The two Richard Cohens

The Washington Post columnist recycles a stale debate from the Democratic primary, while the National Journal reporter previews possible problems for Democrats in Denver.

Published July 29, 2008 2:14PM (EDT)

What the hell is Richard no-middle-initial Cohen talking about in his Washington Post column this morning? This whole meme that Barack Obama is not ready to lead because he does not have a sufficient number of accomplishments to his credit, or because he is some sort of Rumsfeldian "known unknown," is just plain stoopid. Did Hillary Clinton mouthpiece Howard Wolfson, now of Fox News, help Cohen sketch out his ideas? Here is Cohen:

Obama is often likened to John F. Kennedy. The comparison makes sense. He has the requisite physical qualities -- handsome, lean, etc. -- plus wit, intelligence, awesome speaking abilities and a literary bent … Still, the record now, while tissue thin, is troubling. The next president will have to be something of a political Superman, a man of steel who can tell the American people that they will have to pay more for less -- higher taxes, lower benefits of all kinds -- and deal in an ugly way when nuclear weapons seize the imagination of madmen … I know that Barack Obama is a near-perfect political package. I'm still not sure, though, what's in it.

Look, we never know for sure what we are going to get from a president. Future events and circumstances cannot be predicted, and no ideal proving ground job or experience (being a senator, being a governor?) exists that will provide a clear glimpse of that unpredictable future or how that candidate will respond once in office. There are countless examples of how Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, both Presidents Bush and, yes, Ronald Reagan made decisions that little in their pre-presidential lives or presidential campaigns could have forecast. In fact, among recent presidents none has been as consistent in his decisions as W., but go back and see how little of what our own Glenn Greenwald has called Bush’s "Manichean" style of politics was foretold by media accounts of the thin tissue that was Bush's gubernatorial records or campaign promises.

Elsewhere, the other Richard Cohen -- National Journal's Richard E. Cohen -- provides a predictable but revealing account of how, despite their general disarray, the Republicans are still better prepared in the run-up to their national convention in Minneapolis/St. Paul than are the disorganized Democrats in Denver. Oy.

By Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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2008 Elections Barack Obama War Room