Skip Links
Hillary Clinton. Image: Gage Skidmore

Five takedowns from Maureen Dowd 

The New York Times Op-Ed columnist keeping world leaders in check

Justin Tam
Sydney Opera House

In a political climate strangled by fear, the strongest voices of opposition often emerge from the media. Maureen Dowd is one of these voices – an opinion columnist for The New York Times since 1983, she’s covered nine presidential elections, including Reagan in 1984; both Bushes (H. in 1988, W. in 2000); the Clinton family (Bill in 1992, Hillary in 2016); and Donald Trump. Here are five of Dowd’s most-read columns where she held some of the world's most influential political and cultural figures in the world to account for abuses of power.

Barack Obama

“Obama — Just Too Good for Us”

Dowd has never let anyone off the hook, including Barack Obama. In June 2018, Ben Rhodes, Obama's Deputy National Security Advisor (2009 – 2017) released a book – edging on a novel – that turns the White House inside out for the public to see. Dowd characterises Rhodes' book as an account of his friendship with Obama, and the tense moments during the presidency. 

"Even though he could make magic – like the time he sang 'Amazing Grace' at a funeral for black parishioners murdered by a white supremacist in South Carolina – Obama did not like persuading people to do what they didn’t want to do. And that is the definition of politics. He wanted them simply to do what he had ascertained to be right."

Read more in the New York Times

Former POTUS Barack Obama in the Oval Office. Image: Pete Souza
Former POTUS Barack Obama in the Oval Office. Image: Pete Souza

Hillary Clinton

“The Clinton Contamination”

Dowd takes on both Clintons at once, addressing their nonchalance in bending the law. In 2009, Hillary was sworn in as Secretary of State. Immediately prior, she had used a personal email for all correspondence instead of a “” email. The F.B.I. pardoned this breach of protocol on two occasions, and Dowd doesn't let the Bureau or James Comey, its former Director, forget it.

"Hillary willfully put herself above the rules – again – and a president, campaign and party are all left twisting themselves into pretzels defending her. Obama aimed to have no shadows, but the Clintons operate in shadows."

Read more in the New York Times

Hillary Clinton at a town hall meeting in Manchester, New Hampshire. Image: Gage Skidmore
Hillary Clinton at a town hall meeting in Manchester, New Hampshire. Image: Gage Skidmore

The entire Catholic Church

“The Church's Judas Moment”

As a Catholic herself, Dowd is unafraid to remind us what the Church once stood for, and what its priests and leaders might need to do to maintain a faith where hypocrisy overrides.

"The church is dying from a thousand cuts. Its cover-up has cost a fortune and been a betrayal worthy of Judas. The money spent came from social programs, Catholic schools and the poor. This should be a sin that cries to heaven for vengeance."

Read more in the New York Times

Pope Francis. Image: Annett Klingner

Harvey Weinstein

“Harvey Weinstein, Hollywood's Oldest Story”

With a groundbreaking investigation published in The New Yorker, Ronan Farrow broke the story that would kickstart a global moment against sexual assault. Dowd points out that this is nothing new, citing eighty years of tales of unforgivable behaviour by male film executives towards female actresses. Behind his front as a successful producer – championing films fronted by formidable women and supporting Hillary's presidential campaign – Weinstein’s treatment of women behind closed hotel doors was an evil he kept hidden.

"Often the actresses scrambled, trying to figure out how to get out of the room without having their futures shredded by the vindictive satyr, who also threatened to destroy actresses who balked at wearing dresses designed by his wife Georgina Chapman’s fashion label on the red carpet."

Read more in the New York Times

Harvey Weinstein. Image: Thomas Hawk
Harvey Weinstein. Image: Thomas Hawk

Donald Trump

“Donald, This I Will Tell You”

Dowd saves her greatest rebukes for the current POTUS. She reminds Donald that he never wanted to be called a “politician”, and indeed he will never be remembered as being one. Dowd says it best:

"They’re counting on you being a delusional dupe who didn’t even know what was in the bill because you’re sitting around in a bathrobe getting your information from wackadoodles on Fox News and then, as The Post reported, peppering aides with the query, “Is this really a good bill?” You got played."

Read more in the New York Times

Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson, US Air Force, and President Donald Trump. Image: USAF / Sgt. Jannelle McRae
Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson, US Air Force, and President Donald Trump. Image: USAF / Sgt. Jannelle McRae

You may also like...


Maureen Dowd

As America’s best-known female newspaper columnist, Maureen Dowd has covered nine presidential campaigns, and brings an astute take on contemporary American politics and its leaders.


Cheat sheet: Ta-Nehisi Coates

Essential chats with the essayist and Black Panther comic book writer.


A history of Maureen Dowd's electoral hot takes

For 34 years, Maureen Dowd has inflicted searing burns on prospective Presidents. We look back at nine election campaigns as told by the powerhouse New York Times columnist.