Maureen Dowd: On Trump’s Fantasia, Cruz’s Thunderdome and 41’s affection for David Cop-a-feel


Good morning Austin:

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd and her Times colleague, Carl Hulse, are  coming to Austin Nov. 18  for an appearance at the Long Center.

Monday night, I spoke with Dowd. She was in Los Angeles for a benefit for the public library.

FR: Who persuaded you to come to Austin?

MD: Well, I love Austin, and I love Texas, and I love the Hotel San José. I love the Continental. And my dream in life is to get a poster of Ann-Margret singing at the Continental. If I can ever track that down.

So any excuse to come to Texas. I love Texas. Though it’s a sad time for Texas now.

FR: So why do you love Texas?

MD: I was the White House reporter for the Bush 1 White House and so I used to go to Beeville. I got my first cowboy boots in Beeville, where he would go quail hunting, and we would go to Houston for New Year’s Eve. I spent my New Year’s Eves in Houston.

And I love Texas women and I love Texas men. I love the whole state.

In a way it’s like California. You feel like you’re going to a completely different place with really cool people.

Austin is clearly one of the coolest places on Earth. I don’t think anyone disputes that.

FR: Do you wear boots?

MD:  Yes, I am trying to figure out which boots to wear. I always buy a pair at Allens when I’m there.

I love cowboy boots. The first ones I got were real hardcore cowboy boots in Beeville and they hurt and somebody told me that if just walked through a stream or something and wear them straight for a week, but I never could break them in. I finally had to give them away. But I never have trouble with the ones from Allens.

I love Guero’s. And I really love the Hotel San José

There was a picture in my room at the San José of Ann-Margret at the Continental and I really wanted to steal it but it was a big poster.

FR: Of the first President Bush, what do you make of recent revelations about his affection for David Cop-a-feel?

From Dave McKenna’s October 25 story in Deadspin:

Earlier this week, actress Heather Lind said in a now-deleted Instagram post that former president George H.W. Bush had sexually assaulted her. “He touched me from behind from his wheelchair with his wife Barbara Bush by his side,” she wrote. “He told me a dirty joke. And then, all the while being photographed, touched me again.”

That is not the end of things. Jordana Grolnick, a New York actress, has a story to tell that doesn’t sound very different at all. “I got sent the Heather Lind story by many people this morning,” Grolnick says. “And I’m afraid that mine is entirely similar.”

Rumors about Bush groping actresses in this manner have been circulating for a while. More than a year ago, a tipster passed word about the Heather Lind incident to Deadspin. We were told that Bush had, during a photo opp, groped her and told her that his favorite magician was “David Cop-a-Feel” while fondling her.

(Reached for comment, Bush spokesperson Jim McGrath provided the following statement: “At age 93, President Bush has been confined to a wheelchair for roughly five years, so his arm falls on the lower waist of people with whom he takes pictures. To try to put people at ease, the president routinely tells the same joke — and on occasion, he has patted women’s rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner. Some have seen it as innocent; others clearly view it as inappropriate. To anyone he has offended, President Bush apologizes most sincerely.”)

In reporting out the tip, I found two actresses—Lind and Grolnick—who had accused Bush of groping, and also two Twitter users who, on April 4, 2014, made reference to the “David Cop-a-Feel” joke

MD: It makes me very sad because I think that probably the family is upset that this would be kind of the final things that’s talked about in his legacy.

I went down to Houston to have lunch with him in 2011 and he wasn’t talking well or moving well and that was six years ago, and I get the feel that he’s been sick for a long time.

That being said, if women don’t feel comfortable, I would never challenge a woman on that. If women were made to feel not comfortable, that’s not something I can speak to. I wasn’t there. I can only say he was a perfect gentleman with me when I covered him and when I’ve seen him in the years since. I can only talk about myself. I would not dispute anything that other women say along these lines.

I didn’t see that side of him. When you take a picture with him you have to scrunch down because he’s in a wheelchair. I’m not going to get into what other women feel or say. That’s not my place. I did not experience anything like that.

FR: Have you maintained any relationship with the second President Bush.

MD: I interviewed him during his first campaign, and I had a couple of interviews with him. I was very quickly kind of writing very critical columns, which went on for six or seven years, about how we got into Iraq and how it was being conducted, so I really wasn’t a favorite of the White House.

You know I think was the one who originally coined that Dick Cheney was Darth Vader, which then, in the end, Dick Cheney began using, so I was not a friend of that White House. I agree with the historians who say  that was the worst foreign policy mistake in American history.

You know we were attacked by one fiend, and then we said, “Let’s go after this other fiend because we have his address.” That is not the way we should conduct ourselves. It’s not fair.

FR: Have you, like many others, softened on Bush, post-Trump?

MD: When I see President Bush, Bush Jr., when I see him, when he makes a speech that’s very great about the need for civility and pushing back on President Trump, you know you can see where he has a lot of aspects where he could have been a very popular president, if he hadn’t come under the sway of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. But unfortunately he did, and when you see him being very dignified and appealing in speeches like he made last week it makes me sad that he couldn’t have been that president, but he wasn’t that president, unfortunately.

FR: It seems you adopted Trump’s word sad.

MD: Yes, but his is capital letters, exclamation mark. Mine is lowercase.

FR: Trump’ s been very good for the New York Times and the Washington Post,right?

MD: I say that Trump is the Rosemary’s baby of social media, reality TV and politics.

I mean it is the biggest story in presidential history. And White House reporters look exhausted but also they have all these lucrative contracts and magazine profiles.

When I covered the first President Bush, I don’t even think I got in the paper for six months, and then I think it was because he was showering with his dog Millie, or something.

I don’t think the White House reporters have a full appreciation of what it’s going to be like when they  go back to a normal politician and they are not on the front page, or on the home page twenty times a day, and they are not feted and they don’t have these big TV contracts you know because, unless Trump opens up the floodgates to a lot of celebrity presidents, and we end up with President Cuban (see Dowd’s recent, Mark Cuban Not Done Trolling Donald Trump), and President Kanye West, you know, everyone you see now on TV making a lot of money will have to kind of go back to a more boring White House existence.

It’s a kind of co-dependency, right, because Trump is like a heroin addict with attention, he has a heroin needle hanging out of his arm because he has the job where he gets the most attention of anyone in the world, which is what he wants, and we are dependent on him. So there’s a sort of a toxic mutual interdependence, where we have much higher subscription rates, and so does the Washington Post, and Rachel Maddow has the top ratings, and CNN, they can afford to call up reporters and give them contracts, and so this is plush time and it gives us a respite while we figure out a new business model for when Trump isn’t president.

But he’s the most accessible president in modern history, that’s what Maggie Haberman has said, and I think it’s true. Not to me, because he’s kind of mad at me. He tweeted that I was a wacky, neurotic dope, because there was something I said he didn’t like – I don’t know what it was – but he is incredibly accessible. He talks about the failing New York Times, but he talks to  Times reporters all time.

FR: When the president of the United States tweets that you’re a neurotic dope, is there a kick in that?

MD: Well, I think it got my book up fifteen places on Amazon, but it was kind of upsetting for me because Carl (Hulse) had a book party for me and he blew up the tweets and I looked at the bottom and I said, “What is that 20,000?” And he said, “Well, 20,000 people liked it,” and that was a little jarring.


But he always calls women “wacky and neurotic,” and I was a little disappointed because I was hoping for a more customized name from him having known him for thirty years.”

FR: You’ve talked to him for thirty years.

MD: The first time I talked to him was in 1987 when Mikhail Gorbachev made his first trip to  the United States and I was covering that, so I called the New York businessmen he was meeting with and before Trump went in the meeting, he was, “Oh, we’ve got to be careful, we’ve got to be skeptical of the Soviet Union, we don’t want to make any deals with them.” And then I called him after the meeting and he came out and he goes, “They’re fantastic, they love Trump Tower, they want to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, I love them, we have to make deals with them.”

So the very first time I interviewed him, I realized, just one compliment and the guy completely turns around, and it was just funny that it was on the subject of Russia too.

And then about a year later he was up at Trump Tower and he heard that Gorbachev was on Fifth Avenue, and so he came running down with this bodyguard, but then it turned out it was this actor from New Jersey named Ronald Knapp, and so Trump was trying to talk to him until he realized he was an actor.

From Dowd’s Dec. 7, 1988 column:

Gordon Elliott, who is the host for several Channel 5 programs and who accompanied Mr. Knapp in his charade, said afterward that Mr. Trump had fallen for the gag. ”There was absolutely no question that he bought it,” Mr. Elliott said.

Mr. Trump said that, once he got close up, he knew immediately that it was not the Soviet leader – especially since the pretender did not allude to the previous time the two had met and treated the deal-making mogul as a stranger.

”He looked fabulous and he sounded fabulous, but I knew it couldn’t be right,” Mr. Trump said. ”For one thing, I looked into the back of his limo and saw four very attractive women.

”I knew that his society had not come that far yet in terms of capitalist decadence.” 

MD: So Trump was the same Trump then.

He doesn’t change.

In ’99, I went to Miami with him where he was testing out a bid for 2000 and I said, “Why on Earth do  you think you could be president?” And he said, “Well, I’ve got the biggest ratings on Larry King,  and all these men hit on Melania, and Melania’s been on a lot of magazine covers, and my name is on the General Motors Building five times,” and that ego arithmetic you still see today – that he got so upset the day of the Inaugural with the crowd size, or just any day of the week – that has always been in place.

FR: What do you make of Alex Jones?

MD:  It’s hard to know where to even weigh in on the crazy. It would be interesting to meet him and cover him.

FR: Are you able to sort out this Donna Brazile thing?

MD: Basically, I have thought for a long time that the Clintons treated the Democratic Party as the party of the Clintons, and then Obama treated the Democratic Party as the party of Obama, so I wasn’t that surprised.

I just think they were very tone deaf in looking at the Bernie Sanders phenomenon and not knowing what that meant, and Obama had come up on a similar wave of hunger for change and instead of recognizing it, they tried to suppress, he and Hillary suppressed it, and so if they had realized it maybe they would have realized they needed Elizabeth Warren as a running mate, or she needed something else, but by suppressing  that sense of revolution, they couldn’t even read the room.

I never understood  why (Obama) shut down Biden so easily, he took him to lunch and told him that he couldn’t run because Biden seemed – he had an amazing life story and he was more in touch with blue collar people – and I thought they dismissed him as someone who wouldn’t do well way too easily given the political mood.

FR: Biden was greeted as hero at the LBJ Library last month.

From a First Reading in early October: Old-school Joe Biden hailed as a hero by students at the LBJ Presidential Library.

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden takes a photo with LBJ School graduate students after speaking at the LBJ Presidential Library’s Auditorium on the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Yes, Biden will be 75 in November.

But that makes him a whole year younger than Bernie Sanders.

Like Sanders, the kids love him.

By the kids I mean the students at UT and the LBJ School who made up much of the audience last night for his appearance as the Tom Johnson Lecturer at the LBJ Presidential Library, giving Biden a hero’s welcome and seeming very much in his thrall though his conversation with Updegrove.

HIs appeal is different from that of Sanders.

Sanders is the cranky socialist iconoclast, all issues all the time, and the issue being income inequality.

Biden’s appeal, especially to Millennials, is less obvious. He is a throwback to a time of respect and comity and consensus in politics.

But on a day that President Donald Trump was casually insulting Puerto Ricans stricken by disaster – aka, another day on the job – Biden’s homespun philosophy and appeals to decency and American first principles, carried some extra punch.

Watching him hold court, at length, last night, a Biden presidential candidacy in 2020 seemed perfectly plausible.

MD: It just seemed that President Obama and Hillary Clinton were just sort of these cerebral Ivy Leaguers and these other people weren’t good enough. But to me it was just a complete misreading of the electorate and the mood and the type of person that you need and the kind of choices she would have to make, so I thought that all along, so I wasn’t all that surprised by Donna’s stuff.

FR: Do you feel any personal responsibility that Joe Biden hasn’t already served as president for eight years?(I am referring here to classic early Dowd, a September 1987 story – Biden’s Debate Finale: An Echo from Abroad – that effectively knocked a then-young Joe Biden out of the race for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination.)

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11— The Neil Kinnock commercial did not lead to electoral success last May in Britain, but the 10-minute spot of the Labor Party leader’s passionate speeches, against a cool soundtrack of Brahms, raised his approval rating by 19 points and became an instant classic.

On this side of the Atlantic, many Presidential campaign strategists of both parties greatly admired the way it portrayed Mr. Kinnock, who subsequently lost to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, as a man of character. Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, a Democratic hopeful, was particularly taken with it.

So taken, in fact, that he lifted Mr. Kinnock’s closing speech with phrases, gestures and lyrical Welsh syntax intact for his own closing speech at a debate at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 23 – without crediting Mr. Kinnock.

In the commercial, the Briton began, ”Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university?” Then pointing to his wife in the audience, he continued: ”Why is Glenys the first woman in her family in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Was it because all our predecessors were thick?”

Senator Biden began his remarks by saying the ideas had come to him spontaneously on the way to the debate. ”I started thinking as I was coming over here, why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university?” he said. Then, pointing to his wife, he continued: ”Why is it that my wife who is sitting out there in the audience is the first in her family to ever go to college? Is it because our fathers and mothers were not bright? Is it because I’m the first Biden in a thousand generations to get a college and a graduate degree that I was smarter than the rest?”

In his speech, Mr. Kinnock, an orator of great eloquence, rhetorically asked why his ancestors, Welsh coal miners, did not get ahead as fast as he. ”Did they lack talent?” he asked, in his lilting rhythm. ”Those people who could sing and play and recite and write poetry? Those people who could make wonderful beautiful things with their hands? Those people who could dream dreams, see visions? Why didn’t they get it? Was it because they were weak? Those people who could work eight hours underground and then come up and play football? Weak?”

Senator Biden’s Irish relations, it would seem, were similar, though they seemed to stay underground longer.

”Those same people who read poetry and wrote poetry and taught me how to sing verse?” continued Mr. Biden, whose father was a Chevrolet dealer in Wilmington. ”Is it because they didn’t work hard? My ancestors, who worked in the coal mines of Northeast Pennsylvania and would come up after 12 hours and play football for four hours?”


Thomas Donilon, Mr. Biden’s campaign aide, said that the Senator was traveling and did not care to comment on the similarities in the two speeches.


Asked which of Mr. Biden’s relatives had been coal miners, Mr. Donilon said the Senator had not necessarily been referring to his own relatives but had been talking about the ”people that his ancestors grew up with in the Scranton region, and in general the people of that region were coal miners.”

Told that Mr. Biden had used the phrase, ”my ancestors,” Mr. Donilon said, ”Evidently he had a great-grandfather who worked in a mining company.” Asked the name of the man, the company and the sort of job he held, Mr. Donilon pronounced himself at a loss.

Rereading that made me smile, considering this line from Biden at his LBJ appearance.

If you listen to Barack, he makes me sound like a guy who crawled out of a coal mine with a lunchbox.

MD: No (Biden does not hold a grudge about that story), he gives me credit, if he hadn’t gotten off of the campaign trail he might have missed his aneurism. So he thinks I saved his life. We’ve had a really good relationship for the last twenty years.

He is a really interesting guy. I think President Obama  and Hillary were, “Oh Biden makes gaffes,” and, we used to have an editor, Howell Raines, who used to say, everything depends on who you are in the field with, who you are running against, so compared to Trump, Biden’s gaffes would have been teensy-weensy little gaffes. They wouldn’t even have been noticed.

I just think that if he had wanted to run, even as a way to deal with his grief, I think they should have let him. I don’t think they should have shut him down. I mean he was the vice president. He was a very popular politician. Again, everything had to get out of the way for the juggernaut of the Clintons and I think they made a lot of tone-deaf decisions.

FR: Do you have a gut feeling about how long the Trump presidency is going to last?

MD: I know there are a lot of stories that get written that he’s so unhappy, he really would like to get out of there, but I don’t see it that way. I think he thinks he’s doing a good job. I think he is completely in his own reality and I think that reality is that he’s doing a good job. I think he will be there unless he gets dragged out of there.

But (special counsel Robert) Mueller and Trump are such a fascinating counterpoint because Mueller is the ultimate Boy Scout, and Trump is sort of the ultimate con man. They are sort of a cultural collision you’d see in a movie.

If I had Mueller coming after me with all the Dirty Dozen of people who are experts in all different things – like one’s a witness flipper, one’s organized crime, one’s this and that and (one’s skilled at) closing –  I would be very scared.

But then again Trump lives in his own Trump Fantasia, so he probably isn’t that scared.

Roger Stone has a theory of how he can get out of it. I saw something the other day. He has some backdoor way of getting rid of Mueller because Mueller was the FBI director with the Hillary uranium deal, some crazy conspiracy thing.

From the Oct. 30 Daily Caller:

Stone told TheDC that it is “really simple” how Trump ends Mueller’s investigation. The Trump confidant said that Mueller intends “to levy phony charges against Trump in order to impeach him.”

Trump has received past suggestions to fire Mueller, however, Stone maintains the president “doesn’t have to fire anybody.” Instead, Stone wants Trump to direct the DOJ to appoint a special counsel to investigate “all involved in the Uranium One investigation.”

The Hill recently reported that in 2009 the FBI “gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States.”

Russian firm Uranium One ended up being approved to purchase a Canadian firm that controlled around 20 percent of America’s uranium supply. No charges were brought by federal officials and Stone said that there was a “cover up.”

Mueller was director of the FBI at the time, Stone said that investigating him is Trump’s “only change for survival.”

“Mueller can’t be a special prosecutor when he himself is under investigation,” Stone said. “Mueller is guilty of obstruction and cover up in Uranium One.”

FR: Who knows. Who would have thought the fate of the 2016 campaign would have rested with Anthony Weiner.

MD: I know. You know I always told Michael Beschloss, the historian, that he should do a book on how many hairpin turns sex has created in history.

FR: Did you see Weiner?

MD: It’s one of the most amazing documentaries I’ve ever seen.

The one on Roger Stone is good too.

FR: Any thoughts on Rick Perry?

MD: It does make me a little nervous that Rick Perry is in charge of nuclear weapons, but everyone is already scared to death that Trump is, so it really doesn’t matter. You know Gail Collins, my colleague, loves to torment Rick Perry, so I like to let her do it because she does it so brilliantly.

Like this Collins column, from way back last week:

Oh, that Rick Perry.

Our secretary of energy was in South Africa recently, for Africa Oil Week. Whenever the word “oil” is mentioned, Perry responds like a dog on the scent of a hamburger. So no surprise there. We wouldn’t even have noticed he was gone, except for the part where he suggested that fossil fuels would protect women from sexual assault.

“Let me tell you where people are dying is in Africa,” he told an audience after he returned, launching into a story about a young village girl who yearned to be able to read by electric light instead of a smoky fire.

O.K. so far …

“But also from the standpoint of sexual assault,” Perry continued. “When the lights are on, where you have light that shines, the righteousness, if you will, on those types of acts. So from the standpoint of how you really affect people’s lives, fossil fuel is going to play a role in that.”

Now we all support electrification of rural villages. But where the heck did the sexual assault part come from? The Department of Energy wasn’t really forthcoming. It just issued a statement saying that while Perry was in Africa “he was told how light can be a deterrent to sexual assault and can provide security in remote areas.”

Environmental groups quickly pointed out that there is a hefty sexual assault problem in places that have more electricity than they know what to do with. But let’s be generous. Maybe he was still quoting that village girl. Do you really think she insisted that the light come from fossil fuels? Inquiring minds want to know.

Rick Perry is an absolutely terrible secretary of energy. We all remember that he took the job without realizing that his central responsibility would be overseeing the safe handling of nuclear materials, a topic he knew nothing whatsoever about. Interested bystanders recalled sadly that Barack Obama’s first secretary was a Nobel Prize-winning scientist and the second a nuclear physicist.

On the other hand, Rick Perry once shot a coyote while jogging.

He claims.

FR: Gail Collins seems to have a little bit more ambiguous relationship with Texas than you do.

MD: I know. That is true. I don’t know what it is. I do love Texas.

FR: She’s a Texas skeptic.

MD: Maybe it’s because I was born below the Mason-Dixon line, in D.C., so I like to pretend I’m a Southerner.

FR: Have you met Beto O’Rourke?

MD: I think he tried to set up a meeting, but our schedules didn’t match. Yeah, he’s a punk rocker or something? He sounds interesting. I’m not sure Texas is quite prepared for blue Senators yet, but I would like to cover him.

FR: He’s from El Paso, which has never elected one of its own to statewide office.

MD: You should get this book, the thing that I’ve been up all night writing about, by Jaron Lanier, you know he invented virtual reality, and the whole beginning of this book is how his parents fled the Holocaust and pogroms and  went to this town in the Southwest corner of Texas, and that’s where he was raised.



From a 2011 New Yorker profile by Jennifer Kahn:

Lanier’s mother and father belonged to a circle of artists in Greenwich Village, but they moved soon after Jaron was born—on May 3, 1960—first to Colorado, and then to a spot near El Paso, Texas, on the border with Mexico. The area was desolate and impoverished, and Lanier has speculated that the move was driven, at least in part, by fear. Lanier’s mother, Lilly, a pianist, painter, and dancer, had emigrated from Vienna when she was fifteen, after surviving a concentration camp. His father, Ellery, the child of Ukrainian Jews who had fled the pogroms, worked as an architect, painter, writer, elementary-school teacher, and radio host. When Ellery was seven, a close relative was murdered by a gang of anti-Semitic men wielding swords. A younger sister of the victim, who witnessed the assault but was warned by the attackers not to speak of it, was so traumatized that she spent the rest of her life as a mute.

FR: What about Ted Cruz?

MD: I kind of blame Ted Cruz. I think he’s the one who kind of kicked off this whole nihilism in the voters, when he was, what I called it, Ted Cruz’s Thunderdome, when he just got into this whole nihilistic thing about Obamacare and shutting down spending bills. Because I noticed when voters were interviewed about Trump – “Doesn’t Trump make you nervous?” and, “Don’t you think it’s a bad idea to vote for him?” and they would give very nihilistic answers – “We don’t care because politicians don’t seem to care  about anything so why should we.” So I think that whole attitude became kind of infectious.

From Dowd’s October 2013 column, Welcome to Ted Cruz’s Thunderdome


AN ape sits where Abe sat.

The year is 2084, in the capital of the land formerly called North America.

The peeling columns of the Lincoln Memorial, and Abe’s majestic head, elegant hands and big feet are partially submerged in sludge. Animals that escaped from the National Zoo after zookeepers were furloughed seven decades ago migrated to the memorials, hunting for food left by tourists.

The white marble monuments are now covered in ash, Greek tragedy ruins overrun with weeds. Tea Party zombies, thrilled with the dark destruction they have wreaked on the planet, continue to maraud around the Hill, eager to chomp on humanity some more.

Dead cherry blossom trees litter the bleak landscape. Trash blows through L’Enfant’s once beautiful boulevards, now strewn with the detritus of democracy, scraps of the original Constitution, corroded White House ID cards, stacks of worthless bills tumbling out of the Treasury Department.

The BlackBerrys that were pried from the hands of White House employees in 2013 are now piled up on the Potomac as a flood barrier against the ever-rising tide from melting ice caps. Their owners, unable to check their messages, went insane long ago.

Because there was no endgame, the capital’s hunger games ended in a gray void. Because there was no clean bill, now there is only a filthy stench. Because there was no wisdom, now there is only rot. The instigators, it turned out, didn’t even know what they were arguing for. Macho thrusts and feints, competing to win while the country lost.

Thomas Jefferson’s utopia devolved into Ted Cruz’s dystopia.


“In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, many of the feverish pols believed they were waging the right and moral fight even as G.O.P. party elders like Jeb Bush, John McCain, Karl Rove and James Baker warned them that they were dragging the country toward catastrophe. The Tea Party leaders liked to refer to themselves as the Children of Reagan. But as Baker told Peggy Noonan, Reagan always said, ‘I’d rather get 80 percent of what I want than go over the cliff with my flag flying.’ ”

The boy frowns. “But Papa, didn’t the healthy Republicans realize the infected ones had lower brain functions?”

“Well, son, they knew there was something creepy about the ringleader, Ted Cruz,” the man replies. “His face looked pinched, like a puzzle that had not been put together quite right. He was always launching into orations with a weird cadence and self-consciously throwing folksy phrases into his speeches, like ‘Let me tell ya,’ to make himself seem Texan, when he was really a Canadian.”

The boy looks alarmed. “A Canadian destroyed the world, Papa?”


“What is left of the world is being run by Julian Assange from what is left of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London and by some right-wing nut in a cabin in Idaho.”

The boy begins to cry. “Papa, stop. You’re making me sad. Are all the good guys gone?”

Looking through the gray skies toward the ashen Lincoln Memorial, where an ape sits in Abe’s chair, the man replies sadly, “Yes, son.”

MD: In my book I write that I think my sister spurred one of the only apologies that Trump has ever given because she was thinking about voting for Trump in the primary and he asked, “Is she still for me,” and I said, “No, because you put out that mean tweet about Heidi Cruz with that mean picture of her.”

From an April 2016 Dowd column Trump Does it His Way.

WASHINGTON — YOU could hear how hard it was for Donald Trump to say the words.

“Yeah, it was a mistake,” he said, sounding a bit chastened. “If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t have sent it.”

I was telling him he lost my sister’s vote when he retweeted a seriously unflattering photo of the pretty Heidi Cruz next to a glam shot of his wife, Melania.

He repeated his contention that he didn’t view the Heidi shot “necessarily as negative.” But I stopped him, saying it was clearly meant to be nasty.

Trump also got into his schoolyard excuse of “he did it first” and “that wasn’t nice,” insisting that Ted Cruz wrote the words on the digital ad put up by an anti-Trump group aimed at Utah Mormons; it showed Melania in a 2000 British GQ shot posing provocatively and suggested that it was not First Ladylike. Cruz denies any involvement.

Truth be told, Trump said he “didn’t love the photo” of Melania. “I think she’s taken better pictures,” he said, also protesting: “It wasn’t a nude photo, either. It wasn’t nude!”

It’s ridiculous how many mistakes Trump has made in rapid order to alienate women when he was already on thin ice with them — and this in a year when the Republicans will likely have to run against a woman.

He did a huge favor for Hillary, who had been reeling from losing young women to a 74-year-old guy and from a dearth of feminist excitement. And for Cruz, who started promoting himself as Gloria Steinem, despite his more regressive positions on abortion and other women’s issues.

FR: Did your sister end up voting for him?

MD: She sort of went back to him, but then he lost her again with all the crazy treatment of women that she read about. I think in the end she voted for me, but unfortunately it was just the one vote.

FR: Trump is hardy. Sens. Corker and Flake call him out but nothing much follows. With Nixon, when one domino fell, others followed.

MD: There’s no precedent for covering all this and every time you try to use some prior way you covered it, you can’t.

I thought Trump was finished when the piece came out about how he pretended to be his own PR guy. I thought that would finish him during the campaign.

From Dowd’s May 2016 columnThe Mogul and the Babe:

The Washington Post revived a story, with a new damning audio, about how Trump had masqueraded as his own publicist, named either John Barron or John Miller, to boast about himself back in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. Trump admitted in court testimony in 1990 that he had used the name John Barron as an alias. Former Times editor Joe Sexton told me that he thought he interviewed Trump-as-Barron in 1985 while working as a sportswriter with UPI and chasing a story about the New Jersey Generals. The Post audio on “John Miller” contained classic Trumpisms like “That I can tell you.” CNN interviewed a forensic audio specialist who believed that Trump was posing as Miller. But Trump insisted to me that the Post recording was not his voice. “ Do you know how many people I have imitating my voice now? It’s like everybody.”

FR: That appears now to be almost a charming story.

MD: Yeah, compared to the cascade of other stories.

FR: So you’re not in a panic about America?

MD: Not really because a lot of our modern presidents have been mentally kind of a little deranged. You know, they found out recently  that Nixon and JFK kept pscyhotropic drugs in the medicine cabinet. And Lyndon Johnson’s aides used to argue about whether he was paranoid or a manic depressive, and Jimmy Carter saw UFOs.

As Arthur Schlesinger said, the White House doesn’t seem to have much of a provision for nuts and the last taboo is the idea that we’d have a White House shrink, but I definitely think we should have a White House shrink.

FR: Just to be on call? Or to be able to say, “You’re done. Get out of here.”

MD: To be on call.

You know I made the mistake, Ashley Parker, she’s my former assistant, she’s the Washington Post White House reporter, and so we were at a dinner and she told me about how when Trump tweets, her phone makes a little noise. And so I went, “Oh that’s cool. Do it to my phone.”

And now I don’t know how to take it off. I’ve got to get back to Washington and figure out how to take it off because that beeping, he’s tweeting all times of the day and night.

FR: It’s like a wake up call.

MD: But if you’re in Los Angeles, it’s more like the middle of the night. I definitely do not want him beeping, beeping, beeping on my phone anymore.

And on that, we said our goodbyes.

I had originally intended to write this up for yesterday’s First Reading, but I ran out of time, because as I explained to Dowd, I had to be up bright and early Tuesday to see Rep. Dawnna Dukes’ conversation with Evan Smith (who Dowd will be having lunch with while in Austin) at the Austin Club.

“Who?” Dowd asked.

An Austin state representative, I said – searching for a short and intriguing intro – who in a little more than a year paid an online psychic more than $50,000.

MD: Oh my God. See that’s why I love Texas. Thats exactly why.

Author: Jonathan Tilove

Jonathan Tilove is the Statesman's chief political writer. He was a Washington correspondent for the New Orleans Times-Picayune from 2008 to 2012. Before that he covered race and immigration issues for Newhouse News Service for 18 years.

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