Archive - Jun 2010

June 28th

How Much More Can Richard Cohen Suck?

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Memo to Richard Cohen: THICKNESS IS NOT THE SAME AS DEPTH.

When the history of the failed American experiment is finally written, it should contain a chapter titled "They Listened To Too Many Dipshits". And if Richard Cohen isn't at the very least a footnote to that chapter, then future historians suck.

Cohen has appeared in these hallowed pages on a few previous occasions, most notably for whining about how Stephen Colbert isn't funny and then whining when people called him a fucking idiot for it. He is not the same as the ex-gay pioneer Richard Cohen who has also been brought up here, but he's almost as irritating.

Richard Cohen is a writer of commentary. That's all he's ever done. Which makes him a lot like me, except that, thanks to my day job, I've also produced things of actual value in my life. You'd think, having done it as long as he has, he'd have developed some facility or skill for it, but no. He's just an insipid moderate whose positions on social issues make him seem liberal enough to give him credibility with the editorial board of the Washington Post, where he can cheerlead for war and criticize Barack Obama.

Which brings us to "President Obama's Enigmatic Intellectualism", which Cohen penned for the Post last week. The title is already a bad sign. Intellectualism isn't enigmatic unless you're, well, not an intellectual. Which is just a nice way of saying "stupid". Which is just a nice way of saying that, as a complete dumbass, it's not surprising that Cohen would consider Obama an enigma, but how can he parlay that into the hundreds of words the Post inexplicably pays him to produce on a regular basis? Watch and learn. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"It can seem that at the heart of Barack Obama's foreign policy is no heart at all. It consists instead of a series of challenges -- of problems that need fixing, not wrongs that need to be righted. As Winston Churchill once said of a certain pudding, Obama's approach to foreign affairs lacks theme. So, it seems, does the man himself."

This is the opening. Lest you be concerned about Winston Churchill being as disappointed in Cohen as he once was with a dessert, Cohen lays his theme out right at the start. And that theme is, to people like Cohen, Barack Obama seems like a robot.

This is, of course, one of the two standards in the pundit class's double-standard that Obama will never be able to satisfy. He's either too aloof or too angry. He's either too intellectual, or sullying the Presidency with coarse street language like "kick ass". Today, Cohen's on the "not emotional enough" side of things, but since pundits like Cohen are held to no standard at all, much less a double-standard, there's always time for him to flip to the other side when circumstances permit. Also, take note that he specifically accuses Obama's "foreign policy" of having no heart.

This, of course, immediately opens up two huge problems. First, we just finished with eight years of foreign policy that was, at least on the surface, ENTIRELY based on heart. We're in the middle of two wars - one as a ten-year payback for losing a skyscraper, and one as a similar payback for a failed assassination attempt on the President's daddy. All policies that Cohen, and Cohen's heart, supported. The other problem is that Cohen's not even going to remotely stick to foreign policy once he gets going.

"For instance, it's not clear that Obama is appalled by China's appalling human rights record. He seems hardly stirred about continued repression in Russia. He treats the Israelis and their various enemies as pests of equal moral standing. The president seems to stand foursquare for nothing much."

Fuck that. I'm more concerned that Obama's not appalled by AMERICA'S appalling human rights record. Gitmo's still open and going to say that way. And as for continued repression, cough cough don't ask don't tell cough cough. But none of that really matters. It's that third sentence about Israel that's the real tell. There is no greater crime amidst the ilk of Richard Cohen than even hinting at the possibility that Israel may only be 95% right in any action that it takes. In Cohen's eyes, that's standing for nothing much. Also, I can't prove this, but I would lay serious money on the possibility that Cohen was looking up location-aware phone apps one day, and learned that "foursquare" was also a word he could drop into his column to look smarter.

"This, of course, is the Obama enigma: Who is this guy? What are his core beliefs? The president himself is no help on this score. When it comes to his own image, he has a tin ear. He hugely misunderstood what some people were saying when they demanded that he get angry over the gulf oil catastrophe and the insult-to-injury statements of BP chief executive Tony Hayward. (Wayward Hayward, he should be called.)"

Notice here how Cohen plays right into conservative birther and crypto-Muslim paranoia in that first section, and blames the victim for it. So much so that he'll actually walk it back later in the column while still blaming the victim. Also, I haven't skipped any of his column yet - so the time it took him to go from stating his premise as being about foreign policy, to citing an example from domestic policy? One paragraph exactly. Fucking genius. And finally, with "Wayward Hayward", we re-confirm what we learned during the Colbert flap. Richard Cohen wishes he were funny. Let's move on, skipping a transitional sentence for brevity.

"What they wanted instead was a sign that this catastrophe meant something to Obama, that it was not merely another problem that had crossed his desk -- and this time just wouldn't budge. He showed not the slightest sign in the idiom that really counts in a media age -- body language -- that he gave a damn. He could see your pain, he could talk about your pain, but he gave no indication that he felt it.

This isn't my favorite part, but it's one of my favorite parts. What does Cohen cite as proof of his thesis, that Obama is an emotion-imitating mandroid sent to Earth to undermine Israel? Body language. A startlingly imprecise pop science, wildly open to interpretation even in the hands of experts. And Richard Cohen is not an expert. He's a columnist, which, believe me, is the exact opposite of an expert. Richard Cohen can tell, just by looking at him, that Barack Obama is different from the rest of us. Something about his body.

But don't worry! Cohen isn't attacking the president! He's supporting him! As evidence, let me finish today's half of what is inevitably going to be a two-day Cohen-unpacking extravaganza with a bit of psychobabble so atrocious that it made Dr. Phil vomit all over his copy of the Washington Post, I bet. Ready? Because this is going to hurt. Hard.

"One can understand. Obama's father deserted the family and afterward visited his son only once. He twice was separated from his mother, who lived in Indonesia without him. He was partially raised by his grandparents -- an elderly white couple. If the president is what the shrinks call 'well-defended,' who can blame him? It's ironic that Oprah Winfrey was maybe Obama's most significant early backer when the man himself is so un-Oprah. He cannot emote."

It's a pity we don't live in the days when presidents engaged in duels. Because I'm guessing Obama doesn't need his advisors to tell him who's ass to kick this time. The condescending prick and grade-B moron at the Washington Post has made the answer self-evident, presenting his ripe, kickworthy ass like a baboon in heat. Which, coincidentally, is how most anti-plagiarism software rates the average Richard Cohen column.

TOMORROW: Anti-intellectualism on the rampage!