Category Archives: Inexplicable

Apostasy

Another reason to fear an Obama presidency.  It's not that he's a secret Muslim (madrassa madrassa), it's that by Islamic law he actually is a Muslim:

As the son of the Muslim father, Senator Obama was born a Muslim under Muslim law as it is universally understood. It makes no difference that, as Senator Obama has written, his father said he renounced his religion. Likewise, under Muslim law based on the Koran his mother’s Christian background is irrelevant.

Of course, as most Americans understand it, Senator Obama is not a Muslim. He chose to become a Christian, and indeed has written convincingly to explain how he arrived at his choice and how important his Christian faith is to him.

"Convincingly" is an odd choice of term–is there some suggestion it's not true?  But don't get the idea that the author of these words thinks this is a problem for American Christians (although I can almost hear the dog whistle), it's going to be a problem for the world's Muslims:

With few exceptions, the jurists of all Sunni and Shiite schools prescribe execution for all adults who leave the faith not under duress; the recommended punishment is beheading at the hands of a cleric, although in recent years there have been both stonings and hangings. (Some may point to cases in which lesser punishments were ordered — as with some Egyptian intellectuals who have been punished for writings that were construed as apostasy — but those were really instances of supposed heresy, not explicitly declared apostasy as in Senator Obama’s case.)

The case for Obama's being a Muslim seems kind of tenuous (he was born to a Muslim father who had renounced (when?) his religion).  Had Obama ever been considered a Muslim by his father? I suppose under the notion that you can never stop being a Muslim, if that's true, then Obama will always be one.  All of this adds up to serious concerns for Obama's saftey:

Because no government is likely to allow the prosecution of a President Obama — not even those of Iran and Saudi Arabia, the only two countries where Islamic religious courts dominate over secular law — another provision of Muslim law is perhaps more relevant: it prohibits punishment for any Muslim who kills any apostate, and effectively prohibits interference with such a killing.

At the very least, that would complicate the security planning of state visits by President Obama to Muslim countries, because the very act of protecting him would be sinful for Islamic security guards. More broadly, most citizens of the Islamic world would be horrified by the fact of Senator Obama’s conversion to Christianity once it became widely known — as it would, no doubt, should he win the White House. This would compromise the ability of governments in Muslim nations to cooperate with the United States in the fight against terrorism, as well as American efforts to export democracy and human rights abroad.

I doubt our efforts to fight the war on terrorism and export democracy and human rights (he must be kidding about that, really) could get any more "complicated" than they are.

Is it wrong?

This story reminds me of a conversation I had with my great uncle at Bob Evans in 1990.  First the story:

MATTHEWS: He’s [Sen. Barack Obama] not that good at that — handshaking in a diner.

SHUSTER: No —

MATTHEWS: Barack doesn’t seem to know how to do that right.

SHUSTER: — he doesn’t do that well. But then you see him in front
of 15,000 people in some of these college towns, and that’s why, Chris,
we’ve seen Chelsea Clinton and Bill Clinton in Bloomington and South
Bend and Terre Haute. I mean —

MATTHEWS: What’s so hard about doing a diner? I don’t get it. Why
doesn’t he go in there and say, "Did you see the papers today? What do
you think about that team? How did we do last night?" Just some regular
connection?

SHUSTER: Well, here’s the other thing that we saw on the tape,
Chris, is that, when Obama went in, he was offered coffee, and he said,
"I’ll have orange juice."

MATTHEWS: No.

SHUSTER: He did.

And it’s just one of those sort of weird things. You know, when the
owner of the diner says, "Here, have some coffee," you say, "Yes, thank
you," and, "Oh, can I also please have some orange juice, in addition
to this?" You don’t just say, "No, I’ll take orange juice," and then
turn away and start shaking hands. That’s what happens [unintelligible]

MATTHEWS: You don’t ask for a substitute on the menu.

SHUSTER: Exactly.

Bob Evans is or was (do they still exist?) a kind of diner/family dining place with a country sausage inspiration.  My great uncle, then his late 80’s, took me out to breakfast there one morning around Christmas.  He ordered one egg sunny-side up and one pancake.  There must have been sausage with that order, but I don’t remember.  He then proceeded to put the egg on top of the pancake and cover the whole thing with syrup.

I had never seen such a thing.  When I asked him what he was doing, he fixed his eyes on me and said: "is it wrong?

You’re living in the past

I’m impressed by Michael Gerson’s attempt to turn someone’s having been right about something into a liability.  He concedes the point that Obama has been right about Iraq in the past–it seems, according to Gerson (himself one of the chief rhetorical motivators for invading Iraq), that invading Iraq was a colossally bad idea.  (Good for him, good Christian that he is.  But there ought to be some penance involved in that admission–especially on account of the key role he played in making it a reality.  Maybe he ought not to seek the credulity of the reading public.  But I digress.)

Back to the argument.  Since Obama cites having been right about Iraq as a credential when he now argues about Iraq, he’s "living in the past."

The situation in Iraq, as Gen. Petraeus insists, is "fragile and
reversible." But the debate has moved far beyond a candidate’s initial
support for the war. This has led to an odd inversion of the
generational battle. Young Obama’s strongest arguments are focused "on
the failures of the past." The older man, by insisting on victory, is
more responsible and realistic about the future.

This has the air of a sophism about it.  Judgments about the future rely on the past in two ways.  (a) One who has a record of being right in the past will justifiably point that out as a credential; (b) what is going to happen can only be determined on the grounds of what has happened.  So naturally in order to decide resolve what to do in Iraq, one will have to focus on the failure of the past–failures, Obama would point out, John McCain’s keen political judgment is responsible for. 

So the question, "who is more responsible and realistic about the future" depends, of course, on the past.  For, "who has been more responsible and realistic [on this specific problem, by the way] in the past?" seems to be a rather reasonable way to resolve who will be more responsible in the future.

But what do I know.  I was right about Invading Iraq.

Mind numbing

I’m out of my territory here a little bit, but yesterday’s excursion into press narratives (although only to make a kind of side point) inspired me to read a little more of it.  With that in mind I stumbled across Gail Collins’ column in the New York Times.  She is another card-carrying (remember that phrase anyone?) of the liberal media.  Let’s read:

Itís all up to Pennsylvania!

Yes folks, over the next seven
weeks ó the amount of time it takes a normal country to conduct an
entire national election ó we will be obsessing about the critical
upcoming Pennsylvania primary. Harrisburg! Altoona! The Poconos! Did
you know that in the Poconos, some hotels have bathtubs shaped like
hearts or Champagne glasses? We actually plan on bringing that up a lot.

That’s really how the article begins.  I think it’s pastiche of the kind of irrelevance we will be subjected to in the coming days.  The kind of irrelevance the following paragraphs provide: 

Of all the things that went right for Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, the
Ohio primary win was most impressive. Although Ohioans politely tiptoed
out of Hillaryís more boring round-table discussions
, they came to
believe
she could be a president who would fix things, no matter how
complicated or frustrating. The mere fact that she had the staying
power to keep her eyes open, they felt, was a good sign.

In
response, the Obama campaign has reportedly decided to do far fewer
exciting rallies and lots more mind-numbing round-table discussions in
Pennsylvania. Iím sure I speak for everyone when I say we are all
really looking forward to that.

Collins’ fact-free insight and vast power of generalizing amazes me.  Notice two things.  First, she knows what Ohioans are thinking, believing and feeling–in detail "no matter how complicated or frustrating."  Was that a poll question?  I doubt it.  Beyond that, she’s intolerant of meaningful discussions of policy–they’re boring!  Mind-numbing!  And on that point–who is the "we" who is not looking forward to these discussions?  Maybe it’s Collins, who wants to talk about the Poconos.

Maybe I’m just impatient with this stuff, and I miss the larger points Collins is making.  I guess I’m a conservative that way.  I like my assertions supported by evidence.  

Keep in mind, of course, that while the liberal media over here at the New York Times can’t even bother to discuss matters of policy, George Will, conservative luminary, is busy eviscerating such leftist heroes as Oliver Stone, Norman Mailer, and Jean Paul Sartre, for their admiration of Fidel Castro, or Cuba (or something).  What’s wrong with them?  Well, Cuba has basically sentenced people to jail after one-day secret trials.  I know, I know.  That sounds awful to be stuck in Cuba in some kind of extra-legal limbo and convicted after a Stalinesque one-day secret trial.
 

Support

One word could be blamed for the intellectual muddle that led to war in Iraq.  The constant refrain of 2003 was: "support the troops."  The word support was aptly chosen, of course, by the war party, as the poll question used the same word when asking whether Americans favored war: do you support the President's decision to go to war?  Do you support the war?  People supported the troops, so of course they supported the war. 

Now the word support has a new job: do you repudiate (or reject!) the support of x?  Colbert I King reports the following question (which he got from the Politico.com, but I can't find it there) asked of Hillary Clinton:

 "But you criticized Obama for not rejecting the support of Farrakhan."

Here's Tim Russert badgering Obama about Louis Farrakhan's support:

RUSSERT: Senator Obama, one of the things in a campaign is that you have to react to unexpected developments. On Sunday, the headline in your hometown paper, Chicago Tribune: "Louis Farrakhan backs Obama for president at Nation of Islam convention in Chicago." Do you accept the support of Louis Farrakhan?

OBAMA: You know, I have been very clear in my denunciation of Minister Farrakhan's anti-Semitic comments. I think that they are unacceptable and reprehensible. I did not solicit this support. He expressed pride in an African-American who seems to be bringing the country together. I obviously can't censor him, but it is not support that I sought. And we're not doing anything, I assure you, formally or informally with Minister Farrakhan.

RUSSERT: Do you reject his support?

OBAMA: Well, Tim, you know, I can't say to somebody that he can't say that he thinks I'm a good guy. [laughter] You know, I — you know, I — I have been very clear in my denunciations of him and his past statements, and I think that indicates to the American people what my stance is on those comments.

RUSSERT: The problem some voters may have is, as you know, Reverend Farrakhan called Judaism "gutter religion."

OBAMA: Tim, I think — I am very familiar with his record, as are the American people. That's why I have consistently denounced it. This is not something new. This is something that — I live in Chicago. He lives in Chicago. I've been very clear in terms of me believing that what he has said is reprehensible and inappropriate. And I have consistently distanced myself from him.

RUSSERT: The title of one of your books, Audacity of Hope, you acknowledge you got from a sermon from Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the head of the Trinity United Church. He said that Louis Farrakhan "epitomizes greatness." He said that he went to Libya in 1984 with Louis Farrakhan to visit with Muammar Qaddafi and that, when your political opponents found out about that, quote, "your Jewish support would dry up quicker than a snowball in Hell."

What do you do to assure Jewish Americans that, whether it's Farrakhan's support or the activities of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, your pastor, you are consistent with issues regarding Israel and not in any way suggesting that Farrakhan epitomizes greatness?

OBAMA: Tim, I have some of the strongest support from the Jewish community in my hometown of Chicago and in this presidential campaign. And the reason is because I have been a stalwart friend of Israel's. I think they are one of our most important allies in the region, and I think that their security is sacrosanct, and that the United States is in a special relationship with them, as is true with my relationship with the Jewish community.

And the reason that I have such strong support is because they know that not only would I not tolerate anti-Semitism in any form, but also because of the fact that what I want to do is rebuild what I consider to be a historic relationship between the African-American community and the Jewish community.

You know, I would not be sitting here were it not for a whole host of Jewish Americans who supported the civil rights movement and helped to ensure that justice was served in the South. And that coalition has frayed over time around a whole host of issues, and part of my task in this process is making sure that those lines of communication and understanding are reopened.

But, you know, the reason that I have such strong support in the Jewish community and have historically — it was true in my U.S. Senate campaign, and it's true in this presidency — is because the people who know me best know that I consistently have not only befriended the Jewish community, not only have I been strong on Israel, but, more importantly, I've been willing to speak out even when it is not comfortable.

When I was — just the last point I would make — when I was giving — had the honor of giving a sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in conjunction with Martin Luther King's birthday in front of a large African-American audience, I specifically spoke out against anti-Semitism within the African-American community. And that's what gives people confidence that I will continue to do that when I'm president of the United States.

BRIAN WILLIAMS (co-moderator): Senator —

CLINTON: Tim, I just want to add something here, because I faced a similar situation when I ran for the Senate in 2000 in New York. And in New York, there are more than the two parties, Democratic and Republican. And one of the parties at that time, the Independence Party, was under the control of people who were anti-Semitic, anti-Israel. And I made it very clear that I did not want their support. I rejected it. I said that it would not be anything I would be comfortable with. And it looked as though I might pay a price for that. But I would not be associated with people who said such inflammatory and untrue charges against either Israel or Jewish people in our country.

And, you know, I was willing to take that stand, and, you know, fortunately the people of New York supported me and I won. But at the time, I thought it was more important to stand on principle and to reject the kind of conditions that went with support like that.

RUSSERT: Are you suggesting Senator Obama is not standing on principle?

CLINTON: No. I'm just saying that you asked specifically if he would reject it. And there's a difference between denouncing and rejecting. And I think when it comes to this sort of, you know, inflammatory — I have no doubt that everything that Barack just said is absolutely sincere. But I just think, we've got to be even stronger. We cannot let anyone in any way say these things because of the implications that they have, which can be so far-reaching.

OBAMA: Tim, I have to say I don't see a difference between denouncing and rejecting. There's no formal offer of help from Minister Farrakhan that would involve me rejecting it. But if the word "reject" Senator Clinton feels is stronger than the word "denounce," then I'm happy to concede the point, and I would reject and denounce.

CLINTON: Good. Good. Excellent.

Even McCain has the same problem:

"Yesterday, Pastor John Hagee endorsed my candidacy for president in San Antonio, Texas. However, in no way did I intend for his endorsement to suggest that I in turn agree with all of Pastor Hagee's views, which I obviously do not.

"I am hopeful that Catholics, Protestants and all people of faith who share my vision for the future of America will respond to our message of defending innocent life, traditional marriage, and compassion for the most vulnerable in our society."

This is all kind of dumb.  One would expect a candidate to have enough self-confidence and independence to distinguish herself or himself from the views of every last voter.  Besides, I wonder what the appropriate remedy is here.  Does Obama have to beg Farrakhan to vote for someone else?  Can't Obama (or McCain or Clinton) say: "I'm glad to have the votes of Hagee, Farrakhan or whomever, but they ought to know that I won't advance core aspects of their agenda?"?  What does "reject support" even mean?

More fundamentally, if the implication is that the support of Hagee et alia means there's something Hagee-like (because birds of a feather. . . ), then why not just talk about the Hagee-like bits of McCain's view?  That's more efficient.

Brainiac

Maybe writing a column every now and then is harder than it looks.  You first have to find a premise that is thoroughly grounded in conventional wisdom, and then you have to give it an ironic twist that will surprise the person for whom the conventional wisdom is regular wisdom.  That person, call him CW, might for instance, believe that ethanol was the solution to the energy problem: the only one, ever, and it will never be revised, and no new ideas will ever be entertained by anyone at anytime because that idea is awesome.  Or he might believe (at the same time) that cap-and-trade emissions policies were the complete awesome solution, with none better ever imaginable.  But, you'll point out, ethanol isn't perfect.  It will alter agriculture in massive ways without producing the kind of solution CW believed.  

But CW will always have the second, won't he? Not so.  Sebastian Mallaby tells us how.

Obama favors a cap-and-trade regime. This is indeed a good idea, and the candidates are right to back it. But a cap-and-trade system is not the silver bullet that advocates sometimes imply. The same is unfortunately true for that other popular cure-all, a carbon tax.

Oh sometimes–cousin of some–where would we be without you?  You're so vague and malleable.  And you'll stick on anything.  For we don't know who these advocates are or when they make these claims.  No matter.  We're busy showing CW how wrong he was to listen to the CW.  

Besides, some–hee hee–might think it stretches credulity to believe that anyone seriously claims that any of the things Mallaby is talking about are "cure-alls."  And just in case you find his premise as thin as April ice, you'll probably also wonder how this applies to Barack Obama, for whom this article is named–"Obama's missing ideas." 

I was wondering that as well.  But then Mallaby explains. 

So it just isn't true that we have all the good ideas we need — at least not on climate change. And it's peculiar that Obama, the brainiac Harvard grad, should dismiss the importance of fresh thinking this way: He is an intellectual, he is beloved by intellectuals, and yet he poses as an anti-intellectual. If he locks up the Democratic nomination and faces off against a brave old airman with little interest in domestic policy, he will want to encourage a debate about ideas. He has the skills to win it.

I can't fathom what Mallaby is talking about.  Who says we have all of the good ideas we need?  Besides, he hasn't in the first place shown or even attempted to show that Obama is "anti-intellectual" or "dismissive" of "fresh-thinking."  He's established–if you can call it that–that Obama "favors" one perhaps fallible approach to the energy issue.  A quick glance at Obama's website, however, will show you that he favors much else as well.

So let's recap.  Some believe incorrectly and exclusively in solutions that few would seriously believe in.  Obama embraces one of those solutions–among others–and so therefore Obama is running as a moron CW believer, not as the Braniac we know he is.

Superbad

Nicholas Kristof admits his own disqualifying gullibility about the Bush Administration's line on the prison at Guantanamo Bay:

Most Americans, including myself, originally gave President Bush the benefit of the doubt and assumed that the inmates truly were “the worst of the worst.” But evidence has grown that many are simply the unluckiest of the unluckiest.

The worst criminals in the United States have done something straightforwardly illegal.  It seems it would follow that the prisoners at Guantanamo, being the worst of the worst, will have done something even more obviously illegal.  As the worst get a trial in a regular US court, as a way of shining a light on their heinous crimes, wouldn't it follow that the worst of the worst ought to have at least an equally transparent trial?  

Of course, Kristof thinks the whole thing is a travesty–now.  But his employment of the superlative underscores the bewildering ontological specialness granted, sometimes, to our enemies.  

Modernity

It's Bill Kristol's day again.  Not that he has to write on anything in particular, but it is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  And Kristol writes about the anti-modern paragon of moral virtue, John McCain.  One might however find Kristol's sense of "modernity" intriguing:

The young Henley had written this following the amputation of his foot because of tubercular infection. He lived until age 53, apparently unbow’d and unafraid, a productive poet, critic and editor. (The one-legged [eds.: shouldn't this be "one-footed"?] Henley also served as an inspiration for his close friend Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” character Long John Silver.)

One can see why “Invictus” might have appealed to the young McCain. One can see why snatches of it might have stuck in his mind while a prisoner of war, and after. But his allusion to its coda reminds us of what’s so distinctive about McCain as a contemporary political figure: He’s not thoroughly modern.

In this he differs from his competitors. Mitt Romney is the very model of a modern venture capitalist. Mike Huckabee is the very model of a modern evangelical. Rudy Giuliani is the very model of a modern can-do executive. They are impressive modern men all. But John McCain is a not-so-modern type. One might call him a neo-Victorian — rigid, self-righteous and moralizing, but (or rather and) manly, courageous and principled.

Others can point out the strange and ever-shifting principles of the "Straight Talk Express" (a brand name, which, unsurprisingly, has beguiled even the <sarcasm> uber-liberals </sarcasm> of NPR.  I'd just be curious to know how those traits are "Victorian" in anything but a self-refutingly ironic sense.  But I suppose I wonder that because I'm modern.

 

How not to respond to criticism

Here is a journalist with 20 years experience illustrating how not to respond to criticism.  The email is so bad that one might think he was either drunk or it was written by an impostor.  Here's the story.  Greenwald wrote a post on his blog, Unclaimed Territory, about the fawning tone of CNN correspondent John King's interview of John McCain.  You can read that here (it's short), but here's a sample question:

* KING: As you know, one of the issues you have had here in South Carolina in the past is either people don't understand your social conservative record or they're not willing to concede your social conservative record. There's a mailing that hit South Carolina homes yesterday. It's a picture of you and Cindy on the front. It says "Always pro-life, 24-year record." Why do you think you still, after all this time, have to convince these people, "I have been with you from the beginning"?

I'm sure you get the idea.  Not exactly critical journalism (follow Greenwald's links for more).  Here below is John King's response.  For the sake of clarity, I'll insert comments in brackets (courtesy of Glenn Greenwald)

From: King, John C

To: GGreenwald@salon.com

Sent: Tuesday, January 15, 2008 5:40 PM

Subject: excuse me? [a more neutral subject heading–e.g., response to your blogpost]

I don't read biased uninformed drivel so I'm a little late to the game. [this is somewhat self-contradictory: either the post was not "biased uninformed drivel" (and so not worthy of the charge) or he does read bias uniformed drivel.  In either case, that's a pretty serious compound charge–biased and uninformed.  One is sufficient for dismissal.

But a friend who understands how my business works and knows a little something about my 20 plus years in it sent me the link to your ramblings. [Now they're "ramblings"–biased uninformed drivel ramblings–that's four insults]

Since the site suggests you have law training, maybe you forgot that good lawyers to a little research before they spit out words. [The site says Greenwald is a lawyer]

Did you think to ask me or anyone who works with me whether that was the entire interview? No. (It was not; just a portion used by one of the many CNN programs.) [Notice how King responds to his own rhetorical question.  Aside from that, it's irrelevant to the criticism.  Besides, it suggests that King agrees with Greenwald about the fawning tone of the questions and suggests that CNN edited it to appear that way].

Did you reach out to ask the purpose of that specific interview? No. [More extra-textual irrelevance].

Or how it might have fit in with other questions being asked of other candidates that day? No. [He now seems to be conceding the point.  Besides, fawning questions to the other candidates would only reinforce the point that they're not real questions.  Asking fake questions to other candidates doesn't make them any less fake].

Or anything that might have put facts or context or fairness into your critique. No. [So he definitely agrees, but thinks Greenwald has been unfair–there's a context that explains it].

McCain, for better or worse, is a very accessible candidate. If you did a little research (there he goes with that word again) you would find I have had my share of contentious moments with him over the years. [So these are not contentious questions.  But King, an ad hominizer, sees others as he sees himself–attacking the person.  His having asked "contentious" questions in the past doesn't make, however, the questions of the other day any less silly].

But because of that accessibility, you don't have to go into every interview asking him about the time he cheated on his sixth grade math test. [Now he really misunderstands the nature of the criticism.  And again it's ad hominem: He suggests Greenwald wants him to ask mean, irrelevant questions about McCain's childhood.  If that is King's sense of a real journalistic question, then it's worse than Greenwald suggests].

The interview was mainly to get a couple of questions to him on his thoughts on the role of government when the economy is teetering on the edge of recession, in conjunction with similar questions being put to several of the other candidates. [Like in comedy, it's not funny if you have to explain it–unless you make the explanation funny–which this isn't.  I think.].

The portion you cited was aired by one of our programs — so by all means it is fair game for whatever "analysis" you care to apply to it using your right of free speech and your lack of any journalistic standards or fact checking or just plain basic curiosity. [It's always nice to have someone point out your rights.  I find it difficult, however, to follow King's point.  He agrees (or seems to agree) that questions he asked were soft balls, and that they were made a public document, but he charges that because Greenwald did not examine the non-public aspects of the interview (including the journalist's personal history of skepticism regarding McCain), that the analysis is wrong.  That seems really messed up, to put it bluntly.  CNN hires journalists, pays them to ask questions, and then airs the segment.  But we the viewing public are supposed to consider all of the things in the interview that were not aired before we draw any conclusions.  That just seems to undermine the whole point of airing the interview in the first place.] 

You clearly know very little about journalism. But credibility matters. It is what allows you to cover six presidential campaigns and be viewed as fair and respectful, while perhaps a little cranky, but Democrats and Republicans alike. When I am writing something that calls someone's credibility into question, I pick up the phone and give them a chance to give their side, or perspective. [Another irrelevant ad hominem coupled with an auto-pro-homine: an "I'm awesome and you're jerk."]

That way, even on days that I don't consider my best, or anywhere close, I can look myself in the mirror and know I tried to be fair and didn't call into question someone's credibility just for sport, or because I like seeing my name on a website or my face on TV. [Ah yes.  You're just saying that because–the ad hominem circumstantial.  You don't have reasons for what you say, you just say that to get noticed!]

The truly silly thing about this response is that King never challenges any one of Greenwald's points.  He concedes them in fact,  repeatedly, and from several different angles, but he alleges that Greenwald is a jerk for not knowing that no one is supposed to take King's work seriously.  This reminds me of something Krusty the Clown said when he was running for Congress: when you react like that (to his racist jokes) it means he was kidding.

 

The enemy of my friend

Richard Cohen, "liberal" columnist for the Washington Post, claims that Obama must disagree more with a person with whom he (i.e., Obama) disagrees.  To be more precise, Obama's minister at Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, has praised Louis Farrakhan, violinist and noted anti-Semite.  He hasn't praised him for his anti-semitism.  Actually, he, the minister, hasn't praised him at all:

Barack Obama is a member of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ. Its minister, and Obama's spiritual adviser, is the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. In 1982, the church launched Trumpet Newsmagazine; Wright's daughters serve as publisher and executive editor. Every year, the magazine makes awards in various categories. Last year, it gave the Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Trumpeter Award to a man it said "truly epitomized greatness." That man is Louis Farrakhan.

Got that.  The good Reverend's daughters' magazine has praised Farrakhan with an award named for their father. 

Anyway, so Farrakhan, despite liking Felix Mendelsohn, is an anti-Semite.  This is a silly view, Cohen argues, because many Jews gave their lives in the cause of civil rights for African Americans.  And he supports this with many paragraphs about what an anti-Semite Farrakhan is, how he is like another famous anti-Semite named Hitler, and so forth.  He then brings his argument to a close:

I don't for a moment think that Obama shares Wright's views on Farrakhan. But the rap on Obama is that he is a fog of a man. We know little about him, and, for all my admiration of him, I wonder about his mettle. The New York Times recently reported on Obama's penchant while serving in the Illinois legislature for merely voting "present" when faced with some tough issues. Farrakhan, in a strictly political sense, may be a tough issue for him. This time, though, "present" will not do.

But, as Cohen says elsewhere in the article:

It's important to state right off that nothing in Obama's record suggests he harbors anti-Semitic views or agrees with Wright when it comes to Farrakhan. Instead, as Obama's top campaign aide, David Axelrod, points out, Obama often has said that he and his minister sometimes disagree. Farrakhan, Axelrod told me, is one of those instances.

Take that Obama.  Cohen wonders whether you have the mettle to disagree with someone with whom you disagree.