I've got a joke for you guys: What do you call two New York Times columnists talking in a taxi?
Nothing worth reporting -- badum-chh! Unfortunately, Maureen Dowd used her Sunday column to do exactly that, so the joke's on us readers. She even prefaced her über-insider chat by saying, "Journalists are never supposed to start a piece with a scene in a taxi because it signals either laziness about gathering facts or a tendency to embroider facts. Nonetheless, I’m going to." (Translation: Suck it, Times readers! I'll do whatever I want.) The subject matter that demanded breaking this journalistic rule? Michelle Obama's arms -- because it's obviously a subject sorely lacking coverage. Worse still, her interlocutor is none other than conservative columnist David Brooks -- because we've all been dying to hear what this dogged defender of women's rights (to stay in the kitchen and pop out kids) has to say about the first lady's powerful biceps.
At first, Dowd's end of this columnist confab offers the verbal equivalent of the Michelle the Riveter T-shirt: The first lady's arms are "the only bracing symbol of American strength right now ... she could easily wind up and punch out Rush Limbaugh, Bernie Madoff and all the corporate creeps who ripped off America," she says. Then her vision of Super First Lady gives way to one of Michelle as "Ginger Rogers gliding around in feathers and lamé." Forget the stimulus, this sartorial show is all this country needs.
Brooks, however, is consistent to type and cautions: "She’s made her point. Now she should put away Thunder and Lightning.” Yes, put those guns away, Michelle, you're scaring the poor man. (And his nicknaming each of Michelle's biceps is scaring poor me.) “Washington is sensually avoidant," he continues, as though showing off her buff arms is the equivalent of wearing a deep V-neck with a push-up bra. "The wonks here like brains," he says. "She should not be known for her physical presence, for one body part." If only she could hide the fact that she's a lady, and a strong one at that, then, maybe, the Beltway could take this brilliant and accomplished woman semi-seriously. He finishes off his rant with some sarcasm: "Sometimes I think half the reason Obama ran for president is so Michelle would have a platform to show off her biceps."
This, folks, is the top-notch content the Times wanted readers to pay for. What can we look forward to next Sunday? Maybe Brooks can phone in a columnist gab fest about the New Yorker's long-sleeved first lady cover. Or he can improvise a column based on a conversation with Dowd about Obama's pectorals. We wait with bated breath.