Roger Cohen's column for the New York Times's international edition, "Beyond America's Original Sin," is the 1# read Times story at nytimes.com as of Friday morning, and it's no wonder -- Cohen basically endorses Barack Obama (not in so many words, as that would be a violation of finicky Times's regulations against columnists endorsing candidates). The column itself is, frankly, embarrassing -- part Cohen apology for being born in apartheid South Africa, mostly Obama hagiography over his recent race speech that even appropriates the "Yes We Can" call-and-response slogan beloved of his more fervent supporters.
It takes bravery, and perhaps an unusual black-white vantage point, to navigate these places where hurt is profound, incomprehension the rule, just as it takes courage to say, as Obama did, that black "anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races."Progress, since the Civil Rights Movement, or since apartheid, has assuaged the wounds of race but not closed them. To carry my part of shame is also to carry a clue to the vortexes of rancor for which Obama has uncovered words.I understand the rage of his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, however abhorrent its expression at times. I admire Obama for saying: "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community." Watch Cohen actually parrot an Obama campaign slogan (actually less a slogan and more a screech from the self-congratulatory liberal ID):Honesty feels heady right now. For seven years, we have lived with the arid, us-against-them formulas of Bush's menial mind, with the result that the nuanced exploration of America's hardest subject is almost giddying. Can it be that a human being, like Wright, or like Obama's grandmother, is actually inhabited by ambiguities? Can an inquiring mind actually explore the half-shades of truth?Yes. It. Can.The unimaginable South African transition that Nelson Mandela made possible is a reminder that leadership matters. Words matter. The clamoring now in the United States for a presidency that uplifts rather than demeans is a reflection of the intellectual desert of the Bush years.Hillary Clinton said in January that: "You campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose." Wrong. America's had its fill of the prosaic.
Cohen has flashed his liberal bona fides before, in both columns and reporting, but nothing like this.