- Current Issue
SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
When was the last time you read anything about Louis Farrakhan? My guess is that it was in a column by Richard Cohen of the Washington Post.
Cohen has been demanding that public figures denounce Farrakhan for at least 24 years, going back to 1984 when he wrote a column calling upon Jesse Jackson to do so. During the 2000 presidential campaign, Cohen criticized Smokin’ Joe Lieberman for not criticizing Farrakhan, at least to his satisfaction, and a year later he attacked the appointment of Maya Angelou to the board of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum because she had spoken at the Million Man March.
“Do not misunderstand,” Cohen wrote. “I am not accusing Angelou of either antisemitism or racism–the twin pillars of Farrakhan’s demagoguery–or of being a supporter of his. I am saying, though, that when asked to appear at Farrakhan’s Million Man March, she did not say no, as some principled African Americans did, nor did she offer any sort of rebuke.”
Thus Cohen’s column today demanding that Barack Obama renounce Farrakhan was all but inevitable. Never mind that Obama has no ties to Farrakhan and has never said anything favorable about him. Column inches need filling and, according to Cohen, Obama must publicly reject Farrakhan–because Obama’s minister at Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., has spoken favorably about the leader of the Nation of Islam.
Many of Farrakhan’s public comments are disgusting, but this is tripe even by Cohen’s own lamentable standards. Just as he did in the case of Angelou, Cohen acknowledged that “nothing in Obama’s record suggests he harbors anti-Semitic views.” He then goes on to smear Obama by (indirect) association with Farrakhan and says that if Obama doesn’t speak out against Farrakhan, the candidate will confirm Cohen’s suspicions that he has no “mettle” and “that he is a fog of a man.”
Beyond the smear job, Cohen might want to go back and read his column on Angelou, in which he generously forgave Jesse Jackson and Congressman Charles Rangel for speaking at the Million Man March. But, he wrote, “Angelou was a different matter. She is no politician or political leader. She would not have suffered at the polls if she told Farrakhan to get into his flying saucer and get the hell off the National Mall.”
“Cohen,” I wrote back in 2006, “can be an absolutely fierce bulldog—when he’s attacking soft targets like Louis Farrakhan, suicide bombers, or Nazis.” If nothing else, the man is predictable.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
Chances that a deep breath inhaled today will contain a molecule from Julius Caesar’s dying breath:
Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences, by John Allen Paulos, Hill and Wang (N.Y.C.)
The earth once had three moons; the two lost moons may have crashed into the surviving moon, or been sucked into the sun, or flung out of the solar system to drift through deep space.
In Florida, an 87-year-old World War II veteran flying touch-and-go drills in a Cessna collided with an airborne skydiver. “There was a ‘woof’ sound,” said a witness, “like falling on your face into your pillow.”
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.”