05/04/2006 04:42 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Cohen and Colbert

For some not entirely clear reason, Richard Cohen, one of the relatively few liberals among the Washington Post's pantheon of columnists, seems to think he has a duty to attack the liberal/left harshly.

In today's offering. Cohen goes after Stephen Colbert for his acerbic performance at the White House Correspondent's Dinner.

Colbert, says Cohen, was "not funny." He was, simply, "rude," engaged in "mockery that is insulting." Indeed, "Colbert was more than rude. He was a bully."

I happened to think Colbert's routine was uproarious, but it's OK with me if Cohen thinks otherwise.

But he was "bullying" the president? Really? Watching a routine that highlights, among other issues, how the president deceived the American people to justify the invasion of Iraq (with, as a result, at least tens of thousands of Iraqis dead, along with 2,400 U.S. troops), the bullying that comes to mind is the fact that the president is not going to have an opportunity to respond at the dinner? Don't the president and the administration generally have a pretty decent platform to promote their views?

Why does Cohen think he should devote some of his valuable space on the Post op-ed page to going after Colbert? (His answer: "Because [Colbert] is representative of what too often passes for political courage, not to mention wit, in this country.")

This is not a one-time thing.

In the run-up to the Iraq war, Cohen offered blistering attacks on the anti-war sentiments of the author John Le Carre, poets against the war, and Representative Dennis Kucinich.

There's an unnerving intensity and nastiness about Cohen's attacks on progressives. He uses tough language when he goes after the Bush administration, too, but it's a little different when you're going after those in power.

Cohen joined war-monger Richard Perle in calling Kucinich a "liar" (or at very least a "fool"), because Kucinich suggested the war might be motivated in part by a U.S. interest in Iraqi oil. (As my colleague Russell Mokhiber and I wrote at the time: "Is this really a controversial claim? Pro-war New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman says that to deny a U.S. war in Iraq is partly about oil is 'laughable.'")

In his piece attacking the poets, Cohen began the column:

I'll have you know I am a published poet. My poem was printed years ago in an obscure journal after a call went out for "Banana Poems" following a poetry reading I had attended. I produced a ribald parody of the United Fruit jingle ("I'm Chiquita Banana . . ."), which not only was published but won an award. I quit at the top of my game.

Therefore, I am duly credentialed to comment on the implied authority of poets to be the nation's conscience and to speak out on the morality of the coming war with Iraq.

Today's piece on Colbert starts similarly:

First, let me state my credentials: I am a funny guy. This is well known in certain circles, which is why, even back in elementary school, I was sometimes asked by the teacher to "say something funny" -- as if the deed could be done on demand. This, anyway, is my standing for stating that Stephen Colbert was not funny at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner.

Richard, let's stipulate that you're a funny guy, and a poet. (We can concede that you're a wonderful documentary maker, too, if you like, so you don't have to go after Michael Moore or any other progressive documentarians in the future.)

But as a commentator, we need you to do better.