Richard Cohen needs to retire. He’s washed up. He can’t even do a simple year-end column anymore without making himself an object of ridicule. Cohen’s intentions are good. He wants to highlight the plight of Gregory Thompson. Thompson is on death row in Tennessee. He’s insane.
Thompson, 45, is delusional. He is also paranoid, schizophrenic and depressed. For these ailments, he receives daily doses of drugs and, twice a month, anti-psychotic injections. The state of Tennessee wants very much to put him to death for the horrendous 1985 murder of Brenda Blanton Lane, of which there is no doubt about his guilt.
Cohen’s point is that Tennessee is medicating Thompson for the purpose of keeping him sane enough to execute. That is a good subject for moral debate and ordinarily I’d be praising Cohen’s decision to point people’s attention to the controversy. But Cohen has decided to make Gregory Thompson his 2006 Man of the Year. Man of the Year columns are a little bit silly to begin with. But, if you are going write one you should really abide by the regular standards of the genre.
Gregory Thompson committed his murder in 1985. If he is executed, it won’t be until at least 2007. There is absolutely nothing that recommends Thompson as the Man of the Year for 2006. Kevin Federline would be a better choice.
Man of the Year columns have typically focused on people that have made the most news in a particular year. Time’s first was on Charles Lindbergh, in 1927. Lindbergh had crossed the ocean in his Spirit of St. Louis airplane. FDR was the MOTY in 1932, 1934, and 1941. Hitler ‘won’ it in 1938. Josef Stalin won it in 1939. Sadat won in 1977, Khomeini in 1979, and Gorbachev in 1989.
If Cohen had recently been writing coherent columns then my objection to Gregory Thompson would be mere nitpicking. But Cohen seems increasingly detached from reality. And this column just gets worse. Check this out:
If I were not forced to choose a person as my person of the year, I might choose a concept: certainty. It is the one concept we cannot afford. Certainty is where we all get into trouble. We were so certain that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that it was reason enough to go to war. And once we went to war, we were certain that we would be welcomed in Baghdad by adoring throngs of Iraqis. And all that certainty was itself preceded by the fervid certainty of a president that he had been chosen for this war, this moment, this task. This was the worst certainty of them all.
First, I want to be fair to Cohen and the best way to be fair is to quote him directly. Here is what he said about Colin Powell’s speech before the United Nations.
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.
I don’t know who Cohen thinks he is referring to when he uses ‘we’: ‘We were so certain that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that it was reason enough to go to war’, ‘we were certain that we would be welcomed in Baghdad.’ Cohen can only be referring to his comrades in the Beltway punditocracy, because the CIA sure as hell wasn’t sure.
So, he hides his own egregious misjudgements within a global act of collective hubris: we all made the same mistake. With the exception of a few fools and every Frenchman, we were all as certain as Cohen. And then he laments the fact that he can’t make the ‘concept of certainty’ his Man of the Year. I am assuming that the ‘concept of certainty’ would not be in the tradition of heroes like Ghandi (1930) or Lech Walesa (1981), but more in the tradition of villians like Nikita Krushchev (1957).
Cohen would write: “In 2006, the ‘concept of certainty’ did more to destroy good will among men and world stability than anything else.”
But even then I would ask Cohen why he didn’t write that column in 2002 or 2003, when it might actually have applied.
Two things are a given. The first is the nature of the Iraqi regime. It will persist in developing weapons of mass destruction the way lemmings head for the sea or junkies seek a fix…
Why 2006? Oh, because it fit in nicely with his doubts about the death penalty! Cohen is really concerned about the ethics of executing an indisputed murderer. But he had no hesitation in advocating the pre-emptive invasion of Iraq, a policy decision that has cost over 400,000 Iraqis their lives.
Cohen doesn’t have the moral footing to whine about the death penalty. He doesn’t have the moral footing to be taken seriously about anything. And he no longer has the mental acuity to write well. As this column shows, his writing now fits into a category I could only describe as a subset of the ‘concept of sucking’.
He should retire.