The Corner

Richard Cohen Makes No Sense

From his column yesterday:

What Obama does not understand is that he is being Swift-boated. The term does not apply to a mere smear. It is bolder, more outrageous than that. It means going straight at your opponent’s strength and maligning it. . . .

It’s “outrageous,” and worse than “a mere smear,” to go after an opponent’s strength? What a bizarre thing to say. So is it outrageous to go after McCain and Palin on the ground that they’re not mavericks? Maybe that’s Cohen’s next column.

Now Obama’s opponents are going straight for his strength. At least twice at the GOP convention, speakers mocked Obama’s service as a community organizer. At least twice at the GOP convention, speakers mocked Obama’s service as a community organizer. “He worked as a community organizer,” Rudy Giuliani said. “He immersed himself in Chicago machine politics.”

And then Palin herself followed up with one of her aw-shucks low blows: “I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities.”

Note the assumptions here. 1) Obama’s time as a community organizer is “his strength.” Ouch. 2) It is, for some unexplained reason, a “low blow” for Palin to point out that her job involved more actual responsibility than Obama’s. It’s more outrageous than a smear!

In the biographies of both presidential candidates are episodes of pure wonderment. No man can read about McCain’s time as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam and not wonder, “Could I do that?” For most of us, the answer — the truthful answer — is no.

For Obama, that episode has nothing to do with physical courage but much to do with moral commitment. At age 22 — a graduate of Columbia University and already making good money as a financial researcher, he walked away to work with the unemployed and alienated in Chicago.

 Is Cohen really putting these “episodes” on the same plane? Why yes, he is, which leaves me with “pure wonderment” of my own.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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