links for 2008-01-16
Washington Post Death Spiral Continues

Washington Post Death Spiral Watch

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps? Today we have the Washington Post's Richard Cohen--bad for the Americans. But we have some reactions as well:

Michael Chabon:

Michael Chabon: Hey, Louis Farrakhan and Richard Cohen: You Can't Scare Me: I am certain that Mr. Cohen -- whose work I grew up reading and admiring in my family's hometown newspaper -- would argue that nowhere does he accuse Barack Obama of any sin worse than an ominous silence.... How, Mr. Cohen appears to want to know, can Barack Obama let such perfidy pass without condemnation?

I say "appears to want to know" in part because Mr. Cohen knows perfectly well that Obama has publicly disagreed with his family minister over the subject of Farrakhan.... Mr. Cohen... resorts to employing the time-honored strategies (smear and guilt-by-association) and tactics (a false appearance of reasonableness, assumption of unproven conclusions, selective reference to facts not in evidence) employed by the very demagogues and masters of hate whom he is presumably trying to combat. Why has there been no response from the Obama camp to this deeply troubling message of hate?

Well, as it turns out, there has been a response -- at least two of them -- and Mr. Cohen even quotes them in his column. Since they interfere with his crucial business of frightening himself and the rest of Jewish America (not to mention the quotidian duty of filling one's allotment of column-inches), however, he ignores them. In so doing, Mr. Cohen resorts to a time-honored principle of propagandists of hatred: Every denial is in fact tantamount to a confession....

Mr. Cohen... invokes the broken promise of black-Jewish unity... without appearing to acknowledge that in falsely impugning Barack Obama he is damaging the only politician in America who has any hope of redeeming that promise on a national level, whose very rise to the lofty precincts of "electability" is proof that the promise is redeemed, in little ways, every single day....

[W]ould I welcome a stout denunciation of Farrakhan by Obama? Sure I would. But that same great heritage also boasts of the most staunch and fearless struggle against the forces that seek to divide us, to set us against one another, and it's that side of my heritage that I choose to honor. Let's all choose, Jews and African-Americans, to set fear aside, and work for a return to the days, whose memory Cohen's fear-mongering so grievously tarnishes, when we set aside everything that separated us to join together in the service of our common American good.

Andrew Sullivan:

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan: The more I think about it, the more disgraceful that column was. Pure identity politics paranoia. A Jewish columnist sees a black man running for president and the first thing he asks himself is: where is this guy on Farrakhan? And Obama has to disprove his connections, even though there is not even a smidgen of evidence connecting the two, and even, as Greg Sargent points out, Obama's own spokesman explicitly disowned any support for Farrakhan in the same column. If Obama has to disown a man he has never had anything to do with and a man whose toxic racist politics Obama has consistently and continuously opposed with all his might, then every black candidate is forced to jump through Cohen's petty little racist litmus test. They're all guilty of anti-Semitism until proved innocent. And Cohen's transparent disavowals of such an insinuation make it worse not better. We are learning a lot through this primary process - especially about some powerful white liberals and race. What we're learning isn't pretty.

Ari Kelman:

Richard Cohen: Bad for the Jews « The Edge of the American West: In Richard Cohen’s op-ed for the Post today, he plays a very nasty game of guilt by association. Because Barack Obama belongs to the ostensibly controversial Trinity United Church of Christ, in Chicago, and because the minister there, Reverand Jeremiah Wright, in the pages of an in-house magazine he publishes, “heaped praise on” Louis Farakkhan, calling him a man who “truly epitomized greatness,” Obama must disavow, um, wait, who exactly? Minister Farrakhan? Reverend Wright? It’s not entirely clear from Cohen’s article.

What is clear, though, is that the there’s an effort underway to paint Barack Obama as bad for the Jews. If you’re Jewish, and perhaps even if you’re not, you’ve likely received a piece of hateful spam informing you that Obama is Muslim, or half Muslim, or 3/5 Muslim — just for counting purposes, of course — or some other ill-founded crap. You know that he was also educated at a madrassa, don’t you? Well, don’t you? He’s radical. And a terrorist... someone who should know better, someone like Richard Cohen, writes a vile article that deals, if only indirectly, in similar themes.

It may be that Obama’s candidacy will prompt a moment of reckoning for the mainstream of the American Jewish community, which is far more progressive than the reactionaries, racists, and fear-mongerers who often speak for it.... I don’t think you have to support Barack Obama to be a good Jew. Or a loyal Jew. Or anything else Jewish.... But I do think that the time has come that you might have to oppose Richard Cohen. And all of the people like him...

Matthew Yglesias:

Matthew Yglesias: Obama and Farrakhan Not Really Sitting in a Tree: It seems to me that a lot of the reaction to Richard Cohen's column about how Barack Obama's minister's daughter likes Louis Farrakhan is pretty overstated. I feel like someone like Jeff Weintraub who's taking this issue seriously is being an idiot, but Cohen's just being a mildly cynical columnist who doesn't want Obama to win the election.

M.J. Rosenberg:

Playing With Fire: Smearing Obama Among Jews | TPMCafe: According to the informative analysis and poll by Shmuel Rosner in Ha'aretz, the right-wing of the Jewish community does not like Obama and strongly favors Giuliani and Clinton because of their hardline stances on Israel.... I don't think any campaign is behind this round of swiftboating because it bears all the markings of the Jewish far right, the camp that cheered Rabin's assassination. Nevertheless, the smears will have an effect.... It's pretty ugly and today columnist Richard Cohen is taking it mainstream. Check out his column in the Washington Post. He shares the story of Obama's Farrakhan-admiring minister and sounds the alarms to Jews everywhere. He demands Obama repudiate the pastor.

Greg Sargent:

Election Central | Talking Points Memo | Obama Responds To Richard Cohen Column About His Church And Farrakhan: I asked the Obama campaign if they were going to respond to today's highly questionable column by WaPo's Richard Cohen raising questions about the fact that his church and its minister launched Trumpet Newsmagazine, which hailed Lous Farrakhan as a great man. Here's Obama's response, sent over by the campaign:

I decry racism and anti-Semitism in every form and strongly condemn the anti-Semitic statements made by Minister Farrakhan. I assume that Trumpet Magazine made its own decision to honor Farrakhan based on his efforts to rehabilitate ex-offenders, but it is not a decision with which I agree.

One point about Cohen's column. When he writes...

It's important to state right off that nothing in Obama's record suggests he harbors anti-Semitic views or agrees with Wright when it comes to Farrakhan.

...Cohen is of course raising questions in people's minds as to whether Obama does believes this stuff, which is exactly what the original smears are supposed to do. It's surprising that Cohen dragged his paper down to this level, particularly in light of the big controversy over WaPo's piece front-paging the Obama Muslim smears without declaring them false.

On second thought, maybe it isn't surprising at all.

Henry Farrell:

Crooked Timber » » Six degrees of Louis Farrakhan: Farrakhan is undoubtedly a nasty piece of work, [but] why is it Obama in particular who needs to condemn him? That Obama’s pastor has praised him doesn’t really cut it as a rationale – church leaders and spiritual mentors can believe and say a lot of bizarre shit that you don’t yourself subscribe to.... Billy Graham, who made some unambiguously anti-Semitic remarks to Richard Nixon which ended up on tape, appears to have been a major figure in Hillary Clinton’s spiritual life (see also this speech made by Bill Clinton at the inauguration of Graham’s library last year)... a direct influence on the Clintons rather than an influence-on-an-influence. I don’t recall Richard Cohen, or anyone else, muttering that there was no evidence that Hillary and Bill Clinton were anti-Semites, but that they needed to voice their outrage or else.... There’s something else going on here.... Barack Obama is being asked to condemn Louis Farrakhan not because there’s some bogus two-degrees-of-separation thing going on, but because Barack Obama is black, and because black politicians are supposed to condemn Louis Farrakhan before they can be trusted. This... implicit double standard, under which black politicians have a higher hurdle to jump.... [T]his is a bad, wrongheaded, and even dangerous article. Richard Cohen shouldn’t have written it, and the Washington Post shouldn’t have printed it.