Every so often, maybe 30% of the time, the usually astute David Brooks lets his Republican heart take control of his column, and his analytic rigor goes south. “Congress In the Lead” (New York Times, July 26, 2011) represents one of these lapses.
Let me first state that there are a few places in this Op-Ed piece where Brooks gets it right. One is connecting Obama’s Friday appearance before the public with “bringing Congress together.” But since Boehner had, once more, walked out on discussions, the onus should be placed on him and Republicans’ continued recalcitrance, not on the President’s Friday appearance, which is what Brooks does.Then Brooks states that “the White House negotiating process was inadequate:” no argument here. Obama tends to make concessions before ever starting the actual negotiations; that’s not merely inadequate, it’s naive and counterproductive. So he and I can agree on this, but for rather different reasons, I suspect.
I also would agree with Brooks’ observation that “Obama won’t get his centrist election boost.” Again, we concur for different reasons. As I see it, Obama may not get a centrist boost because he already has positioned himself far right of center. Many centrists may well be praying for a viable third party candidate, and so deny him of that boost.
But then, we come to David Brooks’ dark, Republican heart, taking over the discourse much like the way Dr. Strangelove’s arm would uncontrollably give him away by snapping into a Nazi salute in Kubrick’s film.
For example, Brooks, referring to Obama’s Friday appearance, states that “the president lost his cool.” Most of America is anxiously waiting for Obama to lose his cool; alas, that seems not to be in his nature. If it were, Congressional Republicans by now (or maybe even a year ago) might have been chastised into some form of sane behavior, and we wouldn’t be at today’s impasse.Second, he implies the breakdown in talks is partly due to Obama and Boehner not writing down and releasing their “negotiating positions.” Is he joking? Given the Tea Party “tail” wagging the Republican “dog,” had Obama written down anything (and one aspect would certainly have had to be at least some consideration of tax/revenue issues) Boehner would never had stepped through the portal to begin negotiations.
Thirdly, Brooks blames the President for projecting “‘I’m the only mature person in Washington’ condescension that drives everybody else crazy.” You know something, David? Obama may well be the only mature person in Washington, at least among anyone who is being given any public coverage at the moment.
Furthermore, when people feel condescended to, it often is because they are behaving immaturely and they are aware of this. Therefore, they–and I include you in this–are the ones projecting. Obama is merely being Obama; remember “no-drama-Obama?” Republican Congress is simply scrambling to find the high ground that they frittered away two years ago.Finally, Brooks conveniently leaves out a crucial issue that must be addressed (and he is far from alone in this omission). That issue is jobs–the need for some sort of jobs program–which is much more important than the debt ceiling issue.
But all Brooks can talk about is “the country’s awful debt problems.” If you want to talk debt, David, please be honest enough to remind your readers that President Clinton left our country with a $5-trillion surplus, which was quickly squandered by President Bush (maybe the worst president our country has ever had).
Please, also, remind your readers that Republicans in Congress voted to raise the debt ceiling seven (7) times under president Bush. Armed with these facts, your readers might really begin to question your wording–“the country’s awful debt problem”–and the tacit implication that this is a problem caused by Obama and Democrats.
And finally, near the end of his article, Brooks refers to “the next debt ceiling fight,” which suggests that he has embraced the new “Boehner” plan (which leaves open such insanity to our immediate future) over the “Reed” plan (which actually gives the Republicans more than they ever could have dreamed of a year ago but also resolves the debt ceiling issue once-and-for-all).
I find it hard to believe that someone of Brooks’ intellect can actually embrace the possibility of retaining this “blackmail” card of another debt-ceiling fight that the Republicans have already played with such insidious irresponsibility. But then, one never knows when that black heart of his will take over from his otherwise powerful mind.