September 15, 2004

The Scourge of Richard Cohen, Vol. CVII

(Ed. -- The following is a bit of mean spiritedness that will be an on-going feature of this blog. Normally the author will endeavor to be reasonably fair, but this is an exception.)

Wow, itís been almost four months since Iíve done this, but perhaps itís something about coming down slowly from Versed that has me in the mood to take on another column by Richard Cohen. I donít know how long this feeling will last, so I better get to my pedagogical attack on Ted Kennedy's Lesson for Kerry:

At an event in New York some months ago, I went over to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and told him precisely how I felt about him: Sorry.

What a coincidence, sorry is how I feel about Senator Edward M. Kennedy too!

I was sorry that I had not listened to him about George W. Bush and even sorrier that I had not listened to him about the war in Iraq, which he had opposed.

Well, Iíll give Ted that at least heís consistent. Ted opposed the first Gulf War led by President George H.W. Bush, predicting massive casualties. But I suppose being wrong about massive casualties is somehow better than being wrong about WMDs, if in fact, President Bush was wrong about them.

If it is not too late, I recommend that John Kerry do what I am now doing: Pay attention to Teddy Kennedy and what he has to say.

Please Senator Kerry. Please do what Richard Cohen is advocating. It is the only plausible way the Republicans can get a filibuster-proof Senate.

On Friday Kennedy delivered a Senate speech that's worth a gaggle of campaign consultants of the sort Kerry has been hiring in lieu of plumbing his own gut.

Plumbing his own gut? Is that anything like what Iíve been through the last day preparing for a colonoscopy?

Kennedy accused the Bush administration of "arrogant ideological incompetence."

And if anyone would know about arrogance, ideology, and incompetence, and all the combinations and permutations thereof, it would be Ted Kennedy.

It's hard to be either more succinct or more on target.

Unless, of course, you actually make an effort to be more succinct or more on target.

The little phrase sums up all that ails both Bush and his administration -- everything from a misguided crusade to liberate Iraq (and the Middle East) from despotism to the strut of the president himself.

I could be wrong, but Iím quite certain that Richard Cohen was all for the liberation of Iraq, up until the point it actually happened, of course. Is Mr. Cohen now saying that we should abandon Iraq (and the Middle East) to despotism? As for the strutting, well, I thought the President handled that complaint in his Republican National Convention nomination acceptance speech.

It fingers the reason why Bush and his boys ...

M u s t ... r e s i s t ... o b v i o u s ... c o m e b a c k ...

... went to war in Iraq, expecting what Kennedy called "a cakewalk."

ďBush and his boys,Ē olí Dickís got his limp epithets down pat. But please note that it was Senator Kennedy who called it a ďcakewalk,Ē not President George W. Bush.

This was the triumph of ideology over common sense, a belief propounded by neoconservatives within and without the administration that beneath every Iraqi lurked the Music Man, and U.S. troops would be greeted by, at a minimum, 76 trombones.

Uh, Dick, in the musical The Music Man, the Music Man was a con man who comes to a Midwestern town with a scam using a boy's marching band program, but things don't go according to plan. Is this really what you meant? If so, I doubt that the dreaded illiberal boogie-man neo-conservatives would have been so quick to strike up the band. Then again, there are efforts afoot in liberated Iraq by Jim Hake, the Spirit of America, and the Armed Forces of the United States that would make John Philip Sousa proud.

A predisposition to believe your own fantasies makes a very sweet sound indeed.

Their playing your tune, Dick.

In his speech, Kennedy several times mentioned Bush's "mission accomplished" mentality, which "left our armed forces in Iraq underprepared, understaffed and underled for the mission that was only just beginning."

Nonsense, and what a tremendous slander against the men and women America has in uniform. Name another war in history that was as large, as significant, and over as quickly with so few casualties for our forces.

Kennedy quotes Don Rumsfeld, who, with his characteristic bluntness, refused to say precisely how long the war might last.

Well, politicians predicting the length of wars in the past have generally been wrong by orders of magnitude. Thank goodness Secretary Rumsfeld refuses to fall into this trap.

But it would not, he assured us, be more than "six months."

Seems to me it was three weeks. The aftermath is a different issue.

As for Vice President Cheney, Kennedy has him on the record, too. American troops would "be greeted as liberators," Cheney said.

And they were. Naturally, they are some who preferred the old despotism and you shouldnít expect them to welcome us. You really need to check out Arthur Chrenkoff and his weekly roundup of good news in Iraq. It does help provide some perspective that you are unlikely to get by listening to Senator Kennedy. But if some professional journalist pajama-phobia prevents you from visiting any URL with ďblogĒ in the name, you can also find him each week at the Wall Street Journalís website.

This is the man Bush took on his ticket for his wisdom.

Good call, IMHO.

The virtue of Kennedy's speech is that it makes clear that all the missteps leading up to the war and all the blunders afterward were not mere mistakes but the product of an ideology that had seized the administration and rendered it inept.

I donít normally expect to see virtue and Kennedy in the same sentence, but somehow I seriously doubt that Senator Kennedy was actually able to connect the dots to clearly show any such thing. Sometimes I think I go a little too far and leave out too much in explaining the connections between events, but I canít hold a candle to these guys.

The Bushies operated on an expectation of how things should be and not, as governments should, on empirical knowledge seasoned by strong cynicism.

Governments should be based on empirical knowledge and strong cynicism? Jeez, no wonder I donít see eye to eye with Mr. Cohen. It is strange to see such a clear admission of what can only be considered a seriously warped motivation for a basis of governance combined with an abdication of the worldview I normally expect from illiberal utopian statists.

They so much believed that things would be as they wanted them to be that they embarked on a latter-day Children's Crusade.

This is so patently ridiculous and intentionally offensive to almost everyone that it beggars belief. Do you know anything at all about the history of the Childrenís Crusade, Dick? Or do you just enjoy trying to claim that Bush is on a crusade to piss off the Arab-American demographic? Did you hit a water main down there in the hole your digging?

Where, oh where, were the adults?

Certainly nowhere near Senator Kennedy.

Liberals, too, can be blind practitioners of "arrogant ideological incompetence."

Like, duh. (Iíve documented, oh, I donít know, CVI instances of these instances previously.)

The dreamy belief in the hidden virtues of all the poor or in the idea that money makes the difference between good and bad schools are examples of ideology smothering common sense.

Why stop there?

I suppose, too, you can throw in the Vietnam War, which started with arrogance, proceeded to incompetence, and managed to straddle both liberal and conservative ideologies.

Unlike Dick, Iím not interested in fighting the Vietnam War again, and again, and again.

The Bush administration, though, proceeded in spite of the lessons of Vietnam, so certain was it of its course.

Maybe it wasnít that they were certain of their course so much as it was that they realized it wasnít another Vietnam. It's not in spite of the lessons of Vietnam, it's because of the lessons of Vietnam. Jeez Dick, usually you can be accused of fighting the last war, but now youíre stuck about three wars back.

For it -- and, yes, for those of us who supported it -- that was indeed arrogance.

Whatever, Dick.

Once I wrote a column disparaging Sen. Chuck Robb.

His turn in the barrel, I guess.

Later he stood in the Senate and delivered a gutsy speech against gay-bashing and I gladly had to eat my words.

Youíre such a great guy, Dick.

Years later, I ridiculed Sen. Bob Graham for the diaries he kept.

Ok, but there are much better reasons to ridicule Senator Graham than the fact that he keeps meticulous diaries.

Now he has written a worthy book damning the Bush administration for its many intelligence blunders, and again I bow in regret.

Non sequitur alert! What has that got to do with Senator Grahamís diaries? Iím never going to waste my time reading Senator Grahamís book, but I have seen him on Meet the Press and Iím damn glad that nut is never going to be president.

Finally, I long ago stopped paying hard attention to Ted Kennedy, Ö

Too little, too late to get on my good side now.

Ö but now I find him a typhoon of common sense and intelligent indignation.

I wouldnít think now is the best time to use metaphors involving typhoons and hurricanes. Then again, Iím not sure when common sense and intelligence would have ever been appropriate adjectives for Senator Kennedy.

He has not lost the gift of outrage.

The gift that keeps on giving, and taking in his case.

Kennedy did not vote to authorize George W. Bush's war.

Listen Dick, itís Americaís War. And Senator Kennedyís vote is still wrong, though, again, Iíll give him credit for remaining consistent, which is more than Senator Kerry can do.

Kerry's problem is that, whatever else he intended, he did.

Before he didnít.

Had he Kennedy's zest for boldness, he would have admitted a mistake and moved on.

Kennedy admitted a mistake? Like leaving the scene of an fatal accident?

But he chose a supposedly safe and overly nuanced route that has left him tongue-tied.

If opposing the war had been the right political choice for the Democrats, it would have been Howard Dean losing badly to President George W. Bush right now, not John Kerry.

Kennedy, who was right from the start,Ö

Kennedy was right? From the start?

Ö is not similarly burdened, but his formulation of "arrogant ideological incompetence" can be used by Kerry anyway.

Why stop making shit up now? Keep flinging it against the wall, maybe something will stick.

In three words,Ö

The last time Kerry used three words it was, ďBring it on!Ē

Ö it answers the question of why we are -- still and in coming years -- in Iraq.

Iím sure Dick believes that John Kerryís Secret Planô will solve everything in less than one election cycle, but Iím not buying.

All the rest is commentary.

And commentary on commentary. Here endeth the lesson.

Posted by Charles Austin at September 15, 2004 03:00 PM