I often agree with Richard Cohen, but his Oct. 4 defense of William Bennett is remarkably obtuse. He falsely states that the theory described by Bennett posited that the fewer blacks born, the lower the crime rate. The theory, as set out by author Steven D. Levitt in "Freakonomics," concerned the abortion of the potential offspring of poor, single mothers without the skills or resources to raise them well. Poverty and lack of parental attention, not race, were cited as often leading to criminal behavior.

By contrast, Bennett's statement, which Cohen fails to quote, was: "I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down." Bennett's fault was to categorize by race and race alone.

Although Bennett went on to say that aborting all black babies would be a reprehensible thing to do, the automatic attribution of crime to race rather than other causes is reminiscent of former Republican candidate David Duke, who wrote: "Any forensic investigator can differentiate between a White or Black brain. Among the human races the differences go right down to the soul."

Bennett deserves all the opprobrium he is getting, and Cohen should think before defending such racist drivel.

-- Ralph Martin

Washington

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Eugene Robinson [op-ed, Oct. 4] is too kind to William Bennett.

If Bennett had been Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, and had said, "If you wanted to reduce racism against blacks, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every white baby in this country, and your rate of racist incidents would go down" -- adding, "but that would be impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible" -- would most white people accept that Farrakhan was only engaged in a harmless thought experiment and not really expressing his true feelings, even as he sought to cover them up?

The late columnist Drew Pearson is said to have invented the art of publicizing a rhetorical smear by using a dependent phrase either denying or apologizing for raising an embarrassing scandal in the independent clause of a sentence. Pearson's intent was to disseminate a scandal while denying that his intention was to smear his subject. Whether Bennett was attempting to circulate a racist point by pretending to dismiss it, as an example of a logical fallacy in the abortion debate, it still is a legitimate concern.

-- Carl Senna

Saint John, New Brunswick