October 28, 2007

Eric Alterman: The Liberal Hawks’ Lament

Filed under: Opinion — Volt @ 8:26 am

Eric Alterman, The Nation, October 25, 2007

When lamenting the loss of endangered species, consider the plight of the embattled “liberal hawks.” Back in their salad days, when George W. Bush’s approval ratings were sky-high and “Mission Accomplished” was not yet a poignant punch line, they spread their talons wide, leveling accusations left and left. According to the editors of The New Republic, for instance, those liberals who refused to get aboard Bush’s friendship train to Baghdad were motivated by “abject pacifism” characterized by “intellectual incoherence,” with views all but indistinguishable from “pierced-tongued demonstrators.” Today, amid the vast wreckage in Iraq that is the direct result of the policies they promoted, some members of this marvelously adaptable species have successfully reinvented themselves. They’re older and wiser but still victims of the same pacifistic, incoherent, pierce-tongued liberals who sometimes go so far as to liken them to neoconservatives. Roger Cohen, writing recently on the New York Times op-ed page, complained, “As America bumped down to earth, ‘liberal’ lost the mantle of political insult most foul. Its place was taken by the pervasive, glib ‘neocon.’” You thought the Iraqis had it bad, what with a destroyed, dysfunctional country and massive amounts of mindless murder and the like. But look at what Cohen & Co. have had to endure:

Christopher Hitchens, columnist for Slate and Vanity Fair and bestselling author; Thomas Friedman, columnist for the New York Times and bestselling author; Peter Beinart, contributor to Time, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and celebrated author; Paul Berman, distinguished writer in residence at NYU and celebrated author; George Packer, correspondent for The New Yorker and celebrated author; Jeffrey Goldberg, correspondent for The Atlantic, formerly of The New Yorker and celebrated author; Jacob Weisberg, editor of Slate and future celebrated author; Michael Ignatieff? Leon Wieseltier? Well, don’t cry for them, Hillary Clinton.

Now examine the case of the complainant himself. Roger Cohen is the former foreign editor of the New York Times, now editor at large of the International Herald Tribune, author of its “Globalist” column, international writer at large for the Times and frequent guest columnist for its op-ed page. In these various capacities, he unleashed a double-barreled barrage of personal insults last December against what he called “hyperventilating left-liberals [whose] hatred of Bush is so intense that rational argument usually goes out the window.” The column, which contained an avalanche of abuse, offered exactly one example: the nutty Scottish MP George Galloway, who had long ago been kicked out of the British Labour Party.

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