Jay Nordlinger's a couple years behind me:
Last Sunday, a friend asked whether I had seen that day's Friedman column, about which he was sputtering. I could only smile serenely and say no. "Why do you do it to yourself?"
And yet, one always looks for an honest liberal columnist, something to enhance one's media diet. Michael Kinsley once served this purpose for me. But that was . . . well, it's been a while. And Peter Beinart? The guy who declares that conservatives simply don't care about people? What can be gained from reading that? I can stroll down the streets of Ann Arbor, my hometown — or walk outside here in New York — and hear that any time I want.
I have always read Richard Cohen — but I don't know. In the past, he merely visited Friedman/Dowd Land. Now it seems that he has taken up permanent residence there.
Disdain, sarcasm, silliness, nastiness, unreason — he's afflicted with all those traits. Take his column of Feb. 10 (please). It begins,
The line — the semiofficial one, that is — has changed on George Bush. Where once he was supposedly the sort of guy who eschewed books and even thinking and favored instead a decision-making process that was almost entirely the product of instinct, we are now told that the president reads books — really and truly. Among those cited, and famously so, is Natan Sharansky's "The Case for Democracy," which supposedly enthralled Bush because up to then, we may deduce, the case for democracy was not obvious to the man who heads the world's most powerful . . . er, democracy. Better late than never, I suppose.
This must be disingenuous — because Cohen can't be so stupid as not to know that the debate is over the role of democracy in checking terror and changing the Middle East. And he can't be so stupid as not to know that the Sharansky position remains, throughout the West — certainly in Washington, D.C. — a minority position. Has Cohen ever talked to Brent Scowcroft? How about virtually the entire Democratic party?
Later, Cohen writes, " . . . two presidential elections and a war have shown Bush what he must have long suspected — that he has vast leadership abilities and that he has been called (and you know by who) to his historic role."
Leave the grammar aside. Snide Bush critics are always saying that the president considers himself on a mission from God. Funny, but the president doesn't say that, and his administration doesn't say it, and his supporters don't say it. Only the snide critics say it.
We shouldn't ignore language altogether. Cohen writes, "Because Bush is certain he can bend history his way, he just might become one of those American presidents who is thought to have made a difference." That should be, "one of those American presidents who are thought to have made a difference." Cohen is misled by the "one," like most everyone else.
Last, we get, "This quality, this firm and unmistakably American belief that history is our pal, our angel — ours, and not anyone else's — and that we can alter it, bend it and embrace it for our own needs . . . "
I know a lot of Americans, and I know a lot of conservatives. I bet I know more conservatives than Richard Cohen does. And I don't know a human being who believes that history is America's pal, or angel, and no one else's. Not one. Not a friggin' one.
Richard Cohen — perhaps thinking that he needs to write Inherit the Wind over and over — imagines conservatives who do not exist. He seems unwilling to debate, or consider, conservatives as we truly are. He is a caricaturist, and I'm looking for a columnist, and it is very, very hard.
I feel the urge... the urge to Scourge...