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Richard Cohen’s ‘Conventional’ Racism at ‘The Washington Post’ | The Nation

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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

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Richard Cohen’s ‘Conventional’ Racism at ‘The Washington Post’




The Washington Post

UPDATE  Much-maligned (justly) Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt defends the column, saying he would just edit one Cohen sentence differently.  Almost worse, here's verified tweet a few hours ago by the paper's publisher, Katharine Weymouth: "Brilliant: richard Cohen on why Cruz beats Christie in iowa: http://wapo.st/1bwCzT7. "  Also, if you don't know, the publisher is the niece of Talking Heads great Tina Weymouth.

Earlier:  I’ve been on Richard Cohen, longtime alleged “liberal columnist” (well, everything’s relative) at The Washington Post, for many years, dating back to his supremely hawkish pieces promoting the US attack on Iraq in March 2003. But he has offended so many for so long with his views on certain social issues as well.

For example (and there are many others), see here, and here, with his downplaying of rape. Just recently he admitted he’d forgotten that slavery was really horrid until he saw 12 Years a Slave.

Today he topped even himself, and the calls for his firing are sounding louder than ever (see petition). Perhaps he can convince Lara Logan to declare on his behalf, “We’re very sorry.”

His column is ostensibly about the upcoming (if you consider upcoming to mean three years off) 2016 race for president and candidates’, such as Governor Chris Christie, once again needing to trek to Iowa and appeal to those fine and, in his view, very conservative folks (I guess Tom Harkin is just a hologram). But along the way we get this:

Today’s GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled—about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York—a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts—but not all—of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.

Where to begin? “Conventional views”? Yes, perhaps in 1957. Today’s polls show tremendous acceptance of biracial marriage; at least eight in ten Americans say it’s okay. And probably most of the rest no longer “gag” over it. Need we point out that Barack Obama has been elected president, twice? That right-wingers love Clarence Thomas and family? And as noted: Iowa is far from the most conservative state in the USA.

Cohen’s contempt for de Blasio and his marital outrage shines through again in the parenthetical reference to his wife. I had to laugh when I first read it, thinking this was just a copy-editing mistake—Cohen was actually addressing this to his editor…”should we mention”? But it’s far worse than that, of course.

Here I must re-tweet my colleague George Zornick: “People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when reading Richard Cohen.”

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On a minor note, one also has to wonder what the hell Cohen means by “the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde.”

Go here for an accounting of some of Cohen’s other “illiberal” views—on torture, on the Plame case, and on and on. Well, today’s notorious Cohen paragraph at least may bump from the top of the list of his worst ever this one following Colin Powell’s infamous speech to the United Nations on Iraq’s alleged WMD:

The evidence he presented to the United Nations—some of it circumstantial, some of it absolutely bone-chilling in its detail—had to prove to anyone that Iraq not only hasn’t accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them. Only a fool—or possibly a Frenchman—could conclude otherwise.

Leslie Savan explores how the New York City mayoral elections reflected on identity politics.

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