Thursday, April 03, 2008

Goldilocks and the Three Bears: A Political Fairy Tale

I once wrote a story called "The Little Red Riot-Helmet", where George Bush takes the place of the Little Red Riding-Hood. The reason for that exercise was that it was fun, but I also think that there is something to be learned from the use of fairy tales in the analysis of American politics. After all, we already use sports for that purpose, and fairy tales are at least equally steeped in deep mythological meanings and those whispering voices which connect directly with the more primal parts of our brains.

This is why reading the most recent Maureen Dowd column on Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton reminded me of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Goldilocks is a little girl who enters the house of the three bears while the bears are out:

At the table in the kitchen, there were three bowls of porridge. Goldilocks was hungry. She tasted the porridge from the first bowl.

"This porridge is too hot!" she exclaimed.

So, she tasted the porridge from the second bowl.

"This porridge is too cold," she said

So, she tasted the last bowl of porridge.

"Ahhh, this porridge is just right," she said happily and she ate it all up.

After she'd eaten the three bears' breakfasts she decided she was feeling a little tired. So, she walked into the living room where she saw three chairs. Goldilocks sat in the first chair to rest her feet.

"This chair is too big!" she exclaimed.

So she sat in the second chair.

"This chair is too big, too!" she whined.

So she tried the last and smallest chair.

"Ahhh, this chair is just right," she sighed. But just as she settled down into the chair to rest, it broke into pieces!

Goldilocks was very tired by this time, so she went upstairs to the bedroom. She lay down in the first bed, but it was too hard. Then she lay in the second bed, but it was too soft. Then she lay down in the third bed and it was just right. Goldilocks fell asleep.

I'm not giving away the ending of the story, and it might not apply to the way Maureen Dowd always finds fault with Hillary Clinton (too harsh, too powerful, too masculine) and with Barack Obama (too timid, too nice, too effeminate). As an example of this, her latest column says:

When pressed about whether he's ready for Swift-boating, Obama has seemed a bit cavalier. But the Hillary camp will garrote him with his mistakes until he fully appreciates what garroting feels like. Ickes told a Web site Tuesday that he has been pursuing superdelegates by pressing the Rev. Wright issue.


Obama has been less adept at absorbing the lesson of Hillary's metamorphosis from entitled queen of the party to scrappy blue-collar mama. His strenuous and inadvertently hilarious efforts to woo working-class folk in Pennsylvania have only made him seem more effete. Keeping his tie firmly in place, he genteelly sipped his pint of Yuengling beer at Sharky's sports cafe in Latrobe and bowled badly in Altoona. Challenging Obama to a bowl-off, Hillary kindly offered to "spot him two frames."

It is very hard not to think that John McCain is the third bear of Maureen Dowd's story, the one who turns out to be just right for her. His personal foibles are not dissected, his ignorance of economics or memory lapses in foreign politics don't fire Dowd's keyboard, for some reason. He is the bear hiding just behind the corner, perhaps.

So I think that Dowd is a secret supporter of John McCain. Why else would she never write bad things about him? But McCain is not the bear who is just right, unless you like your bears getting into violent paroxysms of anger and eating you up.