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Richard Cohen Is What’s Wrong With Journalism


Richard Cohen today opines on the sorry state of campaign 2008 as demonstrative of the racism and misogyny of America on the eve of the Democrats nomination. It is probably the most ridiculous piece of writing I’ve seen in a good long time. More than his charges of racism, it clearly demonstrates the sad state of journalists today. It rambles from one half-baked thought to another and never stops to examine its own self-contradictions.

Wherever I go — from glittering dinner party to glittering dinner party — the famous and powerful people I meet (for such is my life) tell me how lucky I am to be a journalist in this the greatest of all presidential contests. I tell them, for I am wont to please, that this campaign is indeed great when, as history will record, it is not. I have come to loathe the campaign.

I loathe above all the resurgence of racism — or maybe it is merely my appreciation of the fact that it is wider and deeper than I thought. I am stunned by the numbers of people who have come out to vote against Barack Obama because he is black. I am even more stunned that many of these people have no compunction about telling a pollster they voted on account of race — one in five whites in Kentucky, for instance. Those voters didn’t even know enough to lie, which is what, if you look at the numbers, others probably did in other states. Such honesty ought to be commendable. It is, instead, frightening.

I acknowledge that some people can find nonracial reasons to vote against Obama — his youth, his inexperience, his uber-liberalism and, of course, his willingness to abide his minister’s admiration for a racist demagogue (Louis Farrakhan) until it was way, way too late. But for too many people, Obama is first and foremost a black man and is rejected for that reason alone. This is very sad.

I find it funny that Cohen, like so many others, would argue against the practice of racial profiling, yet has no problem profiling whites.

Those voters didn’t even know enough to lie, which is what, if you look at the numbers, others probably did in other states. Such honesty ought to be commendable. It is, instead, frightening.

Is it possible that people in other states voted against Obama because he is black, but did not disclose that? Sure it is. However, pockets of ideology are like concentrations of anything – they don’t always disperse. To assume that others “probably did” is to engage in the same conjecture he decries in “the incessant blogging and commenting and talking and yapping and hype.”

Cohen’s central thesis seems to be “If you oppose Obama, you’re a racist. If you oppose Hillary, you are a misogynist.”

Yes, voter participation is way up and in the end, the Democrats will choose a woman or an African American and, to invoke that tiresome phrase, history will be made. But this messy nominating process has eroded the standing of both candidates. It has highlighted the reality that racism still runs deep and that misogyny, although more imagined than real, is not yet a wholly spent force.

How exactly has it done that? The contest brought more people to the polls (arguably a good thing). All the white men in the Democratic primary didn’t fare to well compared to Obama and Clinton, so clearly race and sex had little to do with preference.

I’m just not sure how he can make the leap that the entire Democratic party either loathes women or loathes minorities, given they’re the only two that remain standing at the end. Maybe Cohen should have started with the unspoken question that is inherent in his column – “Where did all the white guys go?”

With regard to Hillary specifically:

I loathe what has happened to Hillary Clinton. This person of no mean achievement has been witchified, turned into a shrew, so that almost any remark of hers is instantly interpreted as sinister and ugly. All she had to do, for instance, was note that it took Lyndon Johnson to implement Martin Luther King‘s dream, and somehow it became a racist statement. The Obama camp has been no help in this regard, expressing insincere regret instead of a sincere “that’s not what she meant.”

I loathe also what Hillary Clinton has done to herself. The incessant exaggerations, the cheap shots, the flights into hallucinatory history — that sniper fire in Bosnia, for instance — have turned her into a caricature of what her caricaturists long claimed she already was. In this campaign, Clinton has managed to come across as a hungry hack, a Janus looking both forward and backward and seeming to stand for nothing except winning. This, too, is sad.

Now to be fair, Cohen also points out that Hillary casually mentioned that RFK didn’t get killed until June. Taken with the Johnson/MLK comment, and the way her campaign has used veiled bigotry to further its cause, is it any wonder we’re left with this “caricature”?

Make no mistake, this is no caricature drawn within the last year of campaigning. When someone is in the public eye for long enough, you generally get a pretty good sense of who that person really is. Bill Clinton was a guy whose personal addictions (food and women, mostly), led to heart surgery and a blow job focused impeachment. George W. Bush is the guy you want to have beer with, but in retrospect may not have been intellectually curious enough to make an effective steward of our nation.

Hillary Clinton, for all Cohen’s cocktail party chats with her is, for lack of a better description, “a hungry hack, a Janus looking both forward and backward and seeming to stand for nothing except winning.” That is an image of her own making.

Perhaps Cohen should spend less time at those Washington cocktail parties and spend a few weeks wandering the streets of the real America. Perhaps all journalists should have their blackberry, and expense accounts taken away and be dropped into mid-America with nothing but a pair of Levi jeans, a Gap t-shirt and their wits and forced to live as real Americans live.

If nothing else, seeing these pompous assholes milking cows, stamping sheet metal in a rusted factory, or doing some other Paris-Hilton-Simple-Life-esque chores for a month or two would be great fodder for a new reality series. Call it The Real Life.



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Written by Michael Turk