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02 January 2008


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Sorry, anyone who leads off a column with a charge that a candidate "lied about his haircuts" (a charge that happens to be false) is announcing that he loves to gorge on whatever easy, cheap fast food his media compatriots are dishing out in lieu of analysis and substance. Cohen shows himself right off the bat to be as superficial as those he aims to skewer.

bob randolph

Remember that Rich Cohen is still trying to atone for having been a cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq and having gullibly bought in to the lies/lines that Saddam had WMD, was connected to Al Qaeda and was an existential threat to the US (read Israel); and is backing away from more recent pre-NIE columns making the same arguments about Iran.

There may be a larger point to be made about the madness of crowds but Obama's fib, if fib it is, is hardly the vehicle to drive home the moral of the story.



it appears that our nation has lost their 'critical thinking' processes that it once had. military endeavors by their nature forced critical thinking to the forefront.


And it ought to be true that a politician who speaks the word "democracy" all the time must truly love democracy. Unfortunately, you can train a thousand parrots to say "democracy" all the time, but it won't necessarily produce democracy. In fact, it doesn't even establish that their intent is democracy.

Michael Singer

What exactly is the comparison Cohen and you are talking about? I have read this posting over and over and I don't get it. Obama has put forth as many policy positions as the other top contenders for the Democrat nomination. They all differ in minor ways. Their rhetoric mildly separates them. Edwards had a lack luster Senate performance which makes it hard to believe he can be more effective as President. Hillary, in my view, is really a part of the Washington swamp; her style is her content,for example, her votes for the war and on Iran's Quds forces reinforce her commitment to the Washington of Bush and the rightist Congress, her attack politics and slurs
are the old style. Mark Penn, her campaign director, is old style numbers crunching polls shape policy actor. No one with any experience believes what Obama "hopes for" is true now. He is trying to articulate an America he wants to work toward. He is not saying that the calamity of young black men in this country is his single or primary focus. On the other and, if he is able, with a new pliant Congress to turn some of his proposals into law it may very well help young black males. And what would be wrong with that? Both he and HRC have worked for change: he on the streets of Chicago, her in trying to change health care. He is not calling for utopia but it feels like HRC is comfortable is the dystopia that is Washington now and what it stands for: neo-con views of the world and the US role in it, a nearly reactionary Congress which denies health care to millions of children, sanctions torture and refuses to limit government's desire to increase citizen surveillance.

W. Patrick Lang

"What exactly is the comparison Cohen and you are talking about?" Comparison?

It seems that we have a few Obama supporters here. pl


Super post.

Unfortunately, the desire to believe what will make you feel good is now also rampant in the American financial sector.

LIBOR is a measure of banks' willingness to lend to each other. It has skyrocketed, i.e. banks just don't want to lend to each other.

Well, now tell me, if banks don't want to lend to each other, why should individuals lend to banks...because that's what a bank deposit is: a loan to the bank?

There has been one run on a bank already in England: Northern Rock.

Not too many more will be necessary before American troops will be leaving Iraq at warp speed.

Dishonesty rules, decent people drool.


This part stands out the most to me... " In the case of Obama the danger is increased by the desire we all have to feel good about ourselves, to believe that he and we are now better and purer than we were."

And perhaps, sir, with all due respect, that the current sentiment isn't so much of "Oh lordy, I want to have Obama's children!" as it is, to my particular experience with people which can be paraphrased with, "Well, he reek's less than the other candidates."

Perhaps, people have started to really pay attention to all of Hillary's jabbering and have found her...to much a clone to the current lot that seems to haunt our government, and it's time for a change.

Perhaps, people have taken a good long look at Mr. Edwards and are thinking "well, maybe."

Just perhaps a majority of the American people are finally using their offactory senses in conjuction with cognitive recollective capabilities and realizing that just punching a hole next to whomevers name is at the top of the media's darling list isn't really a good way of selecting leadership.

Just perhaps, we've actually had the spirit of our nations forebearers descend upon us like a firestorm and we're actually taking our citizenship seriously.

Who knows...but I would like to think that we're finally taking our citizenship seriously, and that cognition is finally trumping the media's pandering of political entertainment.

All in all, I find it refreshing to see the lay people actually debating the virtues of their candidates.
IMO, this is a good thing.

undecided voter

Shorter Richard Cohen: Lying is okay if you have "experience"

"...after describing Obama's statement that there are more young black men in prison than in college as incorrect (which it is [UPDATE: apparently the statement would be true stated either as 1. All black men or 2. All young black men in prison *and on parole or probation*]), he says this: "Ought to be true is not the same as true." Ought? Ought?? This ought to be true? Either Cohen doesn't know what "ought" means, or he has some profoundly weird ideas about what the state of the world should be.

And lest you think this is a rhetorical goof, he follows it up with a truly wankerrific list of further "oughts" -- ...The finishing touch is when he says that John McCain lies, but that's okay because Cohen knows McCain's character and McCain has a lot of experience. I kid you not -- lying is okay if you have experience and good character, according to the piece. But Obama doesn't have any experience and so his lies mean he's a bad person. Or something...."


john in the boro

Richard Cohen’s article conflates moral obligations with preferred statements of fact. Cohen seemingly can not decide whether to believe in Barak Obama’s promise or in John McCain’s experience—an example of the mendacity of hope. If only Obama corrects the record and makes Richard “delusional” like John did once upon a time. Sadly, the things I take away from his article are that President Bush lies, “Cheney and truth cannot be found in the same sentence”, and we ought to have a better field of presidential wannabes: caveat emptor. Geez, 2008 sucks already.

Michael Singer

Dear Pat,
In the 4th line you or Cohen say"But the comparison is wrong," or something to that effect and I still don't get it. And yes I am a n Obama supporter, not because it makes me feel like I'm a better person for it, but because I would like to be a citizen of a country which upholds the best of our legacy and values of which I am proud. I think BO has a better chance at getting there.Other smart commentators are telling readers to consider the source when it comes to taking Richard Cohen seriously anymore.
Michael Singer

Michael Singer


I think that the key quote here is from Col Lang, not from Richard Cohen:

Instead of applying Occam's Razor to a problem they (often collectively) believe something that satisfies their inner desires and needs

This sentence gets to the heart of the leadership problems of today's political scene. A good leader must first and foremost be clear-eyed in understanding the circumstances at hand, and the first step towards that clarity of thought is, as always, to know yourself, and in particular, to understand what your own inner needs and desires are.

Only by fully appreciating these emotions can we honestly assess their effect on the choices we make. That's why delusional people (I'm sure we can all think of a few in the executive branch) make such awful leaders -- their choices are not guided by what's right for the people they should be serving, but by their own hidden agendas.

I especially like the Colonel's parenthetical addition of "collectively", because our collective desires are further shaped by our shared culture, e.g., we don't as a nation think clearly about Israel, because it lies at the emotional center of western religious belief systems, and that emotional attachment hijacks our intellects when it comes time to make informed foreign-policy decisions.

And in the fear department, we accept silly airport security measures not because they are based on rational expectation of how terrorists might attack our flights (they aren't!), but because we are collectively afraid of aircraft crashing into buildings as on 9/11.

Anyone who has learned to make successful leadership decisions knows that one must first account for one's own biases, and that these distortions arise primarily from our emotions, not from our capacity for reason. But our nation is increasingly dominated by childlike desires and fears instead of by intelligent choices. And to the current crop of crafty politicians, this is not a problem to be solved: it's an opportunity to be realized.

And finally, that's why I wince every time I see someone characterize our western culture as representing "modernity". Our fears and desires are anything but modern, and until we learn to rise above them and use the brains that God gave us, we will never deserve to be called "modern".

Our weapons are the products of modernity. Our desires and choices are generally not.


"One of the things that I claim to have learned is that humans are prone by their very nature to believe whatever they wish to believe."

Or, in the case of Richard Cohen and the media's stable of hired pens, "You can’t make somebody understand something if their salary depends upon them not understanding it." (Mark Twain)

The real travesty on the Democrats' side is that none of the leading contenders has a resume that is presidential. None has a track record of accomplishment on issues. None has done anything that suggests they have the character of a leader. What a sad lot!

W. Patrick Lang


Seems like the comparison is clearly stated as being between the number of young black men in college and those of the same description who are in prison.

I don't care who you favor. I have decided to suport HC in spite of the fact that she and I have differed on a number of things in the past. I think she would be the best president who can be selected from among those running. I would like to see Senator Webb as her running mate but that may well not happen. pat


Scepticism is probably the most underrated virtue. But it's really jarring when verbiage from **Richard Cohen** leads you to that reflection. Cohen's practically the poster child for uninformed, head-up-his-ass, narcissistic "decision" making. The guy's a dope! I'm honestly surprised Col. Lang even wastes time on him -- or for that matter, *anyone* on the WaPo op-ed wasteland.


"Hussein had to go and the Middle East had to be urban-renewed for the sake of democracy"
The Big Lie?

Yea I see a lot more democracy here at home and in the Middle East. What a sick joke.

I'll take timid inexperience any day over the destructive foolishness in place now.

W. Patrick Lang


"Hussein had to go and the Middle East had to be urban-renewed for the sake of democracy"

Surely you see that this is what is called "irony." pl

Mark K Logan

"2008 sucks already"

"What a sad lot"

I feel I must confess my little bit of wishful thinking. For the first time in my young life, I feel certain that whomever among the current frontrunners gets the nod,(Rudy excepted)
we are going to be better off than with what we have
now. Knock on wood.

"Don't worry, be happy?" Yeah, but there it is.

There is something very odd
about the view many of the people in the blue collar world I inhabit have concerning HC. They will
vehemetly state "I'll NEVER
vote for that bitch". But
where I've seen an opening to do so, I've asked "Why?"
and never once gotten a reply based on anything specific. "I just don't
like her", or some such.
But the response is frequently not matched by the proper facial expression. There is a blankness, a look of searching. Victims of the
propoganda? Your guess is as good as mine. But I think here goose is not as cooked as some may think. Her "negatives", touted as barring her chances may not
be all that solid.


Most of what we see of these campaigns is marketing. Most of the candidates are not terribly well skilled actors. I'm relieved that there are chinks and a lack of believability in their portrayal.

The candidates seem to have reduced themselves to caricatures in order to catapult their truthiness more efffectiveness: Hillary's a dependable Buick; Obama's new, NEW!, new!!; Rudi knows how to stand on rubble, Romney will say and do absolutely anything to close that deal, ad infinitum... Kinda makes you appreciate that floor wax ad in a whole new way.

We are not seeing leadership on display right now. That comes later. We only get occasional glimpses of character. We do get to see slight variations of strategy and tactics being played out and modified on the fly.

Of mendacity (thank you Tennessee!), our cups runneth over. But that isn't only limited to the campaign, so we should try to be a little fairer there.

In school, we read an SI Hayakawa text that drummed in the message that 'the map is not the territory' somewhat repetitively. True that. And well worth remembering in most circumstances.

But at times it can be quite helpful to have hope. Hope can find victory where only despair loomed. Hope can tide you over till better days. But hope certainly cannot make victory happen on its own.

That said, I'm not sure I would agree with much that Cohen said, nor with the thrust behind it.

Better we should choose a President who seeks to create opportunities and to improve the country, than one who sees only to patch leaks in the dike. Better to set many high goals and achieve some of them imperfectly, than to entrench the status quo.

None of the candidates will have any chance of wreaking a complete change in Washington, and certainly not in one term. We do need a President who can make things happen, and whose idea of progress isn't just making a mess, otherwise we'll be stuck with a whole lot more of exactly what we've got right now.


Sorry Pat,

In today's climate or culture I have a hard time diferentiating.

Wasn't Cohen for this mis-adventure?


Richard Cohen is a hack, a has-been. I've been reading him and his fellow-traveler on the Post, Broder, for more than 30 years now. Where they might have once been fresh and incisive, now they're only old and tired inside the Beltway "deep thinkers," believing themselves charged with defending business-as-usual in political circles. Their stock in trade is being "even-handed," but in reality, they're all about supporting the old D.C. establishment against the threats posed by those who would intrude into their comfort zone.

It's already been noted, but it's amazing that Cohen can—presumably with a straight face—forgive McCain and others their prevarications, but then excoriate Obama for doing the same thing all politicians do, i.e., exaggerating to make a political point, a point that's pretty compelling, regardless of the numbers. When one considers all of the lying by the establishment that Cohen loves that's gone into our current "war on terror," it's hard to fault Obama for this particular sin.

This is nothing more than a political hit piece by one of the establishment's hired guns. I'm not an Obama supporter—although I will vote for him if he gets the nomination—but, despite Cohen's clear intentions, it does nothing to alter my view of Obama. OTOH, it says a lot about Cohen.

It's my sense that Col Lang actually intended this post to make a point about the dangers of intelligence analysts getting too close to the problem, a thesis with which I heartily agree. I've seen that many times and, although I'm not an analyst by trade, I've been guilty of it as well. Parenthetically, Col Lang, you might wish to visit the role of case officers in the process, inasmuch as it would seem to be pretty hard for an analyst to get "too close" without someone providing a roadmap.

I think you might have been able to find a better vehicle to make your point.

W. Patrick Lang


Coupla things:

1- You have to learn to forgive the fallen if they show signs of remorse or learning.

2- What could be better than being able to find a good "lesson" in the work of someone like this man.

3- He doesn't "absolve" any of these guys for their lies. He is just using their examples to dump on Obama.

4- This wasn't about analysts. It was about life. I just used analysts as ana example. They are a good one. So are case officers. It's easy to see someone you are "working on" however you want to. That's why case officers are required to fill out voluminous evaluations of sources and these are reviewed by people who usually don't see the source. pl

Cold War Zoomie

None of these people inspire me. Voting gives me the right to bitch and moan and complain and whine and whinge (for you Brits out there) and generally stomp my feet between elections.

If you don't vote, you have to shut up and take it.

Only two people actually impress me: Webb and Clark. Oh-well.


Col.: Don't worry. Sen. Obama will choose Webb as his running mate.

It's time for the torch to pass to a new generation.

You heard it here first.

Michael Murry

The word "mendacity" means deliberate falsification of what one knows as a past or current truth that one doesn't want to acknowledge. In other words, "mendacity" means overt "lying."

The word "hope," on the other hand, refers to an uncertain future that no one knows for certain. In other words, no one can lie about a future that hasn't happened yet. Richard Cohen and his irrational ilk ought to think at least briefly before constructing obvious and silly oxymorons.

Saying this doesn't necessarily make me a Barack Obama supporter. It does make me a supporter of political punishment for any and all public officials who had anything to do with lying my country into the greatest unforced disaster, both domestic and foreign, that it has known in at least half a century. I'll go with H. L. Menken this time around and say: "I never vote for anybody; I always vote against."

I do not know whether "hope" belongs in America's future or not. I do know, however, that orchestrated official lying, or what I prefer to call "manufactured mendacity" and "managed mystification," has occurred and does belong to America's present and past. Therefore, I wish to see such larcenous liars as still live drummed out of office and publicly humiliated for all time. If that means that someone more "hopeful" gets their chance to tell me the truth or lie to me in the future, well, I guess I'd prefer to give someone else a chance to make that decision for themselves. Many well-known (or "experienced") liars -- such as Senator You-Know-Her and her parter-in-pathos Bubba Bill -- have already had their chance and blown it, "big time," as the dishonorable and duplicitous Sheriff Dick Cheney likes to say.

Personally, I refuse to participate in giving any of our "experienced" liars another chance to gain any more experience at deceiving me. I want to see them in jail for fraud and not in the White House foisting further fabulous falsifications upon an already-fleeced flock of sedated, somnolent sheep.

Anyway, I've already elsewhere expressed my own thoughts on this subject in just one of many poetic episodes of Fernando Po, U.S.A. entitled "Boobie Official Mendacity." Those interested can find it at:


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