WHAT IS ROGER COHEN TALKING ABOUT?…. In October 2007, Roger Cohen had an entire New York Times column arguing that neocons have gotten a bad rap, and aren’t nearly as ridiculous as we make them out to be. It was one of the more peculiar things Cohen had ever published.

Today’s column is, however, worse.

Cohen argues, “After the excesses of Reagan-inspired deregulation and the disaster that unfettered markets have delivered, the pendulum had to swing.” Indeed, he’s pleased to see President Obama’s economic agenda, and believes the president’s policies are a “necessity” under the circumstances.

So what’s the problem? Cohen thinks it’s all too French.

[T]he $3.6 trillion Obama budget made me a little queasy. There is a touch of France in its “etatisme” — the state as all-embracing solution rather than problem — and there’s more than a touch of France in the bash-the-rich righteousness with which the new president cast his plans as “a threat to the status quo in Washington.”

Of course, the budget proposal represents a maximalist position that Congress will claw back. Obama knows that. Still there was something breathtaking about the scope of the president’s targets and ambitions. For everyone from the oil and gas industry to drug companies, the message was clear: Off with their heads!

I’d thought of Obama as less Robespierre than Talleyrand. I still think he’s more bridge-building centrist than revolutionary. He needs to be. […]

The Republicans under Bush destroyed the American economy and what America stood for in the world. But that does not change the fact that Obama, in his restorative counter-revolution, must be careful to steer clear of his French temptation.

I read the column a few times, trying to figure out what it is, specifically, that Cohen finds troubling about the White House agenda. He never says. He agrees with Obama on all of the key agenda items, but is uncomfortable, because of something to do with France.

Kevin Drum concluded, “Is there something about having a New York Times column that makes you lose your mind? Obama wants to push taxes on the super wealthy back up to 2001 levels. He wants to move in the direction of carbon pricing and universal healthcare, just like he promised repeatedly during the campaign. He wants to increase defense spending, but increase it slightly less than the Pentagon would like. Stimulus outlays aside, the budget as a whole is up only moderately compared to two years ago. If you object to this, fine. But Cohen doesn’t.”

I have a hard time understanding why the column was even published in the first place.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.