UPDATE: Cohen Gets Massive Email Reaction to Column Backing "Scooter" Libby

By: E&P Staff The Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen penned a column for Monday edition which took issue not only with the sentencing of Lewis "Scooter" Libby to 30 months in jail in the CIA leak case but the whole probe by prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. In the end he came out for possibly pardoning Libby, but certainly commuting his sentence.

Very quickly, Glenn Greenwald, who blogs at Salon.com, responded. So did many others in email form. Cohen did an online chat at www.washingtonpost.com today, explaining, "The column got a stunning, overwhelming number of e-mails, which I have been unable to answer, so I'd like to apologize to those people who did not get a response, and from the looks of it will not get a response. I hope this chat will suffice."

A reading of the transcript, however, shows that it will likely aggravate more than soothe.

The following includes a lengthy quote from Cohen's original column, giving his side, as part of Greenwald's posting on Tuesday.

Richard Cohen's Washington Post column this morning is a true tour de force in explaining the function of our Beltway media stars. Cohen's column -- which grieves over the grave and tragic injustice brought down upon Lewis "Scooter" Libby -- should be immediately laminated and placed into the Smithsosian History Museum as an exhibit which, standing alone, will explain so much about what happened to our country over the last six years. It is really that good.

One could write media criticisms for the next several years and not come close to capturing the essence of our Beltway media the way Cohen did in this single paragraph:

"With the sentencing of I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, Fitzgerald has apparently finished his work, which was, not to put too fine a point on it, to make a mountain out of a molehill. At the urging of the liberal press (especially the New York Times), he was appointed to look into a run-of-the-mill leak and wound up prosecuting not the leaker -- Richard Armitage of the State Department -- but Libby, convicted in the end of lying. This is not an entirely trivial matter since government officials should not lie to grand juries, but neither should they be called to account for practicing the dark art of politics. As with sex or real estate, it is often best to keep the lights off."

That really is the central belief of our Beltway press, captured so brilliantly by Cohen in this perfect nutshell. When it comes to the behavior of our highest and most powerful government officials, our Beltway media preaches, 'it is often best to keep the lights off.' If that isn't the perfect motto for our bold, intrepid, hard-nosed political press, then nothing is....

If even our Beltway media -- rather, especially them -- argues that criminality by government officials should not be punished, and that light should not be shined on what they do, then pervasive government corruption and deceit are inevitable. That is just obvious. And that is why Cohen's column so perfectly captures what has happened in our country and the truly indispensable role which most of our political press has played in all of it.


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