Richard Cohen’s column today is not, by far, his worst. Disingenuous, sure: While arguing that things could still go very badly in Iraq, he tries to distinguish himself from commentators who are demeaning this important occasion by arguing that things could still go very badly in Iraq. It’s a bogus trick: Immunize yourself to criticism by criticizing the failing you’re obviously guilty of.
But when it’s bad, it’s really bad. Take this passage: "Just last week I asked one of the architects of the war what sort of day the United States would have on Sunday. He offered no prediction, but his demeanor gave him away. He was steeled for failure."
This could mean anything. That Richard Pearle blew him off in the men’s room. That some military analyst had knots in his stomach. And how is, demeanor-wise, "steeled for failure" different from "worried, but optimistic," or "hopeful, yet affected by every reported death," or a dozen other permutations of concern mixed with unknowability that could have described any number of people?
Bottom line: Cohen is so full of himself that he thinks he doesn’t need to bother with quotes. He can just say what he thinks his interviewee would have said if they had actually agreed to tell him anything.
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