Cloven Hoof in Mouth Disease, Vol. 2: David Brooks edition
Update: (From a reader: "Cross-posted from Balloon Juice:
You seem to have confused Bobo and the Mustache of Freedom. Although both are Bethesda dwelling middle-class apologistas, it is Friedman’s wife who has the worthless Malls." Yep, I'm on the stupid couch today and no way am I getting up from it. Thanks, Ahab.)
If there's even a tin-plated, second-rate deity up there, he will pluck perennially pink-tied, official GOP meat puppet David fucking Brooks from the face of the earth and deposit him in one of his wife's now-worthless shopping malls whereupon, after a courageous standoff, the zombies will break in, overrun the place and eat what passes for Mr. Brooks' brains.
His latest opus, "Getting Obama Right", is the best ventriloquist trick since his "There Was No Southern Strategy" and "No Racism in Reagan's 1980 Campaign" article of 2007 and TV appearance averring there was no racism in the tea parties. It's a ventriloquist act because while this dummy pretends to be a responsible opinion journalist yammering on and on, the real David Brooks is gargling Koolaid.
In fact, in Mr. Brooks' sunny, Have a Coke and a Shit-Eating Grin world view, there's also no racial inequality, no slavery, no Jim Crow laws and no dark-skinned person was ever lynched. But Brooks' take on Barack Obama, even while trying to paint him as a left-of-center centrist, deserves special praise. He starts out with a Randian question:
Who is Barack Obama?
If you ask a conservative Republican, you are likely to hear that Obama is a skilled politician who campaigned as a centrist but is governing as a big-government liberal. He plays by ruthless, Chicago politics rules. He is arrogant toward foes, condescending toward allies and runs a partisan political machine.
No, Brooksie, no. If you ask a conservative Republican what s/he thinks Barack Obama is, they won't sound so reasonable. They will say,
"That fucking nig... I mean, that fag-loving, Muslim, terrorist-coddling, socialist Nazi? He's trying to kill my grandmother and take over one 6th of our Gross Domestic Product. He's... Oh, fuck it, he's a nigger who was uppity enough to get elected president by 70,000,000 of us! There. It's out. I said it. But don't take what I said out of context."
Surely, Mr. Brooks has his gnarled finger on the liberal pulse of America, correct? Er...
If you ask a liberal Democrat, you are likely to hear that Obama is an inspiring but overly intellectual leader who has trouble making up his mind and fighting for his positions. He has not defined a clear mission. He has allowed the Republicans to dominate debate. He is too quick to compromise and too cerebral to push things through.
No, Republicans think he's "overly intellectual" since Republicans are to erudition and intelligence what badgers are to cobras. Liberals will tell you that Obama's intelligence and articulateness are a refreshing counterpoint and antidote to the flannel-tongued baboon who illegally squatted in the White House and shit for 96 consecutive months on the US Constitution and Bill of Rights, Geneva Convention and any one and everyone who disagreed with him.
Obama set forth his goals and missions very clearly on the campaign trail, especially as regards health care. While he "has allowed the Republicans to dominate the debate... is too quick to compromise", he is certainly not too cerebral, in our opinion, to push the eponymous "things" through.
You’ll notice first that these two viewpoints are diametrically opposed. You’ll, observe, second, that they are entirely predictable. Political partisans always imagine the other side is ruthlessly effective and that the public would be with them if only their side had better messaging. And finally, you’ll notice that both views distort reality. They tell you more about the information cocoons that partisans live in these days than about Obama himself.
I have no idea what are these "information cocoons" that Brooks is talking about here (one thinks of Wilford Brimley and Hume Cronin discovering the fountain of eternal youth in an abandoned swimming pool) but the two viewpoints aren't as narrow as that. The divergence in perceptions about Obama range literally from saint to sinner, or God to the Devil. Yet, even though Brooks tries to play it safe and seeks to find the president, as statistics tell us, somewhere in the middle, he still doesn't find the real Obama.
But to say that Republicans comfortably insulate themselves in actual "information cocoons" is to say that about a political party that is still charging to this day that the President is a lying, Islamic, Kenyan, fist-bumping terrorist who pals with other terrorists and intent on enslaving us in a Nazi-Communist NWO by taking over the entire health care system who's out to murder your grandparents.
"Information cocoons"? Try a hermetically-sealed, 55 gallon oil drum of intellectual toxic waste brought to you courtesy of Rush Limbaugh, Dick Armey, Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement.
The fact is, Obama is as he always has been, a center-left pragmatic reformer. Every time he tries to articulate a grand philosophy — from his book “The Audacity of Hope” to his joint-session health care speech last September — he always describes a moderately activist government restrained by a sense of trade-offs. He always uses the same on-the-one-hand-on-the-other sentence structure. Government should address problems without interfering with the dynamism of the market.
No, a "moderately activist government" is one that would, at the very least, observe the rule of law and to actively investigate and prosecute the most heinous and obviously guilty war criminals in the history of our republic. Obama is no reformer: He only pretended to be a reformer while lying his way from one end of the campaign trail to the other. And, even if he truly bought in to his own reformist zeal, he changed his mind about any real reform PDQ the minute he switched offices on January 20, 2009. A real reformist would insist on at least a public option in the HC bill or, better yet, single payer coverage for all 48,000,000 uninsured Americans.
He has tried to find this balance in a town without an organized center — in a town in which liberals chair the main committees and small-government conservatives lead the opposition. He has tried to do it in a context maximally inhospitable to his aims.
"Liberals chair the main committees"? You mean liberals like Joe Lieberman on the Homeland Security Committee? Like Max Baucus on the Finance Committee? Like David Obey on the House Appropriations Committee? Like Blanche Lincoln on the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee? Like Dianne Feinstein on the Select Committee on Intelligence?
And I'd really, really appreciate it if Brooks could tell me who these "small government conservatives" are. Screaming about earmarks that you then gratefully accept at ribbon-cutting ceremonies in your districts and states does not, to me, constitute a "small government conservative."
But he has done it with tremendous tenacity. Readers of this column know that I’ve been critical on health care and other matters. Obama is four clicks to my left on most issues. He is inadequate on the greatest moral challenge of our day: the $9.7 trillion in new debt being created this decade. He has misread the country, imagining a hunger for federal activism that doesn’t exist. But he is still the most realistic and reasonable major player in Washington.
The $9.7 trillion in new debt was racked up in this decade by the previous administration (See "baboon, flannel tongued"). If not completely erasing the most massive national debt in the history of the planet earth in 13 months makes Obama "inadequate" (making one think, perhaps, of Harriet Christian's description of Obama as "an inadequate black man"), then what does that say about the man who was mainly responsible for amassing that debt?
And how is being unable to wave away the national debt in any way "a moral challenge"? While it's true that Obama has forced us to increase the debt ceiling to over $13 trillion, much of that money has gone toward health care reform and an ARRA stimulus bill that has, thus far, produced at least 1.6 million new jobs, he didn't rack up that debt by picking two fights with countries that had nothing to do with 9/11 or to bloat war profiteers. Because that would be, well, immoral, not to mention illegal.
Health care reform on behalf of all Americans is the defining moral challenge facing the Obama administration.
Liberals are wrong to call him weak and indecisive. He’s just not always pursuing their aims. Conservatives are wrong to call him a big-government liberal. That’s just not a fair reading of his agenda.
We call him indecisive, yes, but not weak, except when faced with controversy blustered up and blown across the country by the convection ovens of the Republican noise machine. Then it's, Let the Bodies Hit the Tarmac and the Rubber of the Bus's Tires.
Take health care. He has pushed a program that expands coverage, creates exchanges and moderately tinkers with the status quo — too moderately to restrain costs. To call this an orthodox liberal plan is an absurdity. It more closely resembles the center-left deals cut by Tom Daschle and Bob Dole, or Ted Kennedy and Mitt Romney. Obama has pushed this program with a tenacity unmatched in modern political history; with more tenacity than Bill Clinton pushed his health care plan or George W. Bush pushed Social Security reform.
Obama had only begun aggressively pushing health care reform when he saw that Republican stall tactics and Democratic infighting were threatening his party's prospects in the 2010 midterms. If there's no health care bill in place long before November, Obama knows the Democrats are toast for the simple reason that they will have had the majority in Congress for 4 years. This is the real reason why Republicans want the Democrats to scrap all the work they've done on it and start over so they can then say this summer and fall, "See? The Democrat Party's been in charge all these years and they still haven't done shit!"
But, prior to that finally becoming obvious to the president, Obama serenely and Saturninely took the high road and contributed little to the debate aside from a few health care town halls.
Take education. Obama has taken on a Democratic constituency, the teachers’ unions, with a courage not seen since George W. Bush took on the anti-immigration forces in his own party. In a remarkable speech on March 1, he went straight at the guardians of the status quo by calling for the removal of failing teachers in failing schools. Obama has been the most determined education reformer in the modern presidency.
OK, Dave, remind me when George W. Bush courageously took on the Minutemen and other other anti-immigration wackos? Because I seem to recall his own immigration reform bill that sought to placate both sides. I also remember this:
...and thinking, he wouldn't be accepting a ride from the border patrol in their little jeeps if he was there to spew lib'ral propaganda about immigration reform.
Take foreign policy. To the consternation of many on the left, Obama has continued about 80 percent of the policies of the second Bush term. Obama conducted a long review of the Afghan policy and was genuinely moved by the evidence.
OK, no disagreement there. Stopped clocks and all that.
He has emerged as a liberal hawk, pursuing victory in Iraq and adopting an Afghan surge that has already utterly transformed the momentum in that war. The Taliban is now in retreat and its leaders are being assassinated or captured at a steady rate.
OK, no problem there, ei.... whaaaaa? "Liberal hawk" for escalating a needless and unwinnable war? And what the hell is a liberal hawk? A liberal hawk wouldn't unapologetically slaughter hundreds in drone strikes all over the Middle East and central Asia. Obama, Brooksie, is no "liberal hawk." He's just as militaristic as George W. Bush. The only difference is, he's better at it.
Take finance. Obama and Tim Geithner are vilified on the left as craven to Wall Street and on the right as clueless bureaucrats who know nothing about how markets function. But they have tried with halting success to find a center-left set of restraints to provide some stability to market operations.
See above. Conservative Republicans will be the first to tell you that Obama is a pro-corporate, socialist agent of evil dead set on taking over all of Wall Street in a governmental, tentacular rape, sort of like anime on steroids.
A center left Obama never would've let Tim Geithner fill Treasury with former alumni of Goldman Sachs. A center left Obama never would've let Tim Geithner take over Treasury, in fact. A center left Obama also never would've brought the likes of Larry Summers and Robert Rubin back into the warm, back-rubbing embrace within the halls of power.
In a sensible country, people would see Obama as a president trying to define a modern brand of moderate progressivism. In a sensible country, Obama would be able to clearly define this project without fear of offending the people he needs to get legislation passed. But we don’t live in that country. We live in a country in which many people live in information cocoons in which they only talk to members of their own party and read blogs of their own sect. They come away with perceptions fundamentally at odds with reality, fundamentally misunderstanding the man in the Oval Office.
In a sensible country, people would see you as every bit an incompetent prognosticator as William Kristol, Dick Morris and the abovementioned Robert Rubin. Perhaps conservatives like Dick Cheney are only comfortable being spoon-fed lies by their own kind but we liberals look at both sides of an issue no matter how much the Stoopid burns and hurts.
In your own information cocoon, Mr. Brooks, you have painted a portrait of a Barack Obama that is largely if not entirely fictitious and, in the end, completely misreading the entire American public, conservatives and liberals alike. You have misread every step this administration has taken for ill or good as consistently as you've misread the problem of historical and latter-day racism in America, the racism that, on the far right, still colors their perceptions of the colored guy in the Oval Office.