dopey and Dumbo).

    Comment by meep — December 16, 2006 @ 10:22 am

  6. #5, no kidding.

    So what other things are so sennnnnnsitive that Obama wants them to be off-limits? Maybe the fact, as WaPo reports today, that he managed to purchase a home in Chicago for $300K under market value?

    BTW, I think we can be assured that Dowd is done with the masculinity criticisms. She must have assumed that no one outside of Manhattan reads any more (which is almost true). But the “Obambi” appellation is one for the ages.

    Comment by TBlumer — December 17, 2006 @ 3:10 pm

  7. The one thing that everyone evidently has missed, sensitive, caring whatever or not, do you really think the guy who has a hissy when someone pokes fun of his ears should be manning the red phone in DC? Bush is under constant scrutiny and harassment, yet he shrugs it off. Hate him or love him, anyone who gets that much constant criticism would all but crumble. The presidency is a tough and important job, you can’t tell the Iranians that you don’t think their playing fair and “put them on notice” and expect them to take us seriously. SNL alone, will have a field day with Obama. He has already shown that he doesn’t have the grit it takes to be leader of the most powerful and prosperous country in the world.Unfortunately, the world is not yet at a state where we can all have a hug and a good cry (and “maybe a little blow”) and sort out all of our problems. This story needs way more coverage, before the media dupes the US into a disasterous position.

    Comment by DaveC — December 18, 2006 @ 3:48 am

  8. #7, excellent points.

    Comment by TBlumer — December 18, 2006 @ 7:59 am

  9. No one seems to notice, but the church that Obama attends in Chicago has a group for young women called “intojane” which is Swahili for “coming into womanhood” but actually was the term used for the female circumcision/genital mutilation ceremonies. This same church also emphasizes that it wants to eradicate the “color line” as described by DuBois, but emphasizes its “blackness” and seems to encourage racial divides instead of alleviate them… Perhaps we should worry more about his affiliations and beliefs than his ears.

    Comment by Heather — January 17, 2007 @ 4:06 pm

  10. #9, I am skeptical of your claim, as it is only a guilt-by-association thing if the church itself is against female circumcision now.

    The better question is how the beliefs described here, as you note later in your comment, might affect the ability of Obama to be president of all of the people:

    Exactly what is *the Black Value System*?

    Comment by TBlumer — January 17, 2007 @ 4:21 pm

  11. #10 I agree with you, and have been on the church’s website. Either The Black Value System or the question of intojane should both be considered or neither one. Picking and choosing only causes problems later. I don’t believe that Obama or the church supports female circumcision, but it’s more a part of the larger question of the type of organizations with which he’s involved and supports, and thus, as you point out, whether he’s capable of running a multi-race nation…

    Comment by Heather — January 17, 2007 @ 9:37 pm

  12. #11, What’s also intriguing is that as a multi-racial person he’s embracing his father’s African-American side and apparently nearly rejecting or downplaying his white mother’s side (even though he was raised by her and her next husband). Sort of like the “black” actress of mixed parentage, Halle Berry, did when she gave her Academy Award speech doing the African-American “pioneer” schtick.

    Comment by TBlumer — January 17, 2007 @ 9:52 pm

  13. #12, It seems to me that you are desperate to find criticism with Senator Obama. Honestly, you’re finding fault with him because he may be sensitive about his ears, though it’s very possible he was only joking? And you’re choosing the wording that he is “nearly rejecting … his white mother’s side” (of the family)? When has he ever claimed to reject them or their values? You’re judging him, and Halley Berry, because they identify strongly with their African-American ancestry? Do you not realize that a majority of people view them as black? How can they help but identify with that? I know of that which I speak because my daughters are biracial. Believe me, almost everyone views them as black, though they have spent most of their lives with me (their white mother) and my second husband (also white). And how many white men (Democrat and Republican) capably led this “multi-race nation” without having the slightest clue what it meant to be black or any other minority? I know you want to find fault with the man, that’s obvious. I don’t even agree with all of his politics (nor that of any one else). But could you all please try to keep your criticisms fair, accurate and substantive?

    Comment by Kim — January 25, 2007 @ 12:09 pm

  14. #13, the observations are just that, observations (that’s what “apparently” is there for). I’d love for those observations to be wrong. I don’t have to look very far to know that Tiger Woods, by contrast, won’t play the race card, and calls himself (accurately) Cablanasian.

    I think you need to save your fire for “African-Americans” who are expressing reservations about BHOO (Barack Hussein Obambi Obama) not being black enough.

    Maureen Dowd is the one who thinks she needs to “toughen him up.” Again, just observing ….

    Comment by TBlumer — January 25, 2007 @ 12:47 pm

  15. #14, I’m curious to know what the observation that he is “apparently rejecting his mother’s side” of the family is based on. And if you’d seriously love for your observations to be wrong, I’d expect that you’ll be holding the Republicans to the same level of scrutiny.

    I’m not quite certain what your point is about African-Americans who express reservations about Senator Obama not being “black enough.” If you think their reservations are valid, I’d think you’d be happy, as you were expressing apparent reservations that he isn’t white enough.

    However, were I to hear such a statement from an African-American, I would likely be at odds with it. I’m not certain what “black enough” would imply, just as I don’t know what being “white enough” would imply. For that matter, I don’t know what being “enough” of any ethnicity would imply. “Black enough” or “white enough” for what? To lead a nation comprised of a multitude of races and free thought?

    Senator Obama has said that he is tired of a society where black children reading books are told they are trying to be white. That shouldn’t happen because education is something we should all value, whatever our ethnicity. Even if you don’t agree with his politics, it’s nice to hear a voice that is trying to represent the common values most of us share (education, safety, health, trust in our leaders, etc.) through a message of hope rather than a message of fear.

    And while I do respect Tiger Woods not “playing the race card,” I’m not certain that Senator Obama has done that either. He has merely expressed identifying with both his paternal and maternal ethnicity in different ways, and I don’t know what’s wrong with that. I think it would be a sad day that we can’t all celebrate our heritage. But as far as the term “Cablanasian,” I guess I’d have to call myself “Italifrenchhungarirish,” or some such to keep up with his “accurateness.”

    Comment by Kim — January 25, 2007 @ 1:24 pm

  16. #14, I’m obviously not being clear:
    - First, I do not care what Obama’s race is. HE seems to, as he belongs to a church that is devoted to “The Black Values,” whatever they are (I could not locate them). That is at a minimum ironic given his heritage. Taken in isolation, makes one wonder whether he is or isn’t comfortable with half of his heritage.
    - Second, the people complaining about BHOO not being black enough are revealing what THEY are really all about. It’s not a knock on BHOO himself, but it is indicative of a party (because the critics are all Dems and liberals) that is obsessed with racial identity.
    - Third, I want a President who’s comfortable in their own skin, whatever color it is, and will do what they think, based on a defensible set of core values, is the right thing as a PERSON for the whole country, not as a black, white, or whatever.
    - Fourth, I like the hope vs. fear argument, the outrage at the elements in the black community that hold people back (e.g., the “acting white” thing you mentioned has always outraged me), and the appeal to common values, but I’m concerned that his voting record might betray that a lot of it is empty rhetoric, or worse. I don’t know; it will require closer scrutiny.

    We’ll see.

    Comment by TBlumer — January 25, 2007 @ 5:51 pm

  17. I think if you read his books and listen to his speeches, you’ll find ample evidence that he is quite comfortable with and grateful for both parts of his heritage. However, I agree that his voting record is the best way to judge his alignment with each of our own political values.

    While I have not heard the “not black enough” statement myself, I have heard other racially-based perspectives that give credence to what you’re saying. I’ve heard black Democrats say they are going to support Hillary Clinton because they don’t feel a black person can win, and they want to put their support where it will have the most impact. I’ve also heard them say they don’t want him to win because they fear he would be assasinated. It’s similar to the “trying to be white” view of an educated black person, in that it’s very self-defeating.

    But however you feel about him and whatever the end result is, I hope it’s going to be good for our country to have him (and Hillary, too, I suppose) as a part of the 2008 Presidential race. It forces a discourse that encourages us all to question what influences our voting choices.

    Comment by Kim — January 26, 2007 @ 10:06 am

  18. The press has really gotten superficial….do we have nothing of substance to write about….

    Comment by Ellen Graham — February 14, 2007 @ 12:24 am

  19. #18, Obama made this one superficial with how “sennnnnnnsitive” he said he is about his ears. Poor baby.

    Comment by TBlumer — February 14, 2007 @ 5:59 am

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