Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Richard Cohen Gets It Right

When I was a columnist writing for the Potomac News, I had two standards I tried to meet with each column (aside from accuracy, which is a given). I tried for at least one belly laugh and one "Damn right!" in each column. The frequently kind comments of friends --- and opprobrium of enemies --- allowed me the vanity of thinking that I succeeded on more than a few occasions over the seven years that I wrote it. And just occasionally, someone from across the aisle, even someone I criticized on other occasions, would demonstrate the honor and dignity to quietly approach me and pay my the high honor of saying that I had been fair to them.

Successful columnists --- more successful than I --- will occasionally surprise you. Among the reasons I read the Washington Post (aside from the Sunday coupons) is the fact that among an almost-uniformly Leftist editorial page, one or two reliably Democrat columnists will sometimes get it right. The frequently wrong Richard Cohen is one of them.

In today's column, he takes up the cudgel for free speech. The subject? Well, it was really two-fold. First, he notes the hypocrisy of the far Left in Congress, embodied by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Second, he discussed the firestorm of criticism surrounding Bill Bennett's Thursday remarks on his talk show.

Pelosi has apparently cast aside the constitutional presumption of innocence regarding allegations against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who is, in the words of Pelosi, representative of the Republican "culture of corruption." Never mind that DeLay is indicted, not convicted, or that his persecutor ... er, prosecutor, has a history of political prosecutions against Republicans and his Democrat political enemies. Nope. Cohen notes Pelosi's strange failure to give DeLay the presumption of innocence. 'Course, events may demonstrate that the only thing that DeLay may be guilty of is being the most effective House Republican Leader in recent memory.

Cohen then turns to Bennett, who rejected the notion of opposing abortion on grounds of economic utility, and was accused of racism for referencing --- and rejecting as "an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do" --- the notion that abortion could be supported for some because statistics can be used to demonstrate that black males commit a disproportionate share of crime. Cohen notes that it is Bennett who is owed an apology by his critics.

I don't know if I'd go that far. At least one serious Black woman that I know says that she was offended by Bennett's comments, and her opinion is not one that I take lightly. But Bennett's history as a champion of equality before the law and of fighting the pathologies that plague some of America's predominately Black communities (conceded by at least one who nevertheless criticizes him, Juan Williams) would seem to demonstrate that the critics of Bennett are opportunists and race hustlers of the worst sort.

In any case, Cohen's column is worth a read.

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