Brown Watches as Miller and Dowd Come to Blows

The most depressing thing, writes Tina Brown in the Wash Post, about the spat between Times reporter Judith Miller and her colleague/nemesis Maureen Dowd was the tired old debate it kicked off about who’s the bigger vamp, Mo or Judy? “According to Dowd in a lethal column that put her away, Judy had an unfortunate “tropism” (the lower the blow the loftier the word) for powerful men. Meanwhile, the cover story on Dowd in last week’s New York magazine featured a smoldering shoulder shot of the 53-year-old columnist, along with flutters about her “dangerous charm” and “the little black dress with spaghetti straps” she wore on a Letterman show.

Dowd’s new book, “Are Men Necessary?,” is a fun rant about how women have dialed back their hard-won independence to become alpha geishas servicing the craven weenies of inadequate males, but the elephant in the room is the way Dowd’s promotion for her book turns on an onerous, retrosexual pitch for what hot stuff the author is. The more her PR plays up the flame-haired temptress angle, the scarier and more desperate it feels. It’s made me put away for good the long, black, stiletto-heeled Jimmy Choo boots I unwrapped with racy squeals on my 50th birthday and start seriously considering rhinestone reading glasses.

Dowd’s hunt for who or what to blame for her vaunted datelessness recalls Bush’s correspondents’ dinner routine about looking for Iraqi WMD under his Oval Office desk. The thought of Dowd’s girls’ nights with fellow Times sirens Alessandra Stanley and Michiko Kakutani sounds about as soft and yielding as Macbeth’s three witches on a club crawl.

The bummer of it all is that Dowd is right about the female need to use aggression only as a stealth weapon. The hazard of hitting the big five-oh and beyond is an erroneous sense that you’ve earned the right not to play by the same rules. Once the hormonal brakes come off, it’s easy to crash. “I was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Martha Stewart, 64, tells Fortune. “I fell in a hole.”

But she dug her hole herself as surely as Mapes and Miller dug theirs. Since women who are smart and aggressive about their work have to conceal it with charm, when they fall on their faces everyone forgets the smarts and the charm and talks only about the aggression.”