I want to have a nationally syndicated column out of the Washington Post and be able to dash off column in no more time than it takes to type it up. I want to get paid to a write a column that's built entirely around flimsy straw men. I want to coast like Richard Cohen! (And Maureen Dowd.)
I realize that with The Village of pundit elites, there's an unspoken rule that once pundits reach a certain plateau that they cannot be yanked off opinion pages no matter what they're producing. I realize it's considered to be in bad taste to highlight how once insightful writers are now mailing it in. But if I edited the WashPost opinion pages I wouldn't keep publishing somebody just because they had something interesting to say 14 or 15 years ago. But that's just me.
Luckily for Cohen however, the Post publishes whatever he types up and this week it was about Obama's Nobel Peace prize. The column idea itself was cribbed from Cohen's wife, it made no sense, and yes, it was constructed around an obvious straw man.
From the column [emphasis added]:
The European view that Obama is some sort of accidental president, that he does not really and truly represent the essence of America, is a bit disturbing as well as insulting.
The nut of Cohen's column is simply manufactured. Where is the evidence (since Cohen, of course, offers up none himself) that Europeans consider Obama's landslide election victory to be “accidental”? Americans have been electing Democratic president, on and off, for more than a century now. Of course, Obama's the first African-American president, but is Cohen really suggesting that Obama won the Nobel Peace prize simply because he's black? It certainly seems reads that way to me:
I think a bit of it is a greater fixation on Obama's race than you will find here and, concurrently, a misguided belief that Obama's race makes him less of an American in America than a white person would be. Europeans have always had a good time with American racism, finding it very comforting in its confirmation of our essential boorishness. In this sense, the Nobel was meant to encourage us in our new, admirable path -- keep it up, Yanks. Thanks, Olaf.
In his column, Cohen makes the central claim that Europe and the entire international community is cheering Obama because he's not like Bush, and that explains the Nobel Prize. Ah, but what about the recent Olympic snub, where Obama's Chicago pitch was roundly rejected by an international body?
Here's Cohen's spin:
In my estimation, the distance Obama put between himself and what came before him encouraged the International Olympic Committee not to see him as the president of the United States and thus, as with some supplicating mayor, dismiss his entreaty. At that moment, he was the president of Chicago, commander in chief of Cook County, and not the entire United States. A lesson learned, I hope.
If anyone can figure out what Cohen means in the above paragraph, please spell it out in the comments below. But I still stand in awe because I want to coast like Richard Cohen.