EDITORIAL: Fake friendly-fire

Richard Cohen’s Farrakhan test

Anticipation of the “swiftboating” of Barak Obama is a partially misplaced fear in as much as it focuses on the likelihood of delightfully crude attacks of the kind Karl Rove could be expected to craft. Much more insidious is the form of attack — a kind of fake friendly-fire — that comes from commentators like Richard Cohen.

“It’s important to state right off that nothing in Obama’s record suggests he harbors anti-Semitic views,” says Cohen in the Washington Post. Though Cohen professes “admiration” for Obama, he says, “I wonder about his mettle.”

What Cohen is doing with his Obama and anti-Semitism association is playing with the same line of deceit that George Bush and Dick Cheney like to use in linking Saddam Hussein and 9/11. Bring the terms into close proximity and then bounce them back and forth between sentences. If someone asks, “Are you suggesting that Saddam was responsible for 9/11?” or, “Are you implying that Barak Obama does not object to anti-Semitism?”, then the swift response is, “I said no such thing.” But after the denial comes the repetition. It’s a coward’s line of attack.

It’s one thing to make a provocative argument and stir up debate, but Cohen’s commentary, far from being an appeal to reason is a blatant effort to poison a political process. He is doing what so many a political operative does which is to look at the audience he hopes to influence and then try and pick out all its weaknesses — its fear, suspicion, bigotry and ignorance. These he sees as a valuable pool of resources that can be exploited to further his political agenda. But do you really think, Mr. Cohen, that we need another presidency that rests on a foundation of fear and ignorance?

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