Alliteration: check. Obfuscating semantic baubles: check. Dowd’s commentary (early on, when Obama’s candidacy seemed a long(er) shot) was valid enough: No one was really mentioning that Obama’s middle name was Hussein. But it’s hard to imagine a more convoluted or tortured formulation of that thought.

Granted, Dowd doesn’t play by journalists’—or even other columnists’—rules. But looking back at some of her choices, one thing is clear: sometimes, even for Dowd and her patented brand of brashness, substance over style is the way to go.

Jane Kim is a writer in New York.