I’ve had occasion to remark here and elsewhere before that the Washington Post’s left-leaning columnist Richard Cohen often goes off the reservation, especially about Obama. Tuesday’s Cohen op-ed column is a bit of a puzzler, though. It’s a meditation, prompted by Mad Men winning another Emmy for best drama, about the agony of the middle class. But does this passage make any sense at all:
The dream of Americans, as opposed to the mythical American Dream, was not to succeed by working hard but to get lucky or be born rich. As a nation, we were both. We were rich in timber and oil, fertile land and rivers that ran the right way. We took in immigrants by the millions, each one a human piggy bank filled in the Old World, emptied in the new.
I rather thought the narrative was penniless immigrants, arriving with little more than the shirt on their back, and getting ahead by dint of hard work. I get it that the European immigrants were “human piggy banks” in the sense of human capital with potential, but that potential wasn’t “filled in the Old World,” it was filled here. Looks to me like a column filed late and in a hurry that no editor had time to work through. And do most Americans actually dream of getting ahead through being born rich? Why did he leave out the lottery?
Still, at the end of a long lament about our increasing dysfunctions, there’s this sentence: “And at the top of this heap is a president who hasn’t a clue as to how to be president.”