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It's not often that the Democrats lose Richard Cohen, one of the Washington Post's op-ed writers. It usually happens in any week with two Tuesdays, but otherwise it takes a blatantly bad move on their part to raise his ire. Remarkably and to his credit, Cohen castigates Democrats over two issues that they widely see as great openings for themselves in reversing their political fortunes -- Tom DeLay's indictments and the mostly ill-informed criticisms of Bill Bennett. Cohen chides the Democrats for not only forgetting their manners but also their good sense in trying to make political hay out of either:
That was especially the case last week when I started reading what Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, had to say about Tom DeLay, her Republican opposite. I fully expected boilerplate, something about innocent until proved guilty. But Pelosi crossed me up. DeLay, as it turned out, was guilty until proved innocent.
"The criminal indictment of Majority Leader Tom DeLay is the latest example that Republicans in Congress are plagued by a culture of corruption at the expense of the American people," Pelosi said -- apparently forgetting to add the boilerplate about the American system of justice. If she had those thoughts, they're not on her Web site and not mentioned anywhere. Instead, the reference to a Republican "culture of corruption" shows that when it comes to a punctilious regard for the legal process, in this instance the Democrats ain't got no culture at all.
That only provides the warm-up for Cohen. After giving a brief but accurate synopsis of Bill Bennett's remarks on the air, he slams Democrats for deliberately misinterpreting Bennett and even hauls out the M-word to describe them:
Actually, it is Reid and the others who should apologize to Bennett. They were condemning and attempting to silence a public intellectual for a reference to a theory. It was not a proposal and not a recommendation -- nothing more than a possible explanation. But the Democrats preferred to pander to an audience that either had heard Bennett's remarks out of context, or merely thought that any time conservatives talk about race, they are being racist. The Democrats' obligation as politicians, as public officials, to see that we all hear the widest and richest diversity of views was suspended in favor of partisan cheap shots. (The spineless White House also refused to defend Bennett.) Because I came of age in the McCarthy era, I have always thought of the Democratic Party as more protective of free speech and unpopular thought than the Republican Party. The GOP was the party of Joe McCarthy, William Jenner and other witch-hunters. Now, though, it is the Democrats who use the pieties of race, ethnicity and gender to stifle debate and smother thought, pretty much what anti-intellectual intellectuals did to Larry Summers, the president of Harvard University, when he had the effrontery to ask some unorthodox questions about gender and mathematical aptitude. He was quickly instructed on how to think.
Cohen's surprise seems a bit strange. After all, the political correctness movement hardly came from conservative thought, and that has stifled free speech (especially regarding race) for over thirty years. Conservatives don't impose speech codes on college campuses, and they don't come up with new names for medical conditions such as blindness (visually challenged?) to assuage sensitive souls every decade. However, reading Cohen gives hope that even liberals indoctrinated in PC still see its end result and can rail against it when the Road to Damascus moment comes. Kudos to Cohen for recognizing it.Sphere It View blog reactions
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