As I've frequently pointed out, the fact that columnist Richard Cohen is what passes for a “liberal” at the Washington Post pretty thoroughly undermines the idea that the paper's opinion pages lean to the left. In response, people have occasionally asked me “Who says Cohen is supposed to be a liberal?” Well, now, the Post has removed any doubt about the role it thinks Cohen plays at the paper, officially designating him a “left-leaning” columnist:
Dana Milbank is the kind of “left-leaning” columnist who voted for Republican presidential candidates in 2000 and 2004 and a Republican-turned-independent in 2008. And who referred to Hillary Clinton as a “mad bitch.” Just try to imagine the Post identifying as “right-leaning” a columnist who voted for Democratic presidential candidates in 2000 and 2004 and called Sarah Palin a “mad bitch.”
But it's Richard Cohen's presence on the “left-leaning” list that's really remarkable. Here's a refresher:
The same cannot be said for Post columnist Richard Cohen, the so-called liberal who sneeringly dismissed Iraq war skeptics as fools and Frenchmen and who wrote that opponents of the war did not “feel compelled to prove a case or stick to the facts.” The easily-scared Cohen just loves torture. No, no, “loves” isn't strong enough. He lurves torture. And he defends a rapist (only he calls the rape a “seduction”). And defends Monica Goodling. And downplays the "crappy little crime" of outing a CIA agent (a defense that involvedspreading falsehoods about the victims).
Cohen has accused “leftists” of thinking “America is usually at fault in war” -- the kind of sentiment that makes one want to check to see if Karl Rove's lips move when Cohen speaks. And the torture-loving, rapist-defending Cohen even bashed Barack Obama for a lack of "moral clarity" because -- get this -- Obama bowed towards the Japanese emperor. He sided with President Bush during the controversy over the deal to allow a company owned by the government of Dubai to take control of six U.S. ports, inaccurately blasting critics of the deal as bigots.
He defends financial company executives and the business media, and attacks comedians who suggest the media should have done a better of covering the financial crisis. That wasn't his only attack on a comedian: He also blasted Stephen Colbert's “rude” skit at a White House Correspondents Association dinner, but didn't expressed any concern over a skit two years earlier in which George Bush made light of the lack of WMD in Iraq.
Cohen opposes affirmative action with the well-off white man's certainty that “everyone knows” race “has become supremely irrelevant.” He peddles the bogus right-wing myth that “being pro-choice is a litmus test for all Democrats” (accusing in the process Democrats, but not Republicans, of “counter[ing] reasonable questions and qualms with slogans”).
During the 2000 campaign, he caricatured Gore as dishonest even after acknowledging that portrayal was baseless -- then, years later, criticized his colleagues for doing the same thing. During the 2008 Democratic primaries, Cohen trashed Hillary Clinton for “incessant exaggerations,” “cheap shots,” and “flights into hallucinatory history” -- then, a few months later, denounced the “calumny, a libel and a ferocious mugging” Clinton was forced to endure, as though he had played no role in it. He joined David Broder in declaring McCain principled and credible while ignoring voluminous examples to the contrary. And Cohen toutedMcCain's “visceral hostility” towards lobbyists, ignoring the fact that McCain was busily surrounding himself with them.
And when liberals criticize him, Cohen whines that they “would have been great communists” if they had been born earlier -- which, I suppose, means Cohen would have made a great McCarthy had he been born earlier.
And there's more. Now, being a “left-leaning” columnist does not require universal fealty to mainstream liberal thought. The problem isn't that Cohen occasionally takes positions that put him at odds with liberals; that's to be expected. The problem is that he routinely does so, on many of the central issues of our time, and that he routinely demonstrates open contempt for liberals.
Meanwhile, the Post's “right-leaning” columnists are undeniably conservative: Marc Thiessen, Michael Gerson, George Will, Charles Krauthammer.
So it seems the difference between “right-leaning” and “left-leaning” columnists at the Washington Post is that the right-leaning list includes people who worked for Republican presidents while the left-leaning list merely includes a columnist whovotes for Republican presidential candidates.