Cohen’s Larger Sins

I understand that a lot of people are slamming Richard Cohen for saying that physical revulsion at the thought of interracial families is a “conventional view.” But I think that is one of the smaller sins he committed in his piece. The whole point of the column was supposed to be that Chris Christie can’t win the Iowa caucuses and therefore probably cannot win the Republican nomination. The mayor-elect of New York’s multiracial family has no bearing on how well Chris Christie will do in Iowa, nor does winning Iowa have much to do with winning the Republican nomination.

The first time that the Iowa Caucuses were a major focus was in 1980. Poppy Bush won, and Reagan became the nominee. In 1988, Bob Dole won, and Poppy won the nomination. In 1996, Dole won and became the nominee, and in 2000 Dubya won and became the nominee. In 2008, Huckabee won and Romney McCain became the nominee, and in 2012, Santorum narrowly won and Romney became the nominee. Since 1980, the winner of the Iowa caucuses has won the nomination in two cycles out of six. That’s a thirty-three percent average.

Another sin was referring to Christie as a “cuddly moderate conservative.” How does a guy yelling in your face translate to “cuddly” or “moderate”? And then he ends the piece by saying that Christie is “too Joisey” and “too brash.” I’m from Joisey and I understand “too brash.” It ain’t cuddly. If you’re a guy and you call a Jersey Boy “cuddly,” you’re likely to get a fist in the mouth. Anyone who can write that a person is both “too Joisey” and a “cuddly moderate” is not getting enough oxygen to the brain.

The column is a giant non-sequitur, and that’s its biggest shortcoming. Why is he talking about Bill de Blasio at all? Why is he contrasting cuddly Christie to prickly Santorum, when they are both conservative Catholics from neighboring Mid-Atlantic states? Why is he acting like it matters if Chris Christie can’t win the Iowa caucuses? After all, Ted Cruz can’t win anywhere in New England.

Cohen got into trouble for talking about a gag-reflex reaction to interracial families, but he should be in trouble for a lot more than that. He is a terrible columnist and an even worse analyst. But the publisher thinks he’s brilliant.

32 comments for “Cohen’s Larger Sins

  1. November 13, 2013 at 10:01 am

    I’ve spent most of my life in the Deep South.  I’ve seen the “most people” argument be used in cases ranging from soft drinks to miscegenation.  In every single case that doesn’t offer some kind of outside evidence (polls, laws, specific customs, and so forth) the people putting forth the argument are people who’ve never been outside a very circumscribed set of places.  And THEY ARE RIGHT.  For THEM, “most people” are everyone they see on a daily basis.  My great aunt spent her entire lifetime (78 years) without leaving Cedar County, Mo.  35 years without leaving Stockton.

    You can’t reason with these people.  They are like 6 year-olds.  The entirety of their life experience tells them of a set of certainties, and they literally cannot see beyond.

    Richard Cohen is NOT one of those.  He is simply a stupid, entitled, lazy pundit who phoned in a column.  He should be fired at the very least.  Not for racism (It IS WaPo, after all) but for malfeasance of job performance.

  2. November 13, 2013 at 8:27 am

    Let he who is without sin cast the first aspersion.

    conventional: used and accepted by most people : usual or traditional

    : of a kind that has been around for a long time and is considered to be usual or typical

    : common and ordinary : not unusual

    Here we are on a so-called “progressive” blog site…one that overwhelmingly supports a president who is responsible for innumerable fuckups, the worst of which in my opinion is the rapidly metastasizing surveillance state cancer that is rapidly turning the “innocencent until proven guilty” concept inside out and backwards. We are now…all of us…guilty until proven innocent. Bet on it. “Stop and frisk!!!???” How 20th century!!! Our minds are being stopped and frisked, 24/7. Bet on that as well.

    What is a good, “conventional” definition of a progressive?

    Someone who supports Obama or the Democratic wing of the UniParty?


    In that case…



  3. November 13, 2013 at 7:00 am

    Coates at the Atlantic has an epic and brutal takedown of Cohen and his defenders plea for context. It involves liberal use of “horse-shit.” That dude makes up for having the non-partisan concern troll and resident dudebro Conor “What If” Friedersdorf on the Atlantic Staff.

  4. November 13, 2013 at 1:05 am


    On November 12th Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art evening sale achieved $691,583,000 (£435,697,000 / €511,771,420), the highest total for an auction sale in art market history, with a strong sell-through rate of 98% by value and 91% by lot. …

    That’s $692 million at one auction.

    A Christopher Wool went for $26 million.

    A Jean-Michel Basquiat for $29

    A Mark Rothko for $46 million.

    A Warhol for $57 million.

    A Jeff Koons for $58 million.

    And a Francis Bacon triptych for $142 million.

    The Basquiat and Bacon are very nice, but $29 million and $142 million worth of nice?

  5. November 13, 2013 at 12:16 am

    Village pundits who are terrible analysts are a dime a dozen. Village pundits who are terrible people are just as plentiful.

    Village pundits who are not only proud to be terrible people, but explicitly claim everyone else ought to be terrible people, aren’t – thanks to the Teahadists – as rare as they should be, but they’re less common.

    But put all that together with the mental acuity of a warped doorknob, and there’s only Richard Cohen.

  6. November 13, 2013 at 12:01 am

    Charlie Pierce’s takedown of the column is pretty funny, but then again Cohen is a clown, as are most of the WaPo columnists.

    The joke is that anyone takes any of them seriously at all. I mean, Richard Cohen as an “opinion leader”?  Kathleen Parker? Charles “Chuckles the Clown” Krauthamer? Jennifer Rubin? George Will? “You’ve got to be kidding.”  Ripping them new ones actually gives them far more dignity than they deserve.

    Okay, once in a blue moon I read Eugene Robinson there, but he’s a lonely voice of sanity in a Neocon asylum. Going there to read him is like climbing a huge heap of manure to pluck a rose. Hardly worth the effort because of all the shit you get on your shoes just by visiting the place.

    When I do go there all I do is usually “lookit da pictures” on the WaPo Opinion page.  Only Toles and Telnaes make any sense, but to look at Telnaes you must also endure unskipable Goldman Sachs ads. Now THAT is enough to induce a true “gag reflex.”  

  7. November 12, 2013 at 11:07 pm

    Boo, you’re judging him as a columnist. The rest of us haven’t got past judging him as a human being. Suffice to say, he sucks at both.

  8. November 12, 2013 at 11:06 pm

    I think the important part is the unthinking definition of “conventional” to mean conservative.

    Conservatives always do this and always have. They use terms like “right-thinking people” and “real Americans,” independent of demographics or statistics. They actually ignore the numbers — the essence of what would make anything “conventional” — in order to regard their own views as somehow more essential; more real.

    It’s why they were shocked that Romney lost; they honestly couldn’t get their heads around the idea that a majority disagreed with their own “correct” views. When they are shocked in this fashion, they cry foul (claiming that something “illegitimate” has happened) or they act besieged (same remarks).

    It’s a basic “no true Scotsman” argument at heart, but it’s also more than that. It’s a profound limitation in one’s thinking; it’s a dangerous tendency to “make one’s own reality” (to coin a phrase). And it means that, no matter how overwhelming the demise of American Conservatism continues to be, the remaining troops will never give up; they will always see victory as within their grasp.

  9. November 12, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    This is why elections matter.

    WE in Chicago, STILL can’t get Rahm to settle the Burge cases, set up a fund for the victims and for him to call for new trials for all the victims.


    Ken Burns: Bill De Blasio Has Agreed To Settle 10-Year-Old Central Park Five Case

    During a visit to HuffPost Live Tuesday to discuss his new initiative “Learn the Address,” documentary filmmaker Ken Burns gave an update on the ten-year-old Central Park Five civil suit and told host Josh Zepps that New York City’s new mayor will finally settle the case.

    Burns’ 2012 documentary “The Central Park Five” tells the story of five juveniles convicted in 1990 of raping a jogger in Central Park. In 2002, the convictions of the five defendants were vacated when another man confessed to the crime. The following year, the Central Park Five filed a civil suit against the City of New York for their wrongful convictions that, after a decade, has yet to be resolved.

    “Bill de Blasio, the mayor-elect, has agreed to settle this case, and though this is justice delayed way too long, and that is justice denied, [they] will not only be exonerated … but they will have justice, they will see some closure, they will be able to be made whole,” Burns said.

    Burns joined HuffPost Live last year before the film’s release with one of the exonerated members of the Central Park Five. Burns said then of New York City’s refusal to settle the 10-year-old case, “the city has put molasses into the system,” and that 10 years later “this is still an open wound that we continue to pick the scab on.”

  10. November 12, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    In 2012, Romney won the Iowa caucus until later (after NH?) a recount or something determined that Santorum was the actual winner.  That Iowa error(?) put wind in Romney’s sails.

    The importance of the GOP Iowa caucus (technically not a caucus but a straw poll) may have lagged the DEM Iowa caucus by a few election cycles.

    If Christie appeals only to Romney 2012 Iowa GOP caucus voters plus some portion of Santorum’s Catholic vote, he wins Iowa.  

  11. November 12, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    Has anyone noticed that those “normal” people out in Iowa with their “conventional views” on bi-racial emetics basically launched Barack Obama’s presidential bid and twice cast their votes for him?

    And that his mother was white and his father was opposite color?

  12. November 12, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    Minor quibble;

     In 2008, Huckabee won and McCain not Romney became the nominee

  13. November 12, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    What a jerk! The physical revulsion thing was the worst though. He should be fired for that alone.

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