Liberals have tried to accuse the Tea Party movement of a lot of things, but Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen was a completely unique one: he's blaming them for the killing of four college students at Kent State in 1970. What kind of time machine or psychedelic drug is he employing? Nobody at the Post seemed to ask.
This Cohen column is, to put it bluntly, an attack ad in the last weeks of a campaign. It is impervious to a "fact check." It simply says conservative rhetoric is not only reckless, it seems designed to get leftists killed, to start a new civil war.
The governor of Ohio, James Rhodes, demonized the war protesters. They were "worse than the Brownshirts and the communist element....We will use whatever force necessary to drive them out of Kent."
That was the language of that time. And now it is the language of our time. It is the language of Glenn Beck, who fetishizes about liberals and calls Barack Obama a racist. It is the language of rage that fuels too much of the Tea Party and is the sum total of gubernatorial hopeful Carl Paladino's campaign message in New York. It is all this talk about "taking back America" (from whom?) and this inchoate fury at immigrants and, of course, this raw anger at Muslims, stoked by politicians such as Newt Gingrich and Rick Lazio, the latter having lost the GOP primary to Paladino for, among other things, not being sufficiently angry. "I'm going to take them out," Paladino vowed at a Tea Party rally in Ithaca, N.Y.
Back in the Vietnam War era, the left also used ugly language and resorted to violence. But the right, as is its wont, stripped the antiwar movement of its citizenship. It turned dissent into treason, which, in a way, was the worst treason of all. It made dissidents into the storied "other" who had nothing in common with the rest of us. They were not opponents; they were the enemy: Fire!
Cohen makes no attempt to acknowledge that part of the "anti-war" movement that waved flags of the Viet Cong and openly wished for America to lose the war, and openly wished America would be the victim of a communist revolution. How is that not "the worst treason of all"?
Now try to place a violent leftist movement like the Weather Underground into this equation. Didn't their willingness to kill cops (and in acts of terror like bombing a bathroom) innocent Americans put them in a low place? But Cohen can only single out "the right" -- millions of nonviolent people who are horrified by the thought of violent revolution, as opposed to democratic change.
This was a column that someone at the Post editorial page should have walked over to Cohen and said, "This is too reckless." But apparently, no one did.
Cohen's been on quite a string of printed fits lately. Just two weeks ago, talk radio host Mark Levin pounded away at this bizarre Cohen attack on constitutionalists:
This fatuous infatuation with the Constitution, particularly the 10th Amendment, is clearly the work of witches, wiccans and wackos. It has nothing to do with America's real problems and, if taken too seriously, would cause an economic and political calamity. The Constitution is a wonderful document, quite miraculous actually, but only because it has been wisely adapted to changing times.