Indigo Insights

Saturday, October 26, 2002

This is just too good not to share. Attention: Axis of Weevil: We've got it going in NC too!

Raleigh News and Observer
Thursday, October 24, 2002

Whipped in name game
By DENNIS ROGERS, Staff Writer

Elizabeth Dole may have spent the past 40 years away from North Carolina, but her sweet-as-pie social skills, honed by generations of Southern ladies, were not dulled by her sojourn with the Yankees.

What she did to Erskine Bowles at the beginning of Saturday night's debate was a rhetorical butt-whipping delivered by the reigning queen of the Steel Magnolia Sisterhood.

Just call me Elizabeth, she purred from behind the innocent smile of a Columbus County water moccasin. Then she stuck a sterling silver butter knife between that Charlotte frat boy's ribs with her sweet offer to "make it Liddy, as you have in your ads."

Call in the dogs and put out the fire, boys: This hunt's over.

Bowles, who looked as if he'd been told his fly was open at a Presbyterian funeral, bravely soldiered on, but his heart wasn't in it. He knew he had fallen into the velvet trap that has ensnared many an unwary Southern male.

It was a down-home diva moment. She's calling him "Erskine" rather than "Mr. Bowles," not because they have a first- name friendship, but to put him in his subordinate place. It is one step above calling him "Sonny Boy." It conjures up images of students and teachers. He's about one debate from calling her "Ma'am" and raising his hand to speak. Clearly, she's the Boss Hen in that roost.

Not that he has a choice. If he'd started off calling her "Elizabeth," she would have politely called him "Mr. Bowles," which would have made him look as if he were being rude to an older Southern woman. That is a hanging social offense in the tangled web of Southern white-glove manners. For a Southern man to even be perceived as being disrespectful to an older woman is considered trashy.

Nor could he have taken her up on her insincere offer to call her "Liddy." That immediately makes a connection with his nasty campaign ads that use her nickname. Everyone who has not been asleep for the past several months knows she actually hates being called "Liddy" by anyone other than childhood friends who have earned the privilege.

Had he called her "Liddy" on live television, she would likely have crawled over that lectern and smacked him upside the head with a can of the industrial-strength hair spray she keeps close at all times. Even her own campaign staff goes to great lengths to refer her as "Mrs. Dole" and never as "Elizabeth" or, God forbid, "Liddy."

She has him where she wants him now. He has become the diminutive "Erskine," while she is the dominant "Mrs. Dole."

It is dangerous to play your opponent's game on her own court, especially when she's so good at it, but little Erskine is in trouble.

He's got to go hard country, and I don't mean dropping his final "g's" like he's been doing to show he's a regular guy.

He must resort to the Southern verbal nuke that has laid low many a victim, the devastating "Bless her heart."

An example: "She has lived among Yankees so long she couldn't make a decent deviled egg with her mama's recipe in one hand and Southern Living in the other, bless her heart."

It is either that or, come recess, little Erskine can go play jump rope with the girls.

Columnist Dennis Rogers can be reached at 829-4750 or

(Send any comments for Mrs. Dole to I will be delighted to forward them to her.)