Clinton is a warm bath, Obama a cold shower - Maureen Dowd


FORMER US president Bill Clinton is like a “warm bath”, Barack Obama is like a “cold shower” and George Bush snr is one of the last great gentlemen.

As for presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and failed candidate Al Gore, both are “so wooden that they are like guys made in a factory”, while Hillary Clinton could still run for the White House next time round.

Such was the acid/alkaline flavour of New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd’s wit at a public interview last night with fellow New York-based Irish-born journalist Niall O’Dowd.

The interview in the Museum of Country Life in Castlebar, Co Mayo, was hosted by NUI Galway four days before Dowd receives an honorary degree from the university.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, who has both Clare and Mayo roots, spoke of her mother’s love for Michael Collins and her father’s support for De Valera. She had learned later in life that she had been conceived at an Ancient Order of Hibernians convention, after a row between her parents over the attentions of another man.

“So I was conceived in jealousy and rage ... which explains everything,” she observed, to laughter.

President Obama’s inability to use his skill as a storyteller, so skilfully applied in his memoir, was a key factor in his drop in support, she said. “He’s a bit like Luke Skywalker with the force – he’s got it but he doesn’t seem to know how to use it.”

He was supposed to be the “Democratic Reagan”, but instead of “learning to surf the magic”, he had “put it to one side”, she said. As a consequence, Obama was now engaged in trying to win back the support of so many groups, from “gays, Muslims, Hispanics” to “Catholics and women” who had been “so besotted by him” and had become disenchanted, she said.

The result of the US election would be “close”, she said, even though the campaigns did not have the excitement of 2008.

The two happiest moments enjoyed by presidents which she had witnessed were Bill Clinton in Belfast with Van Morrison, and Obama in Moneygall, Co Offaly last year. Both Clinton and Obama enjoyed the “unadulterated love they got from the Irish” because of the absence of fathers in their lives, she said.

Dowd spoke of the “amazing attack” on the Vatican by Enda Kenny and her abhorrence of the Catholic Church’s reaction to child sexual abuse. But she had been “very impressed” by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin who had “started crying” when she was interviewing him.

She paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth II of Britain for “overcoming” the death of her relative Lord Mountbatten to meet Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness.

Dowd was given a civic reception last night by newly elected Mayo County Council cathaoirleach, Cllr Cyril Burke.