Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Richard Cohen Misses His MoveOn Moment

Richard Cohen is being Richard Cohen, slamming Hillary Clinton for failing to condemn that MoveOn ad that got the wingnuts in such a tizzy. Cohen's description of the ad:

The swipe at Petraeus was contained in a full-page ad the anti-war group MoveOn.org recently placed in The New York Times. It charged that Petraeus was "cooking the books" about conditions in Iraq and cited statements of his that have turned out to be either (1) not true, (2) no longer true, (3) possibly not true, or (4) like everything else in Iraq, impossible to tell. Whatever the case, using "betray" -- a word associated with treason -- recalls the ugly McCarthy era when, for too many Republicans, dissent corresponded with disloyalty. MoveOn.org and the late senator from Wisconsin share a certain fondness for the low blow.
It was a stupid ad, but really--Joe McCarthy? I'll let Steve M handle this jaw-dropping bit of false moral equivalence, and move on to the question everyone must be asking: how on earth can Cohen make the MoveOn ad--an ad produced by private parties with no connection at all to Senator Clinton--reflect poorly on her?

The obvious answer: it's the 'character', stupid.
The issue with Hillary Clinton is not whether she's smart or experienced but whether she has -- how do we say this? -- the character to be president. Behind her, after all, trails the lingering vapor of all those gates: Travel, File, Whitewater, and other scandals to which she was a part only through marriage. In a hatless society, she is always wearing a question mark.
Yes, Hillary Clinton is forever tainted by scandals that were cooked up by Republicans for the purpose of destroying them. For Richard Cohen, a question mark is a question mark--even if the question in question happens to be the schoolyard bully's classic: "Why do you keep hitting yourself?"

And as with the pseudo-scandals of the past, the fact that this one was created out of whole cloth by the wingnuts all but escapes Cohen's attention. Here's all he has to say about that:
Certain Republicans, particularly Rudy Giuliani, have attempted to exploit the MoveOn.org ad for their own political purposes, even wondering if the Times violated election law by selling the page at a (standard) discount. This is silly.
That's in the seventh paragraph.

But none of that matters to Cohen. For him,
The MoveOn.org ad was the moment for Clinton to rise above hackdom.
And when will Cohen seize his own moment to rise above hackdom? I'm not holding my breath.

Update: See also Ezra Klein on the unbearable triviality of Richard Cohen.