Friday, November 2, 2012

David Brooks Is Disappointed

David Brooks bows to the inevitable and says that Barack Obama hasn’t been all that bad as a president.

In office, he has generally behaved with integrity and in a way befitting a man with his admirable character. Sure, he has sometimes stooped to the cynical maneuver. Contemptuous of his opponents, he has given himself permission to do the nasty and negative thing. But politics is a rough business and nobody comes out unsullied.

In moral terms, he hasn’t let us down. If he’s re-elected, his administration would probably remain scandal-free. Given the history of second terms, that is no small thing.

Moreover, Obama has been a prudent leader. He’s made no rash or disastrous decisions. He’s never acted out of some impetuous passion. His policies toward, say, China, Europe and Iran have had a sense of sober balance. If re-elected, he would probably commit no major blunders, which also is no small thing.

But he’s disappointed that Mr. Obama didn’t live up to the inspiring words of his inauguration, and then he gets around to his concern trolling, which you knew was coming all along.

If Obama had governed in a way truer to his inauguration, he would have used this winter of recuperation to address the country’s structural weaknesses. He would have said: Look, we’re not going to have booming growth soon, but we will use this period to lay the groundwork for a generation of prosperity — with plans to reform the tax code, get our long-term entitlement burdens under control, get our political system working, shift government resources from the affluent elderly to struggling young families and future growth.

When people say they wish Obama had embraced the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction plan, they don’t mean the specific details of that proposal. They mean the largeness that Obama’s inauguration promised and the Simpson-Bowles moment afforded. They mean confronting the hard choices, instead of promising more bounty for everyone with no sacrifice ever.

Given the fact that Mr. Obama had to govern against an entire political party that was united in defeating everything he did starting on the night after his inauguration, it’s amazing that he got anything done at all.  Mr. Brooks acknowledges that, but still says he could have done better.

Sure, House Republicans have been intransigent, but Obama could have isolated them, building a governing center-left majority with an unorthodox agenda. Instead he’s comforted the Democratic base and disappointed sympathizers who are not in it.

That’s like saying to the crew of Apollo 13, “Oh, you’re not going to let a little glitch keep you from landing on the moon, are you?  C’mon, where’s your courage, your sense of adventure?  You’re letting America down!”

At least he acknowledges that the president has had it rough: “No one is fair to President Obama. People grade him against tougher standards than any other politician.”  Oh, really?  Why is that, d’you s’pose?

No president lives up to the hope and rhetoric of their inaugural address, and anyone who believes they should probably believes that using the right kind of toothpaste will get you laid.  For someone who has been around as long as he has — and gets paid by the New York Times — Mr. Brooks is showing a naivete that is both breathtaking and but not surprising at all.

He ends it all with a tepid hope that somehow Mr. Obama in his second term will be “free of politics.”  Because that always happens in a second term, according to no one.

2 barks and woofs on “David Brooks Is Disappointed

  1. If Obama had governed in a way truer to his inauguration…

    Exactly how would that have been done? BHO assured the US of measures to counteract the tailspin the US economy was in from the Great Recession, of willingness to reach across the aisle, of completing the foreign [mis]adventures of the prior years. In return, the GOTea gave him obstruction and criticism for the stimulus (as too big, IIRC) and blockage of most of his fiscal responsibility efforts (Dodd/Frank, anyone? how about Warren and the CIFA?), his extended hand slapped firmly back (“one-term President” ring a bell, Mr. McConnell?), and loud complaints about how the US hadn’t scorched the earth in Iraq and Afghanistan like it was supposed to do with all the troops and munitions that had to be brought home now. The US Congress has experience the most filibustering, the fewest approvals of appointments to public office, the least progress on any legislation whatsoever – and the stumbling block has every time been a political party bent on an all-or-nothing approach to governing for whom “bipartisanship” translates to “do it our way or the nation gets it.”

    OF COURSE BHO hasn’t lived up to the expectations of the centrists who wanted government by consensus and rational progress. He’s been blocked at every turn by a party whose unwillingness to accept that voters wouldn’t want more of the irresponsible, incompetent, domestically damaging and globally naive misgovernance they’d provided in the prior [mal]administration (coupled with no small amount of resentment over being led by a ni-CLANG with a funny name) has led them to repudiate even policies they wholeheartedly supported only days before BHO’s inauguration (cap and trade, healthcare insurance exchanges, even the concepts underlying Simpson-Bowles). There’s a real argument to be made that GWB is being sidelined by the party, not for incompetence and naivete, nor even for falling into the Big Gubmint trap, but for being insufficiently fascist – and that the GOTea of 2010-12 is no more interested in agreeing with the WH on anything than they are in promoting Baal.

    David Brooks needs to go look up “loyal opposition” and compare that concept with the misbehavior of the GOTea. Until then all his handwringing about how Democratic Presidents have spinal columns and don’t cave to the GOTea the way he thinks they’re supposed to isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on or the pixels it’s displayed with.

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