October 28, 2004

Aaaiii! Ph'nglui Mglw'nafh Richard Cohen R'lyeh Wagn'nagl Fhtagn! Aaaiii!!!

Via Matthew Yglesias. Only a month ago, the Washington Post's Richard Cohen would sit in his drawing room in his dressing gown, warming his feet on the fine oriental rug while drinking Armagnac while seated in a high-backed leather chair, all the while sneering at those of us unfortunates who spent our nights psychotically ululating shrill screeds of Bush hatred at the dead, uncaring stars, having been driven into shrill unholy madness by the incompetence, mendacity, malevolence, and sheer disconnection from reality of George W. Bush and his administration:

TAPPED: October 2004 Archives: Richard Cohen, September 16, 2004: I nevertheless cannot bring myself to hate Bush or, as someone here told me, to consider his possible reelection as a reason to leave the country. In fact, Bush haters go so far they wind up adding a dash of red to my blue, pushing me by revulsion into a color I otherwise would not have.

And it was only a year ago last May 7 that Richard Cohen was boldly comparing George W. Bush to Andrew Jackson and saying "Everyone likes a winner, and Bush is a winner. I supported the war and I like the outcome. I think there's a chance that Iraq will be democratized, that this will affect the entire Middle East (Syria is already behaving better) and that no matter what, it was good to get rid of the monstrous Saddam Hussein and free the Iraqi people."

But now? Now, on October 28, Richard Cohen writes:

I do not write the headlines for my columns. Someone else does. But if I were to write the headline for this one, it would be "Impeach George Bush."... Not since the Spanish-American War has the United States gone off to war so casually, so half-cocked and so ineptly. The sinking of the Maine, the casus belli for that dustup, has been replaced by missing weapons of mass destruction, and the Hearst and Pulitzer presses are now talk radio and Fox News Channel. Everything has changed. Nothing has changed. Still, though, we mourn the dead, look away from the wounded and maimed, and wonder what it was all about. We embarked, truly and regrettably, on a crusade.

Yet from Bush comes not a bleep of regret, not to mention apology. It is all "steady as she goes" -- although we have lost our bearings and we no longer know our destination. (Don't tell me it's a democratic Middle East.) If the man were commanding a ship, he would be relieved of command. If he were the CEO of some big company, the board would offer him a golden parachute -- and force him to jump. But in government, it's the people who make those decisions. We get our chance on Tuesday.

Yes, it is true. RICHARD COHEN IS SHRILL NOW!!! It took him a long time to get here--a long time to join the reality-based community. But welcome.

Matthew Yglesias notes, wryly, that the Post refused to headline Cohen's column as Cohen wished 'Impeach Bush'." Instead, the headline is "Hold Bush Accountable."

The headline should, of course, be: " Aaaiii! Ph'nglui Mglw'nafh Richard Cohen R'lyeh Wagn'nagl Fhtagn! Aaaiii!!! "

Posted by DeLong at October 28, 2004 03:34 PM | TrackBack

Damn! There goes the neighborhood.

Posted by: Zizka at October 28, 2004 04:23 PM

Damn! There goes the neighborhood.

Posted by: Zizka at October 28, 2004 04:26 PM

But so long you're telling us how you *really* feel, Cohen...


Posted by: Chris at October 28, 2004 04:30 PM

Why didn't he wise up after Abu Ghraib and the provocative shutting down of al-Sadr's newspaper?

Why didn't everyone?

When the history of this time is written, it may be that the unravelling of the Bush regime began with the shutting down of a newspaper.

Posted by: sm at October 28, 2004 05:03 PM

The headline should read: "Richard Cohen Taken Seriously!!"

Please don't

Posted by: cb at October 28, 2004 05:04 PM

Why didn't he wise up after Abu Ghraib and the provocative shutting down of al-Sadr's newspaper?

Why didn't everyone?

When the history of this time is written, it may be that the unravelling of the Bush regime began with the shutting down of a newspaper.

Posted by: sm at October 28, 2004 05:08 PM

Why didn't he wise up after Abu Ghraib and the provocative shutting down of al-Sadr's newspaper?

Why didn't everyone?

When the history of this time is written, it may be that the unravelling of the Bush regime began with the shutting down of a newspaper.

Posted by: sm at October 28, 2004 05:13 PM

Why didn't he wise up after Abu Ghraib and the provocative shutting down of al-Sadr's newspaper?

Why didn't everyone?

When the history of this time is written, it may be that the unravelling of the Bush regime began with the shutting down of a newspaper.

Posted by: sm at October 28, 2004 05:15 PM

With that... Cohen has earned himself a free copy of the Krugmanomicon.

Posted by: ken at October 28, 2004 05:20 PM

I wrote Cohen an email that said, among other things, that i would take his column seriously when he held himself accountable for his bush-enabling and resigned his plum position.

Godot should be along any second now....

Posted by: howard at October 28, 2004 05:38 PM

Cohen's just another journalist who ain't very bright.

Posted by: liberal at October 28, 2004 06:11 PM

Cohen and his like are what the French call 'un bon élève, and if your high school french tells you that this means `good student`and is therefore something good, think again. It means someone with a modicum of brains, who is industrious, and has no imagination nor intellectual commitment. This is the case of a lot of faux intellos working in the big-time press. Rich is an exception at the Times, Krugman is too, but he isn`t a press-man, but a Nobel-level economist.

It was better when the pressmen didn't have Ivy-league degrees. They didn't feel the adolescent need to justify themselves to real academic achievers.

Posted by: Knut Wicksell at October 28, 2004 06:46 PM

Funny how Cohen connects to the McKinley era.

Like Rove.

Posted by: John Thullen at October 28, 2004 09:04 PM

Funny how Cohen connects to the McKinley era.

Like Rove.


Posted by: John Thullen at October 28, 2004 09:06 PM

from william gibson's blog:Yesterday I found myself listening, on my car radio, to someone from Nader's campaign. This person was attempting to refute the various criticisms we've all heard so many times. It made me feel as though someone was trying to work their well-chewed gum ever deeper into my ears, and reminded me all too thoroughly of why I think of myself as centrist.

The idea that Kerry and Bush are merely two sides of the same bad coin is both ludicrous and all too potentially tragic.

At the risk of making him permanently self-conscious, I'm going to quote Bravus again, because he put this, yesterday, so much more tidily than I've yet been able to put it:

"I think I've said before that usually I have a fair bit of sympathy for the 'they're all as bad as each other, there's no real difference' argument. I really, honestly think that's crap, this time around. Bush is heading for an undemocratic combination theocracy/oligarchy in unprecedented ways. The Republican party has been hijacked by extremists. Mainstream Republicans and mainstream Democrats might not have a lot of characteristics that are different, but these guys (Bush/Cheney/Rove) differ from both groups in their radicalism. A vote for them - or even a vote that's not against them - is qualitatively different, I would argue, than any vote cast in the US in recent memory."

This isn't the election in which to make the quixotic but satisfying point that you'd really rather vote Green, or the quixotic but satisfying point that you'd really rather not have to vote for any more white men in tight blue suits at all.

This is an election in which to vote for *the greater likelihood of there being more elections in the future*.

Posted by: Hans Suter at October 29, 2004 12:42 AM

I can remember a Second City TV skit where Eugene Levey was a guest on a Johnny Carson style late night show. The war in Viet Nam had already been over for a few years. Levey played the charactor of a B movie actor and in this skit he announced that he was against the war in Viet Nam! I expect there will be a stampede of pundits and news announcers that will switch their viewpoints as the nation is now doing. In my view, these "pundits" were part of the bullying press that perpetulated the lies and will always carry that guilt. I believe that more and more news/information will be distributed and shared in forums like this one. I stopped watching mainstream media a while back. I believe I'm better informed and have instant recall and extensive search abilities using the internet. So in essence, the switching of viewpoints should be expected now that it seems safe. Along with that viewpoint, I feel the age of the large media supported pundits is ending. It has for me at least.

Posted by: Vaughn at October 29, 2004 05:40 AM

Some columnists are usually not worth reading. However, newspapers keep them because they develop a following. sad

Posted by: bakho at October 29, 2004 06:28 AM


There are a number of issues on which Kerry has intentionally allowed little space between his stated policies and those of the Bush administration. The same is true for Bush, even though his record screams out that he's lying. Both guys are running for office in front of the same electorate, so yeah, Naderites have a sloppy, far-from-center point. Kerry is not a trade basher, hasn't had much to say about the environment during the campaign, and is not going to shut down the military if elected.

What Naderites miss is that, while Kerry (and most Democrats) do not share, or legislate, the views of Nader supporters, Bush does not share the views of the majority of the electorate. There is a good bit of distance between Bush and Kerry, between Bush and the center.

It would be no big deal if the leader of Belgium were badly out of whack with what his voters wanted and needed. The leader of Belgium could not take his own country to war, or burden nearly 300 million people with growing future tax obligations, or change the prospects for global warming. Japan's PM could some impact on these issues, but less than the US president. Naderites don't recognize that subtle and not-so-subtle differences between potential US presidents can be overwhelmingly important. Somebody who has a prayer to be elected needs to run against Bush if we are to avoid wars of choice, enriching the rich at the expense of the poor, governance by lie. Ralphie has not prayer of being elected.

Naderites have a point, but it's a point that trivial compared to what's at stake.

Posted by: kharris at October 29, 2004 06:36 AM

And in the Wall Street Journal today we learn that even pseudo-ecoonomist and supply side guru Jude Wanniski is supporting Kerry. Says that at least Kerry is an internationalist whil Bush has become an imperialist. Has the world gone mad? What will Wanniski do now that his op-ed pieces are black-balled from the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal?

Posted by: hexnut at October 29, 2004 06:48 AM

BREAKING NEWS #1, from http://www.guerrillanews.com/articles/article.php?id=761

Houston: Two years before the September 11 attacks, presidential candidate George W. Bush was already talking privately about the political benefits of attacking Iraq, according to his former ghost writer, who held many conversations with then-Texas Governor Bush in preparation for a planned autobiography.

“He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999,” said author and journalist Mickey Herskowitz. “It was on his mind. He said to me: ‘One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.’ And he said, ‘My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.’ He said, ‘If I have a chance to invade….if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency...”

BREAKING NEWS #2, from Nature (subscription required):

Published online: 29 October 2004

100,000 civilians may have died in Iraq conflict

by Helen Pearson

Study suggests most of those killed were women and children.

As many as 100,000 civilians may have been killed as a consequence of the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, according to the first attempt at a systematic analysis, published on 29 October.

A US-Iraqi team led by health researcher Les Roberts of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, interviewed nearly 1,000 Iraqi households in 33 randomly selected neighbourhoods across the country. They asked residents about the number and cause of deaths in each household in the 15 months before the March 2003 invasion, and the 18 months afterwards.

The group calculated that the risk of death went up by 2.5 times after the invasion. This gives an estimate of at least 100,000 more deaths since the war, and possibly many more. Most of the dead were women and children killed in military activity, particularly air strikes, the researchers report.

The results "demand a re-evaluation of the consequences of weaponry now used by coalition forces in populated areas", they write in The Lancet.

The Lancet 's editor, Richard Horton, writes in an accompanying commentary: "This result requires an urgent political and military response if the confidence of ordinary Iraqis in the mostly American-British occupation is to be restored."

Previous estimates of the Iraqi death toll, such as those based on collating news reports, vary from around 13,000 to more than 30,000...

Posted by: Lee A. at October 29, 2004 07:15 AM

I am truly offended. You have compared me to the Bush administration.

Do it again, and my response will be beyond your capacity to imagine.

FWIW, Hastur is even more pissed off at you about this than I am, and he's a mean drunk.

Posted by: Cthulhu at October 29, 2004 07:16 AM

a side-note about the complete dis-connect of many Republicans. In a NPR interview, Republican Jim Bunning, seeking relection in Tennessee was noted as requiring a 'tele-prompter' during his recent debate.
Many critics say he is losing his mental edge he once had. In interview, Bunning said, he does not pay attention that much to international news anymore. He does not read newspapers or journals or reports. He does not watch TV, or TV news. He said the only news show he watches is Fox news to gain his viewpoint and new gleaning.

So there you have it. The new poster-boy for Republican mind-set. wonderful.

Posted by: Dave S. at October 29, 2004 07:27 AM

That Bush was pimping Iraq oil before 9/11 is no secret, that was what all those secret meetings with oil factions and Cheney were about. Hardly breaking news, simply something people are waking up to too late. Too bad the journalists weren't on top of this, they put their tails between their legs and slank away when Uncle Dick said he wouldn't tell them what he and his chums were discussing behind the backs of the people who elected him to SERVE THE PEOPLE (no I don't want to discuss how he wasn't elected).

Posted by: Carol at October 29, 2004 07:59 AM

..."Republican Jim Bunning, seeking relection in Tennessee...

I am sure you mean in Kentucky.

Posted by: bncthor at October 29, 2004 08:25 AM

Uh, just for the record...no one cares what Richard Cohen thinks.

Posted by: cb at October 29, 2004 09:43 AM

Uh, just for the record...no one cares what Richard Cohen thinks.

Posted by: cb at October 29, 2004 09:46 AM

Hans Suter and Kharris

Thank you for the important exchange.

Posted by: anne at October 29, 2004 10:15 AM

encouraged by anne I add this FT comment by Philip Stephens:Philip StephensFor the most part, modern elections are narrow arguments about politics and policies - about whether a nation will swing two or three degrees left or right from the prevailing consensus. The effects are felt at the margin: the rich get a bit richer or, perhaps, the poor feel a little less oppressed. Then, once in a while, voters have a chance to look in the mirror and make a profound choice about a nation's character and values. Such is the contest between George W. Bush and John Kerry. One way or another next Tuesday's poll will answer the most compelling question of our times: what sort of country does America want to be?

I have heard many people say otherwise. Self-styled political realists have converged on the notion that there is nothing much to choose between the Republican president and his Democratic challenger. America will wake up on Wednesday to much the same problems. Al-Qaeda will not be any kinder to Mr Kerry than to Mr Bush. Stripped of campaign rhetoric, the competing candidates have similar answers. The differences are of tone and style more than substance. In any event, whoever wins will be hemmed in by awkward realities.

An American friend recently illustrated the case by drawing a line through the centre of a clean sheet of paper. On one side, he put Mr Bush's prescriptions for everything from Iraq and Middle East peace to job creation, tax cuts and social security; on the other, Mr Kerry's alternatives. You could spot the contrasts but, viewed like this, the election could indeed be characterised as politics as usual.

Fatalists in Europe tend to make much the same point. Mr Kerry would be as tough on Iran as Mr Bush; Democrats are as determined as Republicans that North Korea should give up nuclear weapons. As for the fight against Islamist terrorists, there are no easy answers anyway.

These two-dimensional exercises miss the point. A nation's sense of itself at home and the way it conducts itself abroad are more important than specific policy choices. This presidential election is about values rather than issues, about America's state of mind more than the best way to salvage the healthcare system.

Does the country now belong to the cultural conservatives who shape Mr Bush's domestic agenda and to the “might-is-right” adventurers who set his administration's foreign policy? Or will the past two or three years turn out to have been an interlude, a violent spasm in reaction to the trauma of September 11 2001? Can Mr Kerry, in other words, restore the Democratic ideals of opportunity and community at home and co-operative leadership abroad as the values that best describe America to itself and to the rest of the world?

Mr Bush's record testifies eloquently to the significance of the outcome. The one thing on which friends and opponents of the president can agree is that his response to the terrorist outrages of 9/11 has transformed America's standing in the world. Supporters would say that the sole superpower has shown itself steadfast in adversity and unflinching in the pursuit of its enemies. Almost everyone else would respond that Mr Bush's war in Iraq has lost the US the affection of many of its friends, shattered vital alliances and, in the long term, set back the fight against Islamist terrorism.

Either way, there has been a big change. So I am puzzled when the same European politicians who blame Mr Bush's reckless use of power for fracturing the transatlantic alliance and alienating the Muslim world assert in the next breath that a victory for Mr Kerry would not really change much.

Sure, some things will undoubtedly endure whoever emerges the victor next week. The parameters of the old cold war alliance had changed decisively long before September 11 2001. The curious mix of invincibility and vulnerability that has defined American power since the destruction of New York's twin towers all but guarantees an assertive US role on the world stage. That will continue to make life uncomfortable for some of its allies in Europe. Yet there is still a gulf between a president who exults in a hegemony built on military supremacy and a candidate proposing co-operative international leadership.

Mr Bush's domestic agenda also promotes fear as his most reliable ally. Those sections of his campaign speeches that are not about the righteous use of force against threats abroad focus on the enemy within. The president describes himself by the things he is against: abortion, gun control, stem-cell research, gay marriage. The economy, healthcare and the rest merit only glancing mentions. As far as substantive initiatives go, his second-term prospectus is threadbare. Instead, Mr Bush wants America to embrace the Christian fundamentalism that has shaped his presidency.

Just as Mr Kerry has put the case for reason against needless unilateralism in foreign policy, so he has sought to persuade the voters that America's character is rooted in a different set of ideals at home - tolerance, fairness, and community. Mr Bush talks about gays; Mr Kerry about middle-class opportunity. Mr Bush wants to use government to limit the private choices of citizens; his opponent sees the state as the ally of individual advancement.

It is this struggle about values, as intensely emotional as it is political, that explains the passion and the bitterness of the campaign. Both men seem to realise there is far more at stake than who gets to live in the White House for the next four years. The question the voters are being asked is whether Mr Bush has built a new national majority around hard-line social conservatism; or whether Mr Kerry can restore the centrist consensus of the 1990s.

A few days before election day the polls show that Americans are still divided, pulled by fear towards Mr Bush's conviction and by generosity of spirit towards Mr Kerry's values. But amid the avalanche of polling data from every district and state in the Union, two messages stand out. The first is that a majority of Americans think the country is going in the wrong direction; the second that only a minority believe Mr Bush actually deserves a second term.

My guess is that, when they come to look in the mirror next Tuesday, most Americans will prefer light over darkness - tough-minded realism abroad and tolerance at home over faith-based fundamentalism. I think Mr Kerry will win - comfortably. But, yes, hope mingles with expectation.

Posted by: Hans Suter at October 29, 2004 11:01 AM


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