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THE THING FROM THE SWAMP! Future scientists will demand the right to dig up Richard Cohen: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, APRIL 22, 2008

OTHERS WERE BOLLIXED: Our service provider was bollixed on Monday. We’ve posted late, and then moved on. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/21/08. Or then again, you might just skip it.

SIXTY-MINUTE MAN: We mordantly chuckled as we read Bob Herbert’s column in today’s Times. No one is talking about education, he laments as he starts:

HERBERT (4/22/08): We don't hear a great deal about education in the presidential campaign. It's much too serious a topic to compete with such fun stuff as Hillary tossing back a shot of whiskey, or Barack rolling a gutter ball.

The nation's future may depend on how well we educate the current and future generations, but (like the renovation of the nation's infrastructure, or a serious search for better sources of energy) that can wait. At the moment, no one seems to have the will to engage any of the most serious challenges facing the U.S.

Presumably, Herbert is criticizing the press and pundit corps—the people who have spent their time discussing those gutter balls. But go ahead: Read this entire column. See if you find a single word about what is wrong with American schools. See if you find a single word about how they might be improved.

Essentially, Herbert lunched with Allan Golston, Bill and Melinda Gates’ point man for U. S. educational issues. He then rounded up the usual stats about how dumb our school kids are. But what is actually wrong with our schools? In what way could they be improved? Herbert doesn’t say what Golston thinks. And he expresses no view of his own.

Uh-oh! Barring the time for that working lunch, this column’s a classic “60-minute special.” Anyone on earth could have written it. It’s utterly worthless, except as a way to showcase high-minded intentions.

No one will talk about education? Unfortunately, when mainstream writers do choose to speak, heartfelt palaver of this type has long been quite routine. This sort of thing has been the norm for at least the past forty years.

This just in, by courier: This column’s sub-headline: “The schools aren’t teaching our kids what they need to know.”

THE THING FROM THE SWAMP: Let’s suppose there’s no future nuclear war. Let’s suppose there’s no future climate catastrophe. In other words, let’s suppose that human knowledge continues to grow and evolve.

If that happens, then one thing is certain: In the future, scientists will demand the right to dig up—and examine—Richard Cohen. They’ll demand that right on the basis of columns like the one in this morning’s Post.

It isn’t hard to summarize: When Hillary Clinton misstates, “she lies.” Indeed, she “just can’t help herself.” (You will note, if you examine this piece, that Cohen gives few examples.) But when a certain straight-talker misstates, he remains the world’s greatest known human:

COHEN (4/22/08):[L]et me suggest that Bush's "worst legacy" is what he has done to whatever trust Americans still had in their government. This administration's incessant lying, its secrecy—its creepy Cheneyism with its petty justifications for torture and violation of privacy -- is its worst legacy, one that will endure long after Wal-Mart opens a branch in Sadr City. Only an idiot would trust this government.

And so it will be the job, the obligation, the solemn task of the next president to restore that trust. John McCain could do it. He's an honorable man who has fudged and ducked and swallowed the truth on occasion—about the acceptability of the Confederate flag, for instance—but always, I think, for understandable although not necessarily admirable reasons.

When McCain “fudges” and “swallows,” it’s “always” done “for understandable reasons.” For unknown reasons, Cohen has to revert to the spring of 2000 to come up with an example.

In our time, “liberal” “elites” have persistently agreed to avert their gaze from columns like this. But in the future, scientists will notice the sheer absurdity of this sort of writing. They will doubt that flesh and blood of this earth could possibly have produced such work. They will demand the right to dig Cohen up, to see what this life-form was made of.

After all, this isn’t the first time that Cohen has built a column around a tortured comparison between this saint and this sinner. In February 2000, these same two people were running for office—and Cohen was troubled to see that Clinton just wasn’t having any fun on the trail. As his kind almost always is, he was annoyed because Candidate Clinton had discussed many policy issues. He started off in a highly snide way, as his kind always does:

COHEN (2/8/00): First I read the interview Hillary Clinton gave to the New York Times explaining why she was running for the Senate. Then I watched her announcement extravaganza in which she explained why she was running for the Senate. Finally, I read news accounts of her speech, so I'm absolutely sure now I know why she is running for the Senate. She's doing it all for me.

I am touched. I am also appalled. I like it that she ticked off something like 125 issues that have absolutely compelled her to make this race. They include education, child care, the high rate of breast cancer on Long Island, the need for more cops, the need for fewer guns and the need to restore prosperity to upstate New York. I could go on and on because, literally, Hillary Clinton did.

But not once in the Saturday interview and not once in the Sunday speech did I hear Mrs. Clinton say anything about fun—that running for the Senate and being a senator would be fun. Instead, she came across as a social worker, dutifully checking off issue after issue, many of them designed to appeal to the constituency that has, for the moment at least, abandoned her—white women. Mostly for their sake, not to mention mine, she is running for the Senate.

No, you can’t get dumber than that—and future scientists will surely notice. By the way, this was one of the columns where Cohen discussed the big fun on a certain saint’s bus:

COHEN (later in this column): [T]he man is having fun. It's clear. A trip on his bus is, well, a trip. You laugh and laugh—at least I do—and when, once, I asked him why in the world he would talk to the press hour after hour, totally on-the-record, he said it was "fun." He was having fun.

Does the public sense that? Can they tell the man is enjoying himself? I think so. And that sort of person is fun to be around, even if it's only at a distance.

In an earlier column, Cohen had explained what all that “fun” consisted in. “No One Like McCain,” the headline said. The fun consisted in this:

COHEN (11/16/99): The hero still does things his own way. Unlike most other candidates, he does not ration his time with the press. Reporters sit with him in the back of his campaign bus and ask him anything they want. We talked about the Vietnam War and Kosovo, Chechnya and gun control, abortion, homosexuality, campaign finance, Marlon Brando movies, great books, flying off a carrier, reciting movie plots to his fellow POWs, going over the wall at the Naval Academy lo those many years ago, and that dish from Rio, the fashion model he had such a crush on. For a while he wanted to find her but then someone told him, no—it's best to remember her as she was.

As you may know, Cohen spent part of his time in this era getting called on the carpet for talking dirty to an attractive young female employee as he puttered around the office, presumably in his slippers. In the remainder of this time, he rode around New Hampshire with a smelly old coot, laughing and laughing about fashion models, and about stripper ex-girl friends. And, of course, he liked to trash Naomi Wolf. Warning: The “quotation” which started this tragic column was bogus. It was a phantom:

COHEN (11/2/99): "The male body is home to me, my rocket, my whirlpool." So wrote Naomi Wolf in her book, "Fire With Fire" which will soon be required reading along the campaign trail. Wolf—sometimes a feminist, sometimes not, but always controversial—has just been revealed as a secret Al Gore campaign adviser, apparently teaching the vice president how to be a rocket and a whirlpool. Some of us, though, would settle for just plain Al Gore.

But it is more and more clear that no one, least of all Al Gore, knows who that is. This is why he moved his campaign headquarters from Washington to Nashville, why he has gotten some new suits (it's the whirlpool look), and often appears in leisure clothing. He is newly energetic, sometimes manic and moves like a character in some speeded-up silent movie. I suppose this is what happens when you're a rocket.
The Esquire magazine piece from which I took that quote from Wolf's book is full of other quotes
, none of which I can repeat. Wolf is awfully explicit about sex, and sex is a lot of what she talks about.

It would be hard to convey the full stupidity of that tragic column. (It appeared on Day Two of the press corps’ month-long trashing of Wolf.) In paragraph 2, Cohen recited his cohort’s latest credo: Al Gore doesn’t know who he is! Six days earlier, they had hissed and jeered Gore for the full hour during his first debate with Bill Bradley. “Who else is on the payroll, Al—Richard Simmons?” Cohen asked at a later point.

For the record: In mocking Wolf (and through her, Gore), Cohen was mocking a 37-year-old former Rhodes Scholars who had written three acclaimed best-sellers, two of them picked by the New York Times as “notable books of the year.” He was mocking someone who had been praised for her “prescient analyses” when she advised the Clinton campaign, just three years before. (Her husband was a Clinton speech-writer.) He was mocking someone who had long been regarded as an expert by his admittedly daft fraternity—who had been invited on Meet the Press in late 1997 to discuss gender issues, for example. (Tim Russert had booked a two-guest session—Wolf and William Bennett.) But for the record, that “quotation” which Cohen mocked didn’t appear in Wolf’s actual work (not that it would have mattered)—though it did (mistakenly) appear in a 1994 Esquire piece, which some hit-squad had fed to Cohen (details below). However he got the Esquire piece, he ran with the “quote,” and, as always, he embellished freely. (Other Wolf excerpts in the piece were in fact perfectly “repeatable.” So was the vast majority of Wolf’s work, which Cohen didn’t seem to have read.) But at any rate, that exciting “quote” about rockets and whirlpools didn’t appear in Fire with Fire. Cohen was too stupid to know this, of course—and too indifferent to the affairs of the world which afflict your own human kind.

Today’s Cohen column is hardly new, although it’s dumb-foundingly stupid. Like so many in his cohort, he has spent the past decade mocking people like Clinton and Gore, and “laughing and laughing” with the great straight-talker who recalled ancient exploits in Rio. And by the way: This isn’t the first time Cohen has recoiled at Clinton’s vastly disturbing lies. As we showed you just last week, he had done so in June 1999. Bungling grossly, of course:

COHEN (6/29/99): It's not known whether Hillary Clinton has polled as to where she should vacation or live. It is known, though, that she strains credulity in attempting to portray herself as, well, sort of a New Yorker. She always was a Yankee fan, she asserted recently. That's odd. She grew up in Chicago, once confessed to being a Cubs fan. Now she says that she always felt an obligation to root for an American League team as well. Sure.

By that time, Cohen had had an entire month to learn that his own newspaper had published two profiles, in 1993 and 1994, referring to Clinton’s youthful Yankee attachment. But so what? He loved the chance to tell his readers what a Big Liar this vile creature was. His colleagues had had their fun with this tale. On this day, he would have his. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/16/08.

In our age, fiery liberals write name-dropping columns name-dropping Cohen as their friend. This helps explain why his pitiful work has been accepted through all these Dem-trashing years. In the future, scientists won’t worry about invitations to the best Cohen-era parties. Separated from that conflict, they’ll demand the right to dig Cohen up, to find out what type of life-form he was. Come to think of it, they might consider digging up his “liberal” enablers while they’re at it. They tolerated the columns which drove this era—the columns which sent George W. Bush to the White House, which sent the U.S. to Iraq.

WHERE DID COHEN GET THAT ARTICLE: Esquire’s 1994 profile of young feminist writers wasn’t available on-line, or at Nexis. Presumably, someone had fed it to Cohen. (Unless he’s such a smelly old coot that he keeps “men’s” magazines under his bed.) And yes, the swamp things were being fed as the press corps’ “Month of Wolf” got started. On the same day that Cohen’s column appeared, the Washington Times’ Andrew Cain reported one such feeding action:

CAIN (11/2/99): The Republican National Committee tried to take advantage of the controversy yesterday by faxing out Wolf excerpts to conservative talk-show hosts.

We’ve also been told, by someone who would know, that elements within the Gore campaign were sending around the “dirty parts” from Wolf’s acclaimed books, trying to undermine her. In the current political era, Democrats have been endlessly harmed by self-dealing vultures of this type. (Bush’s aides have been much more loyal.) For the latest record of this self-dealing conduct, see the latest cover piece by the plugged-in, if pointless, Michelle Cottle.

These people refused to be loyal to Gore; today, they play the same way with Clinton. Future scientists might want to dig them up too—though they strike us as “all too human.”

OBAMA IS TOLERABLE TOO: Cohen can tolerate Obama too. Here is his account:

COHEN (4/22/08): Barack Obama could do it. We are learning that he, too, can do the F's—fudge, fib or forget. I don't believe him on the Second Amendment—and he says one thing on NAFTA in Ohio and a campaign adviser whispers another to Canada by way of reassurance. But these are minor matters, the "You look beautiful tonight, dear" fibs of marriage that have their functional equivalent in politics. They are necessary. They lubricate life itself.

Of course, you could make Obama a liar too—if you played by Cohen’s “Clinton rules.” But Cohen doesn’t want to do it. Modern “liberals” avert their gaze from this—but future scientists won’t.