If the Don Imus fiasco has shown us nothing else, it is that the quote-unquote "liberal" punditocracy seems to have been hand picked for its willingness to be both intellectually flabby and insufferably clubbish when it comes to holding each other to account.
Richard Cohen, however, has developed a unique brand of pedestrian, uninspired witlessness that doesn't seem to have any consciousness of what he says from one day to the next. Facts seem to annoy him and he doesn't feel any particular need to brush up on whatever subject he is writing about. Witness today's column on Monica Goodling:
The standard question about Goodling is: What is she hiding? After all, until her resignation last week, Goodling was the senior counselor to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his liaison to the White House. She was at the center of the White House's purge of non-party party people (a pseudo-Stalinist term coined for this occasion) and so she must be hiding something. Maybe.
More likely, Goodling's problem is probably not what she's done but what she might do. If she testifies before Congress, swears to tell the truth and all of that, she will produce a record — a transcript — that can be used against her. If a subsequent witness later on has a different memory of what transpired, then the bloodcurdling cry of "special prosecutor" will once again be heard in the land.
In the end, though, some thought has to be given to why Monica Goodling feels obligated to take the Fifth rather than merely telling Congress what happened in the AG's office. She's no criminal — but what could happen to her surely is.
Nowhere in the article does Cohen mention that Paul McNulty has testified that Goodling misinformed him when prepping him for his appearance before Congress. Does he even read his own paper? Nor does he mention that there is suspicion that Goodling, brought over to the Justice Department by Barbara Comstock, may have been extracting loyalty oaths from applicants for career positions — a big legal no-no, and clearly not outside the bounds of what was considered "acceptable" by this administration.
No, in Cohen's world, Monica Goodling is being persecuted by a Republican talking point:
The fact remains that ordinary politics — leaking, sniping, lying, cheating, exaggerating and other forms of PG entertainment — have been so thoroughly criminalized that only a fool would appear before Congress without attempting to bargain for immunity by first invoking the Fifth Amendment.
Ah yes. The "criminalization of politics." Didn't Tom DeLay say the say the very same thing last week when he told everyone he was hoping people would now find Jesus through him? Color me moved.
But then he really goes for the gold:
Remember, please, that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was not convicted of the crime that the special prosecutor was appointed to find — who leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame — but of lying to a grand jury. In fact, the compulsively compulsive Patrick Fitzgerald not only knew early on who the leaker was but also that no law had been violated. No matter.
I realize that working at the Washington Post means you have to disseminate this Fred Hiatt/David Broder halucination on a regular basis, but all Patrick Fitzgerald said was that he could not prove that the underlying crimes of Espionage and IPAA were commited because I. Lewis Libby was lying his fat face off and providing a firewall. It's just mind bloggling that there is not even a basic semblance of knowledge about how the legal system works over at the Washington Post, combined with a willingness to dissemble and spread disinformation that makes you feel dirty and unseemly just reading it. If even Chris Matthews is calling them the NeoCon Post, I think they may be in a bit more trouble than they realize.
Cohen has no more idea about underlying crimes that may or may not have been committed in the CIA leak case than he does about Monica Gooding's potential criminal activity, but that does not stop him from blythely indulging in the presumption that neither occurred, without presenting a shred of evidence and in denial of much that is known. Is it dotage? Hard to tell. But he seems to chafe under the constraints of reality from week to week that cause him to take flight into a realm of fantasy in a way that is a wee bit inappropriate for a political columnist.
When I read Tom Friedman I know that he's writing with one eye to all the bullshit he's churned in the past, as if to say that any mistakes that were made were those that an awfully smart fellow such as himself would naturally make. I really don't think Cohen has a memory that extends past his last coffee break, where he ran into Fred Hiatt at the watercooler and got his nonsense rations for the day.
It's probably a blessing, given the bill of goods that Washington Post writers are tasked with fobbing off these days. Under the circumstances, ignorance truly must be bliss.