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On Lapdogs and Richard Cohen

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"The case for war is a good one."--Richard Cohen, Washington Post, Feb. 13, 2003

Cohen, one of the Post's 'liberal' scribes, has been quite a roll. In recent columns he's mocked Al Gore (while trying to compliment him), dismissed Stephen Colbert as an unfunny bully for telling nasty Bush jokes, and most recently tattled on readers who were sending him angry emails. (Note: Can we get a newspaper moritorum on boy-I-get-lots-of-angry-email columns. Very tired.) The columnist seems to long for the old days when readers sat passively, grateful to be receiving wisdom from the likes of Cohen who, when not making lots of jokes about the French during the winter of 2003, was assuring the faithful that Bush was right to invade Iraq. Today, he's stumped as to why people have lost patience with the timid MSM and are even lashing out at the Betlway's professional press class.

Writing with disdain, Cohen dismissed a key theme he found in the rude emails filling up his in box: "I was -- as was most of the press, I found out -- George W. Bush's lap dog. If this is the case, Bush had better check his lap."

Is Cohen really trying argue there that the press, for most of the last six years, did not roll over for Bush? That there was not a titanic shift in the way the press covered the Bush White House compared to how it covered the previous Democratic one? As somebody who just wrote an entire book on the subject of Bush, the press, and lapdogs, let me offer up some highlights. Because who else but lapdogs would:

• Refuse to take seriously during the 2000 campaign clear proof, as first reported by the Boston Globe, that George Bush simply walked away from his Texas Air National Guard duty for at least one whole year. (Throughout the entire 2000 campaign, ABC's Word News Tonight made no reference--none-- to Bush's questionable Guard service.)

• Dutifully announce, as ABC News president David Westin did, at the outset of the Iraq war that images of dead U.S. soldiers would never be aired, despite the fact that a decade earlier all the TV news players during the Clinton era rushed to put on the air images of a dead U.S. soldier being dragged through the street of Magadishu, Somalia; part of Black Hawk Down.

• Sit on key information regarding a high-level criminal investigation into the White House, as Bob Woodward did for more than two years.

• Let the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth run wild during the 2004 campaign with their fabricated charges that Sen. John Kerry lied about his war record.

• Rush to announce Bush's re-election "mandate," despite the fact his slim margin of victory was the narrowest win for a sitting president since Woodrow Wilson in 1916.

• Allow the radical Christian right to hijack the news agenda for two solid weeks during the spring of 2005 with the Terri Shiavo crusade, as cable news and networks mentioned "Schiavo" more than 15,000 times--five times as many TV references that were made to "Iraq," where 18 American servicemen died during that same two-week span.

• Routinely look away when Bush crisscrossed the country in 2005 lying--plain and simple--about how Social Security would go "bankrupt" in the year 2040.

• Announce on network television, as Tom Brokaw and Ted Koppel did in December 2005, that facing similar circumstances following the attacks of Sept. 11, president Bill Clinton would have ordered the same pre-emptive invasion of Iraq that Bush did.

• Between May 1 and June 17 2005, ask Scott McClellan approximately 940 questions during press briefings, but have only two them be about the published Downing Street Memo, which detailed the Bush administration's misinformation campaign during the run-up to war.

The book goes on for 332 pages, but hopefully Cohen gets the idea.