COHEN (9/16/04): I bump into these anti-Bush alarmists all the time. Recently an extremely successful and erudite man I much admire told me he viewed the upcoming election as something akin to September 1939, the time when World War II started and, among other things, European Jewry was all but snuffed out. I add that bit about the Holocaust because the man I was talking to had been born a European Jew. I could hardly believe my ears.This is not the place to examine why Bush is so hated, Cohen continues. But does his acquaintance really hate Bush? Its hard to tell from the exchange he describes. What exactly did Cohens friend mean when he compared this election to 1939? Either Cohen didnt ask, or the answer wasnt colorful enough to be included in this column. Did Cohens friend really say or imply that American Jewry might be wiped out in a Bush second term—or did Cohen add that bit without prodding? What exactly did his friend mean? Cohen doesnt bother to tell us. But so what? Were supposed to tremble with rage about this gentlemans private and largely unexplained comment. Meanwhile, is nasty Bush-hatred occurring in public? Cohen cites that one obscure novel, but seems to have found nothing else.
According to Cohen, he hates this stuff—this fearsome lack of moderation. The demonization of Bush is going to cost John Kerry plenty, he even declares. Cohens views are very clear: [S]ome of us cherish moderation, recoil from conspiracy theories and would like, if possible, to stick to the facts. We tend to support those values ourselves. But as we read, we found ourselves wondering when Cohen began to feel them so strongly.
Cohen is troubled by obscure, unread novels. But we wondered: Was he troubled when a famous public figure, Jerry Falwell, pimped a nasty videotape accusing Clinton of multiple murders? A Nexis search produces no mentions in the gentlemans prior columns. In 1998, was Cohen troubled when Gennifer Flowers began to peddle a Clinton murder list—and was invited all over cable to pimp it? No Nexis mentions. And since Cohen loves the facts so much, did he promote the facts in 1995 when the Pillsbury commission found the Clintons innocent of wrong-doing in Whitewater? Sorry—no mention in his columns. In 1996, did Cohen discuss Gene Lyons Fools for Scandal, the important book which first explained, to quote its subtitle, how the media invented Whitewater? No mentions from fact-lovin Cohen. And how outraged did the columnist get when various people—important people—kept pretending Vince Foster had been murdered? In 1997, Cohen actually wrote a column wondering why Fosters death got probed so often. And guess what—it was partly Clintons fault! Heres the most outrage he could muster:
COHEN (10/14/97): [C]onsider why so many people spent so much time and money looking into Foster's death. His widow, Lisa, has remarried and moved on to a new phase in her life. Only Washington remained mired, fixated, believing that the Clintons could be so evil that they would—God only knows how—murder their troubled friend, move his body from the Oval Office or where the Rose Law Firm billing records were kept (Iron Mountain, I suppose) and place that gun in his hand. The scenario is so preposterous it wouldn't even make a bad movie, but the investigations came one after another.Cohen gave leeway to novelists then, even when their nasty claims were being published in important places. But Cohen didnt show much outrage by the jihad against Clinton, who had brought the venomous attacks on himself. Now can we have an investigation into why there have been so many investigations? he quipped. I ask that question a bit tongue in cheek—but also because I am at a loss to explain what has happened in Washington since George Bush departed the place and Bill Clinton came in. Today, though, he sees the problem clearly. When an intelligent man complains privately about Bush, Cohen goes into print to describe it as hatred. But back then, when crackpots drove the discourse for a decade, he chuckled. He couldnt figure it out.
Some of this, I grant you, is Clinton's fault. He is not a truthful man, and maybe that accounts for the venomous attacks that come his way. Last week, for instance, Mark Helprin, a Wall Street Journal contributing editor, called Clinton "the most corrupt, fraudulent and dishonest president we have ever known." Helprin is a novelist, so a little leeway should be granted, but has he forgotten Richard Nixon? Nineteen of the president's men went to jail—and not, mind you, for crimes committed before coming to Washington.
Today, Richard Cohen is very upset. But murder lists and fake murder probes failed to make his blood boil then. Neither did the phony facts in the phony probes of that phony Whitewater scandal. Clinton is not a truthful man? What about the truth-loathing men who kept producing those fake murder probes? The puzzling drift of American political life can be found in the contrast between Cohens columns—between the column that rails against toothless Bush-hatred and the columns which winked at real Clinton-hatred and said it must be Clintons fault.
Oh yes, we forgot to tell you—Cohen is a liberal columnist. Hes driven by the liberal bias being scalded all over the land.
RATHER POOR LOGIC: Clearly, CBS shouldnt run with docs if they cant be sure theyre authentic. But we were struck by the fevered logic displayed last night in Scarborough Country. Over and over, pundits insisted that CBS should reveal its source, whos a criminal. But most of the pundits werent quite ready to declare the documents fake. For example, here was Bob Zelnick:
ZELNICK (9/16/04): I think they just got so emotionally and ego involved in this story that they have attacked critics. They have defended the indefensible, and they still haven't owned up to the fact that this may be—that this is very likely a forgery.Zelnick only said it was very likely a forgery. And CBS still says the docs are OK.
Are the docs fake? Like Zelnick, we dont know. But heres the problem: Working with copies of copies, it was hard to prove that the docs were real—and its now hard to prove that the docs are fake. In Scarborough Country, pundits thundered, ranted and roared. But no one tried to nail down a judgment. Thats the way things tend to work inside that dim tin-pot land.
Our current series— Smear boat veterans (part 4)!
ITS THE SMEAR BOAT: Enjoy each part of our endless report:
SMEAR BOAT VETERANS (PART 1): Roy Latch Hoffmann has total recall. Any chance hes reciting a script? See THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/14/04.Now, for a thoughtful Part 4:
SMEAR BOAT VETERANS (PART 2): John ONeill likes to tell nasty tales—even when his own vets say theyre bogus. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/15/04.
SMEAR BOAT VETERANS (PART 3): Howler History! Back in 1998, the corps failed to challenge another accuser. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/16/04.
PART 4! KERRY-THE-COMMIE: How kooky is the ONeill/Corsi book—the book that may have changed this election? David Broder got a small taste at Reagan Airport this past Sunday night. He described the experience in yesterdays column. John Kerrys a Commie, an excited man said:
BRODER (9/16/04): On the way [to New Hampshire] Sunday night, I'd had a sampling of one side of that debate. Boarding the shuttle bus to the jet at Ronald Reagan National Airport, we were joined by a man in a Navy cap who carried a large sign he'd brought back from an afternoon rally of Vietnam Veterans Against John Kerry. He delivered his message to the whole bus in stentorian tones: "Do you know there's a museum in Ho Chi Minh City with a photograph of Kerry and a message praising his contribution to their victory? Do you know that [the rally of disenchanted Vietnam vets Kerry attended in 1971] actually advocated assassination of United States senators?Ah yes, Kerry the Commie! Broders bus-mate was rattling cant straight from the kooky ONeill/Corsi book—straight from the kooky, crackpot book big pundits all know not to cover.
"He should be tried for treason, not running for president." The ride ended before the harangue was over.
Do voters have a right to know that John ONeill and Jerome Corsi are crackpots? This summer, the overwrought pair published a book which may have transformed this White House campaign. But very few newspapers have dared to review it, and one thing readers are not being told is how kooky this important book is. Clearly, Broder was struck by the kooky harangue on his bus. But that same screed runs all through Unfit for Command, although few voters have ever been told. To ONeill and Corsi, Kerrys a Commie. Lets let them imply it themselves:
ONEILL/CORSI (page 174): Looking at John Kerrys record in the U.S. Senate since 1984, it is difficult, if not impossible, to find any position he took regarding Vietnam that the Communists would not favor.That kooky man on Broders bus is not unlike these authors. Their book has ten chapters, and chapter nine is devoted to Kerry-the-Commie. The title? Kerrys Communist Honors. The authors start with that same museum in Vietnam—the one Broders bus-mate was denouncing:
ONEILL/CORSI (page 167): In the Vietnamese Communist War Remnants Museum (formerly known as the War Crimes Museum) in Ho Chi Minh City, a photograph of John Kerry hangs in a room titled The World Supports Vietnam in its Resistance. The photograph shows Senator John Kerry being greeted by the general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, Comrade Do Muoi. The story broke over the 2004 Memorial Day weekend. Jeffrey M. Epstein of the Vietnam Vets for the Truth acquired the photograph in response to a request for photographs and records detailing Kerrys activities on behalf of the enemy.Kerrys activities on behalf of the enemy? In fact, that photograph was taken in 1993, when Kerry went to Vietnam as part of an official U.S. delegation pursuing the POW/MIA issue. After several pages of dime-novel clowning designed to make this visit sound like a mystery, ONeill and Corsi even concede this. Kerrys presence in Nam was reasonable. But then they explain the Big Problem:
ONEILL/CORSI (page 172): Thus, the existence of photographs showing Senator Kerry meeting with General Secretary Do Muoi is not in question. In the course of pursuing the POW and MIA issue, it is reasonable that Senator Kerry would seek to meet with leaders of Communist Vietnam. The critical issue here is that the Vietnamese Communists have chosen to honor Senator Kerry in their War Remnants Museum for his assistance in helping them achieve victory over the United States.It isnt wrong that Kerry was there. The problem turns out to be the way the Commies have chosen to caption that photo! And soon after that, it gets worse for Kerry. Were told that [c]ontroversy continues over John Kerrys role in chairing the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA affairs, and, of course, that Kerry never took any position in the Senate that the Communists would not favor. Lets be frank—these are the same kooky men who pursued John McCain on these matters during Campaign 2000. Jeffrey Epstein of the Vietnam Vets acquired this photographic record? Who knows? A few months later, he may have been the overwrought man yelling on poor Broders bus.
Yes, ONeill and Corsi are upset because the enemy posted an innocuous photo of a U.S. senator doing his job. But then, thats always the standard for crackpots like these. If the enemy agrees with you in some way, that makes you the enemy too! Indeed, Kerry-the-Commie runs all through the unreviewed book these two crackpots have offered. At the start of chapter 7, for example (Meeting with the Enemy), ONeill and Corsi let us know that Kerry was a Commie (or Commie dupe) way back when. They excitedly quote Ion Pacepa, a former Soviet intelligence officer, the kind of fellow whose judgment they trust:
ONEILL/CORSI (page 124): Whether Kerry knew it or not, his 1971 testimony to the Fulbright Committee was reciting the Communist Party line chapter and verse. Pacepa left no doubt as to his conclusion: As far as Im concerned, the KGB gave birth to the antiwar movement in America.And you always thought it was college kids who didnt want their keisters shot off! Fools! Fools, every one of you! How could you have been so deceived?
But then, how kooky are ONeill and Corsi about Kerrys antiwar exploits? As crackpots of their type always do, they complain about the antiwar movement because Americas leading Communist paper was against the war too. Thats right, readers! Back in the early 1970s, the Daily World was still in print, being read by seventeen people and affecting the American debate not a whit. But so what! You know how the reasoning works: The enemy is criticizing the war in Vietnam. So if you are criticizing the war in Vietnam, that must mean youre part of the enemy! ONeill and Corsi spell it out, exciting that guy on Broders bus:
ONEILL/CORSI (page 136): The Communist world understood clearly then what John Kerry even today still tries to deny. The antiwar movement typified by the [Vietnam Veterans Against the War] was not simply a protest movement. At its core, the VVAW was avowedly anti-American...Kerry, as spokesperson for the VVAW, was trumpeting the theme the Communist world wanted heard. Navy lieutenant John Kerry could not have been a more perfect poster boy for the Communist Daily World than if he had been recruited and trained by the KGB itself.So lets see: The KGB started the antiwar movement. Kerry was the perfect poster boy for the Communists—he was reciting the Communist line. As a senator, Kerry has never taken a position that the Communists didnt favor. And when he worked on POW/MIA issues, he was working on behalf of the enemy.
When Broder journeyed on that bus, he was struck by the crackpot harangue which came from that Vietnam Vet Against Kerry. It stuck in his mind for the next several days; he featured it in yesterdays column. But neither Broder nor his paper has ever told you a dirty little secret. The crackpot harangue that he heard on that bus runs all through Unfit for Command. Indeed, Kerry-the-Commie is only one part of ONeill and Corsis kooky claims. Why does Broder slam that guy on that bus, but keep his mouth strategically shut about these important crackpots?
NEXT: Kooky claims! ONeill calls Kerry a baby-killer—and pundits all know not to notice.
TOMORROW AND MONDAY: Our series will have at least several more parts. But we want to touch on a few other topics, and we plan to do some HOWLER HISTORY about this-week-four-years-ago (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/7/04). But well continue to explore Unfit for Command, and well continue to ask the obvious question. Why has such an important book gone unreviewed by your trembling press corps? Why is Richard Cohen upset by his erudite friend, and silent—deeply silent—about this?
PORTRAIT OF THE CRACKPOT AS A YOUNG MAN: Crackpots rarely know that theyre kooky. For that reason, they sometimes offer comical passages like this rumination about the importance of the Daily World:
ONEILL/CORSI (page 136): Today, running for president in 2004, John Kerry can object that the Communist Daily World was free to cover whatever it chose, and that he did not seek out the papers coverage or give interviews to its reporters. Yet, the deeper reality is that anyone literate at the time, anyone deeply involved in the political and moral struggle that was Vietnam, could not ignore the impact of the extensive coverage by the Daily World to the VVAWs Dewey Canyon III April 1971 protest in Washington.Technically, of course, the authors are right. You couldnt ignore the impact of the coverage because there was no impact at all! But in the fever swamps where these authors dwell, the Daily World was driving the nation. And, of course, such things never change. Today, disguised as the Weekly World, the influential newspaper hides in plain sight. Surely, no literate person today ignores the papers vast influence.