I am actually reaching whatever the next stage is after impatience and exasperation with these Beltway pundits’ efforts to psychoanalyze the president’s ‘maimed soul.’ This morning it is Richard Cohen’s turn.
What these people were seeking was not an eruption of anger, not a tantrum and not a full-scale denunciation of an oil company. What they wanted instead was a sign that this catastrophe meant something to Obama, that it was not merely another problem that had crossed his desk — and this time just wouldn’t budge. He showed not the slightest sign in the idiom that really counts in a media age — body language — that he gave a damn. He could see your pain, he could talk about your pain, but he gave no indication that he felt it.
One can understand. Obama’s father deserted the family and afterward visited his son only once. He twice was separated from his mother, who lived in Indonesia without him. He was partially raised by his grandparents — an elderly white couple. If the president is what the shrinks call “well-defended,” who can blame him? It’s ironic that Oprah Winfrey was maybe Obama’s most significant early backer when the man himself is so un-Oprah. He cannot emote.
This need for men of a certain age to be led by Captain Kirk and not Mr. Spock is getting tiresome. I’d like to know what it was in Mr. Cohen’s upbringing that turned him into such a needy dick.
It’s astonishing to see Cohen call for dumb leadership.
Fortune has not smiled on Obama’s presidency. His one uncontested attribute — a shimmering intellect — has become suspect. A world of smart guys has turned against us. Everyone at Goldman Sachs is smart, but they seem to have the amorality mocked by the songwriter Tom Lehrer in his sendup of the celebrated American rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, a former Nazi (” ‘Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That’s not my department,’ says Wernher von Braun”).
The oil industry is full of smart people, and so is the mortgage industry. Smart people seem to have brought us nothing but trouble. Smarts without values is dangerous — threatening, scary, virtually un-American. This is why a succession of archconservative eccentrics have succeeded. Their values are obvious, often shockingly so. We know what they want, just not how they are ever going to get it. Experience has become a handicap and inexperience a virtue. Smart is out. Dumb is in.
Who are the members on the list of archconservatives who have succeeded? Why is Cohen comparing the president to the crooks at Goldman Sachs, the mortage-lending industry, and BP? Did Cohen just compare Obama to a Nazi and suggest that he doesn’t care who he bombs? Is being stupid and inexperienced really a virtue? Does this man sniff glue for breakfast?
And why do all these columns end as incoherently as they begin.
It’s okay to trade with China. It’s okay to hate it, too.
Pragmatism is fine — as long as it is complicated by regret. But that indispensable wince is precisely what Obama doesn’t show. It is not essential that he get angry or cry. It is essential, though, that he show us who he is. As of now, we haven’t a clue.
We are supposed to hate China? Obama is supposed to wince everytime he mentions China? He sends Geithner and Clinton over to China to convince them to float their currency and he succeeds, but his reward is to be told that he doesn’t show enough regret?
Richard Cohen is indisputably the worst columnist in America to have permanent space at a major newspaper. And he has a lot of competition. Just at the Washington Post he has to compete with Charles Krauthammer, George Will, and David Broder. The man has rocks in his head.