Richard Cohen’s Battered Wife Syndrome

Stephen Colbert had George McGovern on tonight as his guest. I guess McGovern’s 1972 campaign is the new topic for discussion. A whole generation of Democrats were traumatized by that election and it has caused them to act like idiots ever since. Richard Cohen is a case in point.

In my 2007 column, I compared this presidential campaign to that of 1972, when George McGovern lost 49 states to Richard Nixon. The parallels are in some ways obvious — the Vietnam War and the war in Iraq, above all. What I could not have foreseen a year ago was how much more obvious the parallels would become. Back in ’72, the Democratic Party was split between doves and hawks, reformers and stogie smokers — even between men and women. The result was a national convention that was boisterous, unruly and ugly to look at. That convention might, however, look like a tea party compared with what could happen in Denver this August…

You can see it all happening again: a Republican charging that the Democrats are defeatist, soft on national security and not to be trusted with the White House. And you can see the Democratic Party heading toward Denver for yet another crackup. This time, instead of McGovern, a genuine war hero (the Distinguished Flying Cross) caricatured as a sissy, the party will put up either a candidate who has been inconsistent on the war or one with almost no foreign policy or military experience.

A year ago, it looked like the party could not lose. This year, it seems determined to try.

Let me just point out some obvious differences. In 1972, Richard M. Nixon was running for reelection. In 2008, there is no incumbent on the ticket. In 1972, Nixon had the best year of his presidency by traveling to China and the Soviet Union (where he and Leonid Brezhnev signed the SALT I Treaty). In addition, despite his failure to end the war in Vietnam in his first term in office, Nixon was able to draw down most of the troops, announce a tentative peace agreement, and (perhaps most importantly) Nixon’s party didn’t start the Vietnam War.

Nixon was a polarizing figure, but he had real foreign and domestic policy successes to run on. The Republican Party has nothing. The surge seems to have taken some of the bite out of the anti-war movement, but polls suggest that it is done little to nothing to impress the American people. The economy is a disaster. The GOP is in total disarray.

The best argument that 2008 is not a reprise of 1972 is the special election in Illinois’ 14th congressional district, where Democrat Bill Foster ran on ending the war and denying retroactive immunity to the telecommunications corporations for their illegal cooperation in Fourth Amendment violations. Foster won in a very Republican district that was formerly held by the Republican Speaker of the House. What more evidence do you need?

Cohen should focus on the real danger. Hillary Clinton could, if she does not concede gracefully, split the Democratic Party apart and weaken it. And that is the only way McCain can win. It has nothing to do with McGovern. In 1972, Richard Nixon didn’t just win an election. He also stole Richard Cohen’s balls. And Joe Klein’s. And a lot of other pundits that haven’t been able produce natural testosterone ever since…instead they’ve been borrowing if from Ronald Reagan, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone, Dick Cheney, or whoever else seemed to be a real man.

5 comments for “Richard Cohen’s Battered Wife Syndrome

  1. AP
    March 11, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    Weak. Spineless. Pathetic.

    But to shore up his limping, um, stature, he’s got a nice place to have his drivel published, and he can get away with sexual harassing his colleagues.

    Ah, the virtual Viagra of sexual harassment and extolling tough-guy actors–gotta love it.

  2. March 11, 2008 at 10:13 am

    This is the most damaging thing the Clinton campaign could do to the state of the nation right now. I’m no lover of the 2-party (1-party, 2-wings) system we have perpetuated, but to split the Democratic Party in pieces would be devastating. To rage against Hillary now should be about this threat, as she takes her power and ambition far above the needs of the Democratic Party and hence, the nation as a whole.

    Her full scale manipulation, so clearly being demonstrated now with her desperate needs after Feb 5, is showing she could, just about could, split the party due to the huge influence and return of favors she and her husband have acquired over the years. The progressive left and soft core middle of the Democratic party would defect to some corner of numbness, and many might sit it out and not vote due to her defeating their one-person, one-vote ideal. What would be left are trailing idealists and the corporatists in the Party to rally behind her. The Right Wing Media Machine will attack her as expected, the left and center of the Democratic Party will say “we told you so,” and sit on their hands come November. Then we get a contested, cheating, rigged election for McCain, as the polls in October are 50/50, ending with another non-contested win by the NeoConicans.

    Of course I’m projecting, supposing here, but think about the disenfranchisement of the middle and left of the Democratic Party, much less that of independent voters and cross-over Republicans. The sense of defeatism to the Machiavellian tactics of both Clinton and NeoConicans will shut down the will of the American public.

    And here goes the economy along with our democracy, slipping into the toilet of history, just so Hillary can represent her base back in the White House. . . . .

    Selfish, greedy, despicable.

  3. March 11, 2008 at 9:34 am

    Ah, the days of masticated balls.  My brother in law missed Nixon this when he started the site way back when.

  4. March 11, 2008 at 9:10 am

    Let us not forget that 1972 saw a reprise of Murray Chotiner. There were a host of dirty tricks that year. Nixon had a team of burglars breaking into places like the Dems’ HQ at the Watergate. Lucianne Goldberg, using a CIA cover, spied on the McGovern campaign.

    It was the first national election I could vote in. I was in the army, stationed in Massachusetts. It was an ugly election, though.

  5. March 11, 2008 at 7:17 am

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