Paul Greenberg

You may have heard Juan Williams' voice on NPR. He visited Little Rock the other day to open a conference of historians commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Little Rock Crisis in 1957, a milestone in the history of the American civil rights movement, and I knew I'd have to hear him.

Not because I'm a big fan of NPR's news and opinion, which are fairly indistinguishable. (I know it's old-fashioned, the separation of news and opinion, but I like my editorials clearly labeled as such.) I usually tune in only to find out what today's party line is. It doesn't take long, then I switch to the classical musical station. If I'm lucky, I'll catch some Mozart.

So one morning I'm listening to - steel yourself - "The Diane Rehm Show." Her guest that morning was Juan Williams, and unlike many of her visitors who talk politics, he was making perfect sense. Shocking. I had to keep myself from running off the road in surprise.

Mr. Williams' book and message was summed up in its all-inclusive title: "Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America - And What We Can Do About It."

Goodness. Polite, well-bred, moderate-to-a-fault Juan Williams is so perfect an NPR type he could be a Daniel Schorr in the making, forever able to deliver an orthodox liberal riff no matter what the news. But today he sounded mad as hell. What had happened?

All the race hustlers who've usurped the leadership of the civil rights movement (which stopped moving years ago) had finally gotten to our author. Mild-mannered Mr. Williams was taking off the gloves. Clark Kent had turned into Superman. It was exhilarating.

Whom did he bring to mind? His style was different, but his message was much the same as that of Bill Cosby, the comedian who has a knack for saying serious things.

Not too long ago Mr. Cosby outraged an NAACP convention that he was only supposed to entertain. Instead, he took note of the sad state of black America, which isn't exactly news. But then he went on to commit heresy. He pointed out that today's racial problems were only made worse by the same old panaceas offered by the same old outfits like the NAACP - more grievance-collecting, more racial preferences, more blame games and less self-reliance the whole, less than self-respecting racket.

And now Juan Williams was preaching from the same text, if in his own well-modulated voice. He sounded like a Bill Cosby for the carriage trade. Talk about a driveway moment. I had to stop and listen to the whole thing. It was even better than Bach.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.