4:10 p.m. October 16, 2013

Hack-Fic: A Scandal In Maureenia

WASHINGTON - Maureen Dowd hovers over a young man. She paces back and forth behind him, stopping every so often to peer over his shoulder.

"Bobby, can it be fixed?"

"Well, Ms. Dowd, like I tried to tell you, I can fix computers, but --"

"This is a vintage computer."

"It's a typewriter, Ms. Dowd"

"Take all the time you need, Bobby. My deadline isn't for another half an hour. Would you like a drink?"

"I'll take some water, thank you."

She hands Bobby a tumbler full of Whiskey.

Outside of her office, Maureen again finds herself pacing. "I don't know what to write about," she mumbles as she lights a menthol Virginia Slim. "Sometimes it feels as though I have written it all."

Frustrated, Maureen reclines on her orange, crushed velvet chaise lounge. She turns on the TV, which is set to VCR. It begins playing a 2004 episode of Book TV on C-SPAN 2, where Maureen discusses her book, "Bushworld: Enter At Your Own Risk". Maureen winces, remembering the lawsuit she had to settle with that Greenwich Village sex shop. Trademark violation, indeed!

Maureen turns off the VCR and begins to flip through the channels. A refreshing way to write a column, she thought, would be to watch an episode of a TV show and relate it to current events. "People who are fans of that show will probably become fans of the column, and thus me," she says to herself. "Minimal effort, maximum return." Maureen flips through the channels intently. Cable news, cable news, cable news, 'Keeping Up With The Kardashians' "no." 'American Horror Story' "I'll save that one for Halloween." 'Scandal' "That's it!"

Although Maureen had never watched the show, she certainly understood the subject on which the show was based: American politics.

Maureen runs to her office.

"Bobby! Did you fix the computer?"

"Typewriter, Ms. Dowd."

"Never mind that, Bobby! Can you transcribe?"

Maureen grabs her diary and searches excitedly for a blank page. She finds one behind a doodle of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney making out. She reaches for her fluffy pen and begins to write.

I’d heard about a medical malady you can get from watching too much cable news. You start feeling jittery and apprehensive about the future.

"You are a wordsmith," she tells herself.

I flipped around and paused at ABC’s “Scandal.”

I’d never gotten into “Scandal” because it seemed too outlandishly over-the-top, a silly sex-and-murder-fueled Washington soap opera.

"Being honest with your public is important. It's what separates you from the politicians," she reminds herself as she takes a drag of her menthol Virginia Slim.

I was about to keep flipping when I saw something soothing on “Scandal” that I had not seen in Washington in eons: acidic adversaries working together on a seeming Gordian knot and quickly settling on a compromise. Suddenly, compared with the incredible, insane, illogical cliffhangers in the actual D.C., the ones in Rhimes’s D.C. seem quite credible.

Kerry Washington’s Olivia Pope, unmasked by The Washington Post at the end of last season as the president’s girlfriend, opens her safe and takes out a folder with a code.

She is satisfied, "this column is already probably more exciting than the show itself. Pulitzer, Maureen. Pulitzer."

We now find ourselves plunged into a surreal, sensationalized, sordid world where a demonstrator waves a Confederate flag at the White House and Larry Klayman tells President Obama “to put the Koran down”; where Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin, after goading Tea Party pols to close down the government, go to a rally at the World War II memorial to express outrage that the government is closed down.


Liv Pope is appealingly relentless and brass-knuckled compared to President Obama. Her mantras are, after all, “It’s handled,” and “I’m never out of options.”

David Axelrod admitted to The Boston Globe’s Matt Viser that the Obama team should have involved Obama more in interacting with Capitol Hill from the beginning, so the aloof president who breezed through the Senate could learn how the velvet-and-vise game is played. Instead, negotiating with the Hill was outsourced to Rahm Emanuel, who makes Pope seem like a defeatist.

“If I rethink it,” Axelrod said, “maybe we were too reliant on Rahm and should have engaged the president more in those early months and years.”

When the ship of state turns into the ship of fools, we all sink.

"What if this is so good that The Times asks me to be their television reviewer now, too?" Maureen wonders aloud.

She rips the finished pages out of her diary and rushes back into her living room, where Bobby is sitting awkwardly on her chaise lounge.

"It's dinnertime, Ms. Dowd, I really need to be getting home soon."

"I have some olives and some Maraschino cherries you can eat. I just need you to transcribe this for me."

"I'll just take some cherries, I guess."

"Bobby, what you are doing is more important for this country than you could ever know."