Puppet Show

The Dowd Imbroglio

09.17.12 6:38 PM ET

They're really up in arms about Maureen Dowd's column yesterday, and I don't quite get it. So it's just the phrase "puppet master," referring to Dan Senor, supposedly (as Dowd had it) pulling Paul Ryan's strings. And the verb "slither."

Dowd's adjective is being likened by some to Glenn Beck's transgression from 2010, when he called a several-part "expose" about George Soros "The Puppet Master." If liberals complained then about anti-Semitic overtones, why should Dowd get a pass?

That's a fair question. And there's a fair answer: Beck went a hell of a lot of farther than just using the phrase. His whole argument was built around it. And, more importantly than that, his series delved into charges around which Soros's ethnic identity was central--lots of allegations about controlling the world, being the secret mastermind behind currency collapses, owning the media, giving marching orders to the Fed, and so on.

And don't forget the main thing: Beck accused a youthful Soros of letting other Jews be captured and killed. Not true, obviously. Soros, in fact, wrote about the truth of the situation in The New York Review of Books in June 2011. I can read it here, because I have a pass, but you might just get the paywall if you click through. In any case, Soros wrote:

When the Germans occupied Hungary on March 19, 1944, my father knew exactly what to do. He realized that these were abnormal times and people who followed the normal rules were at risk. He arranged false identities not only for his immediate family but also for a larger circle. He charged a fee, sometimes quite an exorbitant one, to those who could afford it, and helped others for free. I had never seen him work so hard before. That was his finest hour. Both his immediate family and most of those whom he advised or helped managed to survive.

I suppose I have to say that yes, I know Soros, although only a little, and the journal I edit did once receive a grant from the Open Society Institute, but it was before I worked here, or maybe I was here for the last year of a three-year commitment that in any case underwrote only a small portion of the journal's budget.

But this is a digression. The point is that Beck didn't just use a phrase one time. He made a series of accusations laced with historic anti-Semitism, and one totally false accusation that was a hideous libel centered around the Holocaust.

The thing is, I'm not even a Dowd fan. I think she writes too much about herself, not enough about actual policy, and is too mannered. So this post shouldn't be taken as rallying to her defense.

And I'm not Jewish and therefore not properly sensitized and aware of the history perhaps, but it just seems to me this is more of a fuss than that adjective deserves. I'd like to see some of the people expressing outrage at Dowd today express a little retrospective outrage at, oh, Paul Wolfowitz's failure even know how many young men and women he'd helped send off to die back shortly after the war started.

And yet I confess in researching this post I did learn about the history of Mangiafuoco, the evil Pinocchio antagonist whom Disney's illustrators apparently portrayed in an anti-Semitic light, although I don't recall picking up on that at age five or whatever. In any case we ought to be more concerned with keeping the neocons out of power than with one adjective, and the general thrust of Dowd's column, that these people (whatever their religion and ethnicity) are dangerous and reckless was spot on.