Tuesday, June 24, 2008

So What's Cohen's Excuse


You can understand why David Brooks would develop amnesia about John McCain's flouting campaign finance laws, in order to attack Obama's decision to forego public financing. It's understandable why McCain backer Dan Schnur would have similar amnesia, even as he praises himself as "a long-time supporter of campaign finance reform". But what's Richard Cohen's excuse?
In some recent magazine articles, I and certain of my colleagues have been accused of being soft on McCain, forgiving him his flips, his flops and his mostly conservative ideology. I do not plead guilty to this charge, because, over the years, the man's imperfections have not escaped my keen eye. But, for the record, let's recapitulate: McCain has either reversed himself or significantly amended his positions on immigration, tax cuts for the wealthy, campaign spending (as it applies to use of his wife's corporate airplane) and, most recently, offshore drilling. In the more distant past, he has denounced then embraced certain ministers of medieval views and changed his mind about the Confederate flag, which flies by state sanction in South Carolina only, I suspect, to provide Republican candidates with a chance to choose tradition over common decency. There, I've said it all.
Well, no, Richard, you haven't.
But here is the difference between McCain and Obama -- and Obama had better pay attention. McCain is a known commodity. It's not just that he's been around a long time and staked out positions antithetical to those of his Republican base. It's also - and more important - that we know his bottom line. As his North Vietnamese captors found out, there is only so far he will go, and then his pride or his sense of honor takes over. This - not just his candor and nonstop verbosity on the Straight Talk Express - is what commends him to so many journalists.
Amazing. Cohen not only has amnesia about McCain's inability to "walk the walk" on campaign financing, his mention of Vietnam didn't even trigger memories of McCain's flip-flop on torture.

What does that paragraph really say? To me it says, "I've known McCain a long time, he gives me lots of access, and I like him, so I don't really care about his flip-flops. Obama hasn't paid me sufficient homage."

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