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Daily Howler: Richard Cohen, clueless as ever, thinks he caught Bush in a lie
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COHEN HEARS A WHO! Richard Cohen, clueless as ever, thinks he caught Bush in a lie: // link // print // previous // next //

THE (OCCASIONAL) PROBLEM WITH HIPPIES: It’s amazing to see how quickly a pol can become a “crook” in this day and age! In this post, Barack Obama is compared to a crook because he bought a house for 15 percent below asking price! As you can see in comments 2 and 5, the crook-caller didn’t have the simplest facts straight before she posted her fiery charges. This isn’t why she worked her ass off, she says. In response, an incomparable suggestion—next time, let’s keep our asses on and try to avoid such explosions.

A lot of superlative work was done at The Lake in the course of this fall’s elections. But yes—the perfect can become the enemy of the good when fiery elements enter our politics. Did Obama do something wrong in this matter? We don’t have the slightest idea. For a full Q-and-A with the solon—not an incoherent Lynn Sweet column-sliver—we’re fairly sure you know what to do. First, make sure your ass is still on. Then, go ahead—just click here.

THE BORAT WITHIN: We’re fascinated by the responses to Kevin Drum’s recent Borat post. Helpfully, we plan to settle all questions in a Friday post.

COHEN HEARS A WHO: Richard Cohen is finally disturbed by a presidential misstatement. Last Wednesday, George Bush announced that Rumsfeld was gone—but one week earlier, he’d said something different. And so, at long last, Richard Cohen’s upset—and the pundit was thrilled when someone complained about Bush’s vast misconduct. Here’s the way Cohen started his column in yesterday’s Post:
COHEN (11/14/06): There is something refreshing about George Stephanopoulos. After George Bush announced that he was firing Don Rumsfeld, Stephanopoulos—on the air at the time—actually seemed shocked that just a week earlier the president had said he would do no such thing. Stephanopoulos not only suggested that the president had lied but that he was wrong to have done so. In Georgetown, where the ABC newsman lives, such innocence must be considered quaint.
From that point, Cohen went on and on about “Washington's easy acceptance of lying, especially presidential lying.” A crueller person might say that Cohen should know all about that particular foible—a foible he himself has seemed to display at various times. Instead, let’s give the scribe his say about Bush’s troubling “lie:”
COHEN: It has now been a week, and the president’s lie has been forgotten . . . or excused . . . or minimized. This is the way it is in Washington, a town run by politicians who routinely lie in their political commercials back home (this is the lesson of the last campaign) and then think, somehow, that they can recover their virtue by recrossing the Potomac. Deep down, they know they lack the moral standing even to feign shock. For instance, the maker of the spot used against Rep. Harold Ford Jr. is briefly condemned (but secretly admired) when, at the very least, he should have had his citizenship revoked.

So it was downright exhilarating to see Stephanopoulos express shock at Bush's lie, and it would be equally exhilarating if the new Democratic majorities evinced a similar moral indignation.
Say what? Did incumbent Washington politicians “routinely lie in their political commercials” this year? Funny—Cohen forgot to identify these pols in this column, and he forgot to complain about their lying when it was actually happening. A crueller person might even say that “this is the way it is in” the Washington press corps, a cohort whose members routinely minimize lying and then think, somehow, that they can recover their virtue by expressing outrage at a “lie” which it’s convenient to do so. When the “liar” is down in the polls—way, way down, like George Bush.

But we were most struck, not by Cohen’s faux outrage, but by his endless lack of smarts. Our question: When Bush spoke to those reporters pre-election, had he actually decided that Rumsfeld was going? Clearly, he had laid the groundwork for such a move by interviewing Robert Gates, who will serve as Rummy’s replacement. But would Rummy have been sent to the showers if the GOP had held onto the Senate, even perhaps to both houses of Congress? Or would Bush have continued full speed ahead in Iraq? We don’t have the slightest idea—and we think it’s odd that this possibility hasn’t officially entered Cohen’s head. Clueless three years ago, clueless today, Cohen shakes his fist at a “lie” which may not quite have been a “lie”—a “lie” which would be utterly trivial compared to previous howlers which were blandly accepted.

At present, we libs are having a grand old time, much as Cohen did in this column. We marvel at Karl Rove’s “magical thinking” because of something he told Richard Wolffe—and it doesn’t seem to enter our heads that he may have just been hustling Wolffe, as he’s done a thousand times with credulous Newsweek reporters. (Semi-magically, we now assume that Newsweek scribes can see through Rove’s bluffs.) Times are good right after a win, and folk get to lord it all over town. But in Cohen’s column, we thought we saw more of the insider press corps’ endlessly simple-minded thinking—and more of their endless front-running follies. Wouldn’t you know it? Cohen is upset by a trivial “lie”—about three (really, seven) years too late.