Richard Cohen’s weekly column spends seven paragraphs recitating the awfulness of John Edwards (I haven’t written about him because his loathsomeness has been aptly conveyed by others), the scariness of putting him on the 2004 presidential ticket, and the reaffirmation that liberals were right all along about Sarah Palin. (We know they were right because they obsessively keep telling us so: “I withdraw none of it; the better we got to know Palin, the more egregious a choice she became — astonishingly unprepared and unsuited for the presidency.” Never mind that she was on the money on health-care rationing, global-warming fakery, Guantanamo, and a great deal more. )
Then comes the kicker: Cohen suggests that Obama was as scary a choice and that we knew as little about him as we did about Edwards — or THAT woman:
The out-of-nowhere rise of Palin and Edwards in less than a decade is warning enough that something is wrong. I will also throw Barack Obama into the mix, not because I know something nefarious about him but because I realize more and more that I know so little about him.
When, for instance, the call goes out to let Obama be Obama, I’m not sure what that is. For the moment, it’s a tendentious populism, but the sound of it is tinny and inauthentic, a campaign tactic, nothing more. When, however, we were asked to “let Reagan be Reagan,” we could be certain it was a call for a hard-right turn. Ronald Reagan had devoted many years to the conservative cause. Obama, in contrast, was in the Illinois Senate just six years ago.
Well, it may not be nefarious — but we now know he’s rather ill-equipped to be president. (We hold out some hope that he might get up to speed.) And Cohen’s still not sure exactly what bill of goods we were sold by the Obama campaign. When Cohen complains that we “have substituted the camera — fame, celebrity — for both achievement and the studied judgment of colleagues,” he is not sparing this president, whose fame and celebrity were fanned by the not-very-studied judgment of media cheerleaders convinced there was something spectacular there.
There certainly is a spasm of honesty breaking out in the punditocracy. Perhaps there’s a trend to fess up. What did they know about Obama’s shortcomings and when did they know it? A support group (Regretful Flacks for Obama) might be formed. There they can confess the error of their ways. They mistook physical elegance and a nice speaking voice for profundity. They heard gibberish (“We are the change blah, blah …”) and spun it as pearls of wisdom. They saw a man of slight accomplishment and falsely inferred skills that weren’t there. They confused reserve and remoteness with calm under fire. They ignored signs that he had disdain for average Americans and their values. They ignored his associations and extremely liberal voting record while reciting his promises of “moderation.” And so on.
Ultimately, voters are grown-ups and responsible for their own choices. But if Cohen is upset with the rise of a synthetic, overhyped candidate who’s turning out to be at best a mediocre president, he should talk to his media colleagues. They certainly did their part.