Cohen: Colbert was rude, and his defenders are dangerous

The Washington Post columnist says the defense of Stephen Colbert spells doom for the Democrats.

Published May 9, 2006 3:51PM (EDT)

When we last heard from Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, he was declaring Stephen Colbert "not just a failure as a comedian but rude." Cohen has now heard back from those who disagree with him. He says that they're rude, too.

In the sort of thin-skinned response we've heard from the Post before, Cohen says that the e-mails that flooded his in box after he trashed Colbert last week were nothing less than a "digital lynch mob" that was "egged on" by various liberal bloggers. The messages show that e-mail is "too often a kind of epistolary spitball," Cohen says, and they prove that the Democrats are doomed in 2008.

How's that again?

Maybe we should just let Cohen speak for himself.

"The e-mails pulse in my queue, emanating raw hatred," he writes in his column today. "This spells trouble -- not for Bush or, in 2008, the next GOP presidential candidate, but for Democrats. The anger festering on the Democratic left will be taken out on the Democratic middle. (Watch out, Hillary!) I have seen this anger before -- back in the Vietnam War era. That's when the antiwar wing of the Democratic Party helped elect Richard Nixon. In this way, they managed to prolong the very war they so hated.

"The hatred is back. I know it's only words now appearing on my computer screen, but the words are so angry, so roiled with rage, that they are the functional equivalent of rocks once so furiously hurled during antiwar demonstrations. I can appreciate some of it. Institution after institution failed America -- the presidency, Congress and the press. They all endorsed a war to rid Iraq of what it did not have. Now, though, that gullibility is being matched by war critics who are so hyped on their own sanctimony that they will obliterate distinctions, punishing their friends for apostasy and, by so doing, aiding their enemies. If that's going to be the case, then Iraq is a war its critics will lose twice -- once because they couldn't stop it and once more at the polls."

We're not suggesting that anybody e-mail Cohen today; it would be rude, it seems, and we wouldn't want to be accused of "egging" anyone on. But in the hypothetical scenario in which a War Room reader might want to send a message to Cohen, one might want to point out -- gently, of course -- that Cohen wasn't exactly a model of polite debate in the run-up to the war in Iraq. In a column on Feb. 6, 2003, Cohen said that there was no longer any room for argument about Saddam Hussein's WMD. Colin Powell's U.N. presentation had established "without a doubt" that the WMD existed, Cohen said, and "only a fool -- or possibly a Frenchman -- could conclude otherwise."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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