Wanker of the Day: Richard Cohen

No. Seriously. Richard Cohen really did dedicate his column this week to complaining about Obama’s memorial speech for Richard Holbrooke. According to Cohen, Obama didn’t really like Holbrooke and didn’t pretend to in his oration.

Obama’s lack of artifice can be admirable, but it is almost never politic. For a while he even wouldn’t wear that kitschy American flag lapel pin, 95 cents worth of patriotism. But blarney is as essential to politics as the evanescent lie is to seduction. I am referring now to convincing strangers that you understand their concerns, feel their pain, so that in the end you actually do. A good politician never speaks to a crowd. It is always a collection of friends. Obama speaks mostly to crowds. His hallmark has been his disconnect, a perplexing standoffishness that has hurt him politically.

At the end of the week, the general consensus was that Obama had proved his mettle in Tucson and, along with his recent legislative victories, righted his presidency. But the president who bounded onto the Kennedy Center stage two days later shrunk in stature as the program wore on, and he left the hall, in my eyes at least, looking a lot like the man he was before Tucson.

I think Cohen has caught a communicable disease called botulinum Noonanitis. It causes you to make trite disconnected observations and vomit up ridiculous pet peeves on an unsuspecting readership.

Do we really want lessons on the art of seduction from a veteran sexual harrasser? Did he really just make a case for questioning the president’s patriotism because he didn’t wear a flag-pin?

Wank on, wank off.

11 comments for “Wanker of the Day: Richard Cohen

  1. January 18, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    We will never cease to get this endless flow of meaningless tripe from the media and its little clowns. Nero fiddling in Rome comes to mind. As does how accurate the blog name News Corpse is…

  2. January 18, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Holbrooke, as someone who spent 40+ years helping give a bipartisan sheen to America’s butcherous foreign policy, was a Serious Thinker and thus a member in good standing of the Village. Cohen was simply defending one of his own.

    When someone asks the difference between “liberal” and “progressive,” Cohen is a good place to start. I was surprised when Salon honored him as the Village’s worst wanker in its list — there’s so much competition — but the man does have a flair for it.

  3. January 18, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    you know, I am less concerned with what an old hack like Richard Cohen thinks than the fact that Obama’s war and civil liberties policies are now earning the praise of Dick Cheney and that Obama’s pitching deregulatory frames in the WSJ.

    THAT, to me, is far more wankeriffic than Cohen’s ramblings, because it actually matters.

  4. Oui
    January 18, 2011 at 12:25 pm


    Richard Holbrooke

    Twice in the first 18 months, national-security adviser General James L. Jones casually told Holbrooke he should start looking for another assignment. Each time, Holbrooke ignored the hint as others in the administration assured him that Jones didn’t have the bureaucratic juice to fire him. But if White House aides couldn’t fire Holbrooke, they could muzzle him. Denis McDonough, an early foreign-policy adviser to Senator Obama and director of strategic communications for the National Security Council, kept him off television and, after a profile in The New Yorker that the White House found egocentric, away from print reporters. (Holbrooke met with them quietly on background anyway.) By trying so hard to control him, Obama lost a powerful public advocate for his policy.

    The president could have clarified Holbrooke’s role, but he never did. So symbolism became important. The fact that Obama was at State for Holbrooke’s appointment in January 2009 was read as an important sign of presidential support. But the symbolism was noted too when Holbrooke was not in the audience for Obama’s big Afghanistan speech at West Point in December 2009, or part of Obama’s entourage on two brief trips to Afghanistan in 2010, or in Lisbon last November for a NATO summit.

    Jones and the others in the administration who wanted to be rid of the special representative were quick to pick up on Obama’s diffidence and unwillingness to give him face time. They were looking for the misstep that would trip up Holbrooke for good.

    Then, in April, the Jones letter leaked to the press–and the effect wasn’t what might have been expected. As Holbrooke kept working, organizing, traveling, and building vital bridges in Pakistan, it was Jones who looked disruptive. In November, a frustrated Obama decided to change his national-security adviser. In early December, on a visit to the White House, Holbrooke couldn’t resist telling one of the president’s aides,

       “You’ll notice that I am still here and Jones isn’t.”  

    "But I will not let myself be reduced to silence."

  5. January 18, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    can’t stand Cohen

  6. January 18, 2011 at 10:30 am

    Holbrooke started his foreign service career in Vietnam in the Agency for International Development, aka, CIA, in helping to pacify little villages. You know, like My Lai. He ended his service in Afghanistan searching for peace while US troops pacified villages.

    I wouldn’t have been offended if Obama had taken a dump on the guy’s casket.

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