Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Money Quote: Herenton, Cohen, and the A-Word

Posted By on Thu, Jul 2, 2009 at 3:55 PM

73f7/1246595479-whhead.jpgIn an earlier post today, I pointed out that outgoing and outspoken Mayor Willie Herenton delivered himself of some earthy remarks about one of his longtime political antagonists, former congressman Harold Ford Sr. And I appended three sound files from the interview recording to illustrate the point.

But by far the most compelling single sound bite (among many contenders!) that occurred in that two-hour conversation with the mayor on Monday afternoon concerned his estimate of 9th District congressman Steve Cohen, the man Herenton supported for Congress in 2006 but the man whom he has targeted as an opponent in 2010.

The quote. The money quote, if you will: "I've known Cohen for over 30 years, and, to be honest with you, he's an asshole. Anybody that knows Cohen knows he's an asshole."

Hear it for yourself (the whole file breaks in the middle; play the two parts consecutively):


As I have explained over and over to colleagues in the media, I have almost 20 years' worth of experience interviewing Willie Herenton, and, quite literally, nothing he says will totally shock me. Whether by design or by compulsion, he will always have something stunning and absolutely unexpected to say. I rather imagine this has something to do with his personal history as a gifted pugilist, who left the ring undefeated in order to pursue an academic career that led, through some twists and turns, to where he is today.

It's still there inside, the fighter who lives to jab, shuffle, dance, and finally throw a haymaker out of nowhere. It's a persona that is moved to create a fight where this is none — as Mayor Herenton did on the First of January, 2004, when, just after being sworn in a for a fourth term, at the end of an easy reelection campaign and at the height of his political fortunes, he basically declared war on his city council and invited turmoil that has been with him ever since.

It's not that he has a sadistic urge to injure an opponent. It's just that inflicting pain is the only way a fighter can truly measure his accomplishments. The corollary is that you have to take some punches in order to give some, and the mayor - the soon-to-be-ex-mayor — knows that, too.

That's how I see it, anyhow. Flyer editor Bruce VanWyngarden sees it somewhat differently — and somewhat the same. As they say these days: It is what it is.

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