Richard Cohen, Charles Krauthammer, Salon.com and Me

Richard Cohen: Still Clownish After All These Years

Props to Salon.com for doing some heavy lifting in the service of exposing hackery this week, courtesy of their amusing –and recommended– “Hack Thirty” feature. In a mild upset, they have decreed the scarcely readable Richard Cohen the hackiest of the bunch. Hard to argue with: on style points alone and the odious mix of shamelessness and opportunism that is his trademark, Cohen is tough to top. Of course, given the chance, I would be unable to elevate anyone above the ceaselessly reliable and cretinous Charles Krauthammer.

But since I’ve been doing my part to expose Cohen’s clownishness for more than five years, I figured I’d celebrate his anointment. If you care to see the pieces dedicated to the ultimate Washington insider, you can check them out herehere and here. Having been a long-time (but as of 6/19/09, former) subscriber to The Washington Post, I’ve suffered through more than my fair share of Cohen columns.

In the open letter after his ridiculous Colbert article, one of my main issues was how supine and craven the MSM had been all throughout the Bush years. That Cohen, after being converted by the chicken-hawks in ’03, finally used his prominent media space to defend Bush was thoroughly intolerable. It makes me fairly nauseous re-reading this, all these years later:

For instance, you inexplicably call Colbert a bully for the ostensible impunity with which he lambasted Bush, to his face. This begs the immediate question: doesn’t it take a little more courage, not to mention perspicacity, to say in person, as a comedian, the very things well-paid writers like you were not able, or willing, to say in the safety of Op-Ed pages for the past several years? More to the point, how often has this president put himself in the position to be ridiculed, much less forced to answer simple questions from reporters?

Not only is it abundantly documented how obsessively Bush avoids unpleasant or uncomfortable intrusions upon his eggshell sensibilities, but one of the primary (and painfully apparent) goals of his protectors and paid apologists has been to shield him from being accountable, or even (seemingly) aware of any facts that run counter to the fantasies he and his cronies have conjured up in the safety of their well-fortified situation rooms. This is a man seemingly allergic to introspection, comforted by cliché and available for fabricated words of encouragement after the dust and danger have cleared. Indeed, the only people being bullied are the citizens (be they reporters or democrats or non-Kool-Aid drinking members of the GOP) who dare to question or critique the president or his policies. Maybe you’ve forgotten about the carefully screened audiences Bush spoke to and took the occasional, scripted questions from on the campaign trail (and his entire tenure has, under the shameless machinations of Karl Rove, been one ceaseless campaign), or the folks who were tossed out of these same spectacles for having anti-Bush stickers on their cars.

The hits, of course, kept coming. In one of the other pieces, I tried to succinctly articulate –after stating the obvious: that Cohen is a clown– why people like him (and Broder and Friedman) are so dangerous to a functioning democracy that should be able to count on it’s columnists:

When it suits him, when it’s convenient, Cohen could perhaps be described as left-leaning. But between his stances (on war, on Israel, apparently on torture) he is as effective –and insufferable– a mouthpiece as any neo-con crackpot. Indeed, he is even more effective (and harmful) because he is ostensibly writing as a “liberal” in an ostensibly “liberal” paper (Washington Post). Of course, this canard is easy to deconstruct, but in the shorthand illogic of our times, he is, by default, a liberal by virtue of even being a member of the MSM.

It was certainly courageous of Cohen to have his mea culpa on Iraq about three (four?) years after the fact. And, to me, he really jumped the shark during the Colbert incident (which prompted this open letter). Compared to the True Believers on the Right, Cohen’s clownishness is more innocuous than not; but considering he is regarded as a steward of progressive thinking (I threw up in my mouth just typing that), he is quite dangerous indeed. Watching a Washington, D.C. insider carry water for the worst administration in history is its own special sort of torture.

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