Saturday, October 22, 2011

New Chapter for "Profiles in Courage"

Eric Cantor is a rising Washington star, as JFK was when he published his 1955 best seller about political fortitude. But sadly Cantor doesn’t have a stylish collaborator like Ted Sorensen, and his turgid essay on American success was scheduled for more turbulent times, producing a chapter to qualify for “Profiles in Caution.”

At the Wharton School of Business yesterday, the House Majority Leader was to enlighten future tycoons about income inequality when his staff made the discovery that the lecture would be open to the public, which could include a few Wall Street protesters.

Cantor was a no-show.

The Wharton students missed his family story: “My grandmother and her family fled religious persecution to come here at the turn of the last century...

“But our country isn’t like that. America offered opportunity. My grandmother eventually made her home in a working class section of my hometown of Richmond. As you can imagine, in the early 20th century, the South wasn’t often the most accepting place for a young Jewish woman. Widowed by age 30, she raised my father and uncle in a tight apartment above a tiny grocery store...She worked day and night and sacrificed tremendously...

“All she wanted was a chance--a fair shot at making a better life for her two sons. And if she were still alive today, I know she would be blown away to know that her grandson is not only a Member of the U.S. Congress, but now the Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives.”

An inspiring, albeit familiar American story, from which Cantor draws an odd lesson about a generation that produced scientists, scholars, Supreme Court justices, statesmen and philanthropists who gave back so much to their country.

His father made a ton of money in real estate, and now Cantor is protecting his version of the American dream by sabotaging even tiny tax increases for billionaires that might ease the pain of the poor and helpless while backing Tea Party proposals that, according to economists, "“would quickly destroy millions of jobs while creating enormous economic and social upheaval.”

“There are politicians and others who want to demonize people that have earned success in certain sectors of our society,” Cantor’s screed says.

“They claim that these people have now made enough, and haven’t paid their fair share. But, pitting Americans against one another tends to deflate the aspirational spirit of our people and fade the American dream.”

Profiles in Cowardice? JFK would have wept.

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