Sine Qua Non Pundit

And what is good, Phaedrus, And what is not good -- Need we ask anyone to tell us these things? ------ ------ ------ ------ E-mail: charlesaustin@earthlink.net

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Wednesday, June 25, 2003
 
What the ?

The New! Improved! BloggerPro is acting up at the wrong time while I'm experimenting with MT.



Tuesday, June 24, 2003
 
Don't Forget!

I'm not really here this week, but I'm hanging out over at Ipse Dixit.



 
The Scourge of Richard Cohen, Vol. LXXXVIII

(Ed. -- The following is a bit of mean spiritedness that will be an on-going feature of this blog. Normally the author will endeavor to be reasonably fair, but this is an exception.)

A short time ago, in a beltway far, far away, there was an epic struggle between two camps. One of these camps relied upon the dark and sinister force of popularity and united solidly behind their poster boy, who they chose to defend at all costs to their honor and integrity. The opposing camp, though not completely without fault, followed an arduous trail towards what they believed to be the their duty to enforce the law and fight against the darkening and coarsening of the body politic and public service.

What I find fascinating is that those who insisted on dragging everyone through the mud instead of taking the honorable way out still insist on resurrecting the mud fights of the past every chance they get. I have become convinced that this is due to their belief that by coating everyone with mud it becomes impossible to distinguish between those who are quite comfortable wallowing in the mud and those who feel it necessary to carry on the good fight even if it is in the mud. We have seen this diseased mindset at work over and over when it comes to the presidency of Bill Clinton and the sycophants defending him beyond all rhyme or reason. Every breach of the public trust was always countered with an attempt to drag others into the mud, even to the point of casting aspersions upon those long dead whose reputations mattered not a whit when placed up against the necessity of maintaining their place at the public trough.

Richard Cohen uses the occasion of Sid Blumenthal’s book The Clinton Wars to sling mud freely, refusing to allow anyone to wipe the filth from his or her countenance. Dick’s feeble attempt at cleverness using the tired illiberal perjorative of warmonger forces me to climb down into the filth with him and do battle in what I’m calling The Clinton Whoremongers versus The Clinton Warmongers:

Sidney Blumenthal titles his account of his White House days "The Clinton Wars," but it could just as easily be called "The Blumenthal Wars."

Or maybe the War of the Poseurs, or The War Against Republican Aggression, or the War of Clinton’s Gear, or even Gulp War I. It’s funny that the his opponents are accused of warmongering, and yet Dick and the other defenders of Slick Willie are the ones resorting to the warlike verbiage.

Reviewers have called him a Clinton "courtier," "Sid Vicious," a "lady-in-waiting" and, by the strongest of implications, a liar.

And those are the nice reviews.

Yet to actually read the book brings another term to mind: "mad." This is what Washington was during the Clinton years.

And alas, there seems to be no cure for those afflicted by this malady. Time wounds all heels.

I do not mean all of Washington. After all, many Democrats fought valiantly for Bill Clinton -- or, if not for him, then against Ken Starr, the moralistic prig of a special prosecutor.

The noble Democrats! So valiantly self-deceived and spinning on Bill Clinton’s behalf, and then undertaking no penance when their mendacity was revealed.

Ditto some members of the press, who realized that no matter what Clinton did, what was being done to him -- and the presidency -- was far, far worse.

And yet, no mention of what brought all this on or of the shameful acts that followed while Bill Clinton should have been just a little contrite about the abuse of the public trust. While Richard Cohen laments that the poor boy, whose heart was so pure, was more sinned against than sinning, methinks the boy president was more akin to King Richard III than King Lear. Was ever the public in this humour wooed? Was ever the public in this humour won?

But you would get little of that from most of the reviews. Barely mentioned are the censorious comments of Samuel Dash, Starr's ethics counselor, who, in the book, characterizes the special prosecutor as a morally obsessed inquisitor. "He lacked a lot of judgment," Dash told Blumenthal.

Even assuming that not every arrow of outrageous fortune slung at Bill Clinton was merited, how does this justify what he actually did? Are there any arguments here other than to attack the messenger, or to deflect attention away from the true crimes and misdemeanors by dragging others even deeper into the muck?

"Starr didn't see the difference between a sin and a crime."

And yet, isn’t Sid’s camp the one that maintained that what is legal is moral?

Dash says that Starr could have ended his investigation much earlier than he did. He had, really, nothing.

Nothing? Nothing? Nothing comes from nothing. Except of course, Bill Clinton’s impeachment and disbarment.

The same has to be said about Filegate, Travelgate and all the other scandals, including the overriding influence China supposedly exercised over the Democratic Party.

Oh? Someone must have spiked the red Kool-Aid.

In each and every case, there was a nugget, an infraction, something suspicious.

Apparently, something other than nothing then, eh Dick?

But now, all these years later, it is hard to recall just what these scandals were about.

What an amazing statement! I’ll retract my earlier allusion over at Ipse Dixit to Alzheimer’s setting in. The disease afflicting Dick and all the other red Kool-Aid drinkers is much more insidious, somehow wiping the slate clean of any stains left by Bill Clinton, while keeping alive the most detailed memory imaginable of all that was done by those attempting to hold him to account for his crimes and misdemeanors.

That's hardly the case, say, with Watergate.

Hey, at least he didn’t compare it to Vietnam.

To this day I can tell you it was about abuse of power by the Nixon White House -- and White House aides went to jail.

So, since no Clinton aides have gone to jail (yet), there was no abuse of power by Bill Clinton? The illogic is impeccable.

None of Clinton's White House aides was even indicted.

See! See! Legal equals moral!

It certainly wasn't for lack of trying. Starr was preceded by Robert Fiske, who was removed from office by Republican judges on account of a disabling conflict of interest -- experience as a prosecutor, fair-mindedness and estimable professionalism.

It must be so wonderful to live in such a black and white world, where everyone who agrees with you is pure and chaste and everyone opposed have hearts as black as coal. I better retract that chaste part though. If we have learned anything, it is that purity of purpose does not require chastity for an illiberal.

Starr, in turn, was succeeded by a third prosecutor, Robert Ray, another pro.

Perhaps Mr. Ray’s professionalism was tempered by the realization that there was no point in pursuing indictments when confronted by the stonewalling possible by the Clinton White House and all their enablers in Congress and the media.

The FBI was in the hands of Louis Freeh, who loathed Clinton.

Imagine! But wasn’t Mr. Freeh appointed by Clinton?

Various congressional committees were run by the likes of Al D'Amato, who -- in the manner of naming a nunnery after Hugh Hefner -- just got his name put on a Long Island courthouse.

Far be it from me to defend Al D’Amato, but is this any worse than naming the home of the Justice Department after Robert Kennedy?

As for the news media, they went after both Bill and Hillary Clinton full time.

Uh huh. You know, if Richard Cohen and the Clinton Whoremongers can’t be honest with themselves, how can we expect them to be honest with us? And anyway, how dare they investigate those whose motives are above reproach?

The result? Zip.

Except for Bill Clinton’s impeachment and disbarment, the absolution of Billy Dale and the prosecutor’s statement that Hillary was probably behind it, the still unexplained FBI files in the White House, and the magical reappearance of the Rose billing records in Hillary’s quarters in the White House. And we haven’t even started on the last minute pardons or Hilary’s questionable book deal.

I know Blumenthal.

And I don't know Dick.

He was my Post colleague.

So was Janet Cooke.

But I also know most of the people who have criticized his book.

Most? Really?

They are honorable people…

Watch out for Dick’s but…

…but many of them use the book to pick up where they left off. They have no second thoughts, no backward glance to see the mess they made or to wonder how investigative reporting and commentary went right off a cliff and into a sewer.

Cliffs have sewers? Just following the slime trail. Not that Dick would ever actually acknowledge that there was in fact a slime trail.

The real scandal for the news media is that no scandal ever materialized.

No scandal? None? Zero? Zip? Zilch? Nada? Nyet? Nein? Perhaps it is Alzheimer’s after all.

So we get accusations that Blumenthal spun this or that event.

Mere accusations!

What's missing is not just an overview but a sense of astonishment.

Oh no, there’s plenty of astonishment to go around.

Isn't it just plain mysterious that Newt Gingrich continues to get respectful media attention when, really, on a given day he is half-mad and almost always blowing smoke?

Half-mad? Wow! I mean, aren’t there any editors left at the Washington Post?

The same could be asked of Tom DeLay, who revived impeachment when the effort flagged for lack of compelling evidence and was determined to smash Clinton -- never mind what else he would destroy in the process.

Yes, when not dreaming of exterminating poor people, ol’ Tom’s out implementin’ his scorched earth policy to destroy Bill Clinton and everything that he has touched. Such nice people in your camp, Dick.

Yet he and other Clinton-haters wander the streets of Washington, unscarred, uncensored but, nonetheless, unhinged.

Unlike the Clinton-lovers, who wander the streets of Washington, scarred, censored, but nonetheless, hinged. Is Mr. Cohen seriously advocating censorship here of ideas or commentary he doesn’t like or approve of? My oh my, Dick’s really going off the deep end now.

The virtue of Blumenthal's book…

Think about that phrase for a while. Let it roll around in your conscience. Now go scrub out your brain with some bleach.

… is that it assembles in one place what happened in Washington during the Clinton years.

A pure and objective account courtesy of the blessed pen of the one whom Andrew Sullivan called Saint Sid.

If you are not already convinced that Clinton was guilty of multiple crimes, then Blumenthal will make you wonder all over again about how partisan politics, even cultural disagreements, got so out of hand that the government wound up in the pornography business. The Starr Report. Wrap it in plain paper, please.

And yet, still no mention of the source of the pornography? Was it all fiction?

There's much to criticize in Blumenthal's book -- a detail, an omission, a partisan spin on events.

But Dick’s at the end of his column, so you won’t read about it here.

But the book's reception reminds me of the events it chronicles -- a warped obsession with this or that tree when Ken Starr and his Republican allies were clear-cutting much of the forest.

The clichés fall with a mighty thud.

Blumenthal's book, describing what a madhouse Washington became back then, has for some reason been given to the inmates to review.

Given? No, if you want it, it’s going to cost you $21.00 plus shipping and handling.

In all seriousness, for a moment, I’m beginning to worry about Richard Cohen. This column is so jaw-droppingly selective in its memory and over the top in its partisanship that I am shocked it got past the editors. Presumably, it won’t take many columns like this and Dick’s going to be out of work. Maybe it has already been suggested that he retire, and so he’s dropping the gloves and relinquishing the last filters between his columns and what he really thinks. If you read Dick’s column, did you ever sense that perhaps, just maybe, Bill Clinton wasn’t exactly the most upstanding citizen ever to hold the highest office in the land? Or was it all the fault of the “evildoers” who were out to destroy him and his noble plans.

I’ve never felt more depressed finishing a Scourge or more contemptuous of Richard Cohen. Maybe it’s time to quit.





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