Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Richard Cohen on Scooter Lilbby

Another embarrassing mis-analysis from Richard Cohen, this time on the Scooter Libby case, has been discussed already at Talk Left, Kos and Glen Greenwald. Excellent commentary in each case, read them all. I had just a few more comments myself to make. As the others have pointed out, the piece is full of rank errors, but the following paragraph struck me as particularly absurd, in a very absurd piece:

As Fitzgerald worked his wonders, threatening jail and going after government gossips with splendid pluck, many opponents of the Iraq war cheered. They thought -- if "thought" can be used in this context -- that if the thread was pulled on who had leaked the identity of Valerie Plame to Robert D. Novak, the effort to snooker an entire nation into war would unravel and this would show . . . who knows? Something. For some odd reason, the same people who were so appalled about government snooping, the USA Patriot Act and other such threats to civil liberties cheered as the special prosecutor weed-whacked the press, jailed a reporter and now will send a previously obscure government official to prison for 30 months.

Those who were opposed to the war and who applauded Fitzgerald's investigation did indeed think, they thought that crimes might well have been committed, hence the criminal investigation. It is what we do in this country when there is reason to believe that a crime has been committed. I am struck too by Mr. Cohen's questioning whether those who disagree with him on this matter even think, by writing a piece so intellectually vacuous. The irony is impressive. Then he is puzzled at what might be shown if the tread on "the effort to snooker an entire nation into war" got pulled. It might show how the effort was done and what, if any, crimes were committed. Again, this is why we have criminal investigations, Mr. Cohen.

He then wonders that people who are appalled at government snooping would approve of the Fitzgerald investigation. Among sane people at least, it is not generally felt that there are exactly two states, either the government should always be investigating anything it wishes on a whim, or that government should never investigate anything ever. Rather, those of us on the left at least believe that in the absence of something called 'probable cause' the government should not be investigating individual citizen, but when there exists probably cause of criminal activity, the government should investigate. I understand that the whole if/then concept is a little confusing, but as most ten year-olds kind of get it, I think we can expect Mr. Cohen to have the basics down, at least. Given the above 'probable cause' thing, and the fact that Fitzgerald had probably cause that Libby had committed crimes, I think the behavior that so puzzles Mr. Cohen is perfectly understandable.

At the very end of the paragraph, Mr. Cohen seems disturbed by the mere facts that a reported got jailed and that a previously obscure government official was sent to prison for 30 months. This seems odd. Beyond the fact that these things happened, he gives to reason to be bothered by them. So unless he feels that reporters should never be jailed, ever, for any reason and that being an obscure government official should likewise preclude every serving time in jail, his list of Fitzgerald outrages is without substance.

And this is just one paragraph. Who has the time to review all of this drivel.

But read the other folks too (Greenwald in particular), for they get into the underlying issues that make it possible for one of our nation's top papers to have this kind of nonsense on its editorial pages. What Cohen is writing is a defense of the privileged society. Scooter Libby, like the rest of the Washington press corps and the current political leadership, is part of a privileged class of people. (Or at least they should be privileged according to themselves. They are currently rather irked that their privileges are limited.) Being part of the privileged class means that Mr. Libby should be free of any concern of imprisonment or indeed any criminal liability. Indeed the list of outrages that Mr. Cohen provides are, as I said, substance free, unless you consider the role that privilege plays. for they are all acts against the privileged, and that, to someone like Richard Cohen is the true outrage.



Post a Comment

<< Home