Tuesday, February 12

David Brooks Has Seen The Future, And, Believe It Or Not, It Looks A Lot Like David Brooks.

David Brooks, "When Reality Bites." February 12

IF the 60 Minutes interviews with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton did little to combat the depression of some internet crank, now approaching clinical, over the choice of Democratic candidates, there's always tomorrow, and always another David Brooks column designed to remind us that being hopefully delusional, on purpose, is a lot worse.

Okay, so it's well past time the Times recognize the guy is simply out of ideas, and cashier him along with MoDo. Or bundle 'em with Frank Rich and send 'em all to the Arts section. Kalefa Sanneh could use the help.  Beats don't review themselves.  

Brooks' column today will be familiar to anyone whose parents ever pulled the Wait'll You Have Kids Of Your Own routine, and it's bound to be equally effective, meaning if you're nine or under you'll ignore it, and if you're older you'll probably have mastered elementary logic:
There’s a big difference between the Republican and Democratic campaigns: The Republicans have split on policy grounds; the Democrats haven’t. There’s been a Republican divide between center and right, yet no Democratic divide between center and left.

Let's pause here a moment to note that, as so often in our current traffic jam of discourse, so-called pundits seem immune to understanding that what they used to get away with--offering expert testimony on the interior decoration of their own skulls--is now so common that there are literally dozens of web sites which do the same thing. And so if the Republican "divide" between "center" and right sounds to you more like an insanity defense--My client, Your Honor, was obsessed with the distinction between the Republican "right" and "center"! I ask you.--than an approximate description of the GOP nominating process to this point, well, let's just move along and not make eye contract. Ditto, of course, for the "policy divide" which has the Annointee Apparent raking in the votes of Immigrant-Loving Republicans Opposed To Tax Cuts, as opposed to, say, his being the beneficiary of  the collapse of that inexplicable set of candidates which featured a megalomanic Mayor, a former "moderate Republican" one-term Governor who had  every wingnut policy position surgically implanted just before setting off to see how much of his own money he could waste in a year--$38 million, it turns out--which made him the choice of "conservative" Republicans right up until the voting began, that lazy Warner Brothers cartoon dog, who entered the race because there weren't any real conservatives in it, the heir apparent to Brownbackmania, a guy who is either a gibbering libertarian from Texas or Professor Irwin Corey, and, as the Gilligan's Island theme song used to put it, the Rest. If there was somebody among them running to "the center" he must have been in the back. Honest John McCain, who may be described as "moderate" in the same sense as the drinking habits of someone who drinks every morning but quits once he's drunk, has been especially notable for his offers to fellate the fringiest of the wingnuts placate the Base by any means short of selling out his immigrant-labor-lovin' contributors, though, admittedly, while Romney was still in the race every other panderer looked like a piker.
But when you think about it, the Democratic policy unity is a mirage. If the Democrats actually win the White House, the tensions would resurface with a vengeance.

And when you don't think about it, it isn't.  And if anyone's found a cat, please call Professor Schrödinger.  Or don't.  Unless it's dead, in which case you've already called.  I wouldn't bring this up, but Brooks seems to get away with at least one every column.
The first big rift would involve Iraq. Both Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have seductively hinted that they would withdraw almost all U.S. troops within 12 to 16 months. But if either of them actually did that, he or she would instantly make Iraq the consuming partisan fight of their presidency.

Unless the really big fight was over whether pronouns should agree with their antecedents. Sez you! Look, nobody's going anywhere in a hurry, regardless of campaign rhetoric. But it's not 2004, and no Democrat is going to get hung out to dry by whatever happens in Iraq. Your side fumbled, Brooks. The game's over. We don't have the manpower or the money to stay, and there's no payoff beyond pulling what's left of you Bushites' chestnuts out of the fire, which went out long ago, sometime after they were reduced to ash.  No one cares.  What ever makes the problem go away and stop interrupting The New American Gladiators will be just fine.
There would be private but powerful opposition from Arab leaders, who would fear a return to 2006 chaos. There would be irate opposition from important sections of the military, who would feel that the U.S. was squandering the gains of the previous year. A Democratic president with few military credentials would confront outraged and highly photogenic colonels screaming betrayal.

Uh, the Arab leaders who play ball with us do so because they're on the payroll, or because they depend on us to keep their chestnuts at body temperature. As for the military, if you actually bothered to look once in a while you might note that enthusiasm for the Mission is not exactly universal, their sway over public opinion has suffered a few minor setbacks in recent years, particularly when it comes to Iraq, and any highly photogenic colonel who'd like to volunteer to be cashiered will find his fifteen minutes go by in about five (particularly, I'd think, with President Clinton II, who'd love the opportunity to show that civilians were back in charge of the military, pantsuit or no). I know, Dave, I know: the fantasy of Democratic Unilateral Disarmament of the US military is a tough one to give up. You people should have thought about that while you were fucking up everything you touched. Not like no one tried to tell ya.
There would be important criticism from nonpartisan military experts. In his latest report, the much-cited Anthony Cordesman describes an improving Iraqi security situation that still requires “strategic patience” and another five years to become self-sustaining.

Some will say, "It's a shame Anthony Cordesman isn't running for President"; but I say, "It's just too bad he isn't willing to pay for the next five years out of his own pocket".
All dreams of changing the tone in Washington would be gone. All of Obama’s unity hopes would evaporate. And if the situation did deteriorate after a quick withdrawal, as the National Intelligence Estimate warns, the bloodshed would be on the new president’s head.

Look, I agree with you: "unity" requires placating all the same morons who've been flogging the war all along, and y'all will be raising a stink no matter what's done. But that isn't the "unity" of Senator Obama, not once he's President Obama; if ay, his will be the "unity" of y'all shutting the fuck up now that your chance is over.

I don't believe the man is a so-called Progressive in centrist skin; I think he's a centrist. I don't like the post-partisan leg pull, and I don't think he or anyone else can govern that way. But I do think that if he's elected such attacks will fail until and unless he takes a major stumble. Much of the argument about his "electability" is facile, but nonetheless true: unless he has the shit knocked out of him during the campaign he'll have an exceptional honeymoon period, and an opportunity to shape the Iraq war in the direction it is naturally headed--we don't have the manpower to stay, but we cannot simply abandon our little adventure without risking even more American lives--and the direction everyone in Washington knows it must. Surge talk is for rubes, Dave.
The left wing of the party would go into immediate uproar. They’d scream: This was a central issue of the campaign! All the troops must get out now!

The Left is already beaten, Dave. The Left has no candidate. There are people on the left who, come Spring, 2010, will be finding ways of explaining why our Iraq policy has reverted to Spring, 2008. That's their problem. Democrats have a long history of this sort of thing. For Senator Clinton, hawkishness is already built into the equation. But maybe Ted Kennedy could run against her in 2012.
The president would have to make a terrible decision.

He or she already does, and it's going to be governed by the facts on the ground: no precipitous withdrawal, no manpower for a 1000 year war. This is a straightforward thing to explain to a public which doesn't want to be there anymore anyway. I'm not sure why you Republican toadies still believe your own croaking about this, but it's over, Dave. Been over for more than three years now.
Which brings us to second looming Democratic divide: domestic spending. Both campaigns now promise fiscal discipline, as well as ambitious new programs. These kinds of have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too vows were merely laughable last year when the federal deficit was running at a manageable $163 billion a year. But the economic slowdown, the hangover from the Bush years and the growing bite of entitlements mean that the federal deficit will almost certainly top $400 billion by 2009. The accumulated national debt will be in shouting distance of the $10 trillion mark. With that much red ink, the primary-season spending plans are simply ridiculous.

First, this has been a rallying cry in every national election I've been a part of, but rarely, if ever, when the party which had wrecked the Treasury could be so clearly defined. But mostly I just wanted to quote a national spokesman for Banko-Americans and charter member of the Reagan Kidz Club calling $163 billion deficits "manageable".


Christopher said...

"There would be important criticism from nonpartisan military experts. In his latest report, the much-cited Anthony Cordesman describes an improving Iraqi security situation that still requires “strategic patience” and another five years to become self-sustaining."

Okay, what the Christ?!

Three or Four years ago, anybody who said we'd be fighting in Iraq for ten fucking years was ridiculed as a paranoid loony.

Now, suddenly, we're supposed to see it as a perfectly reasonable amount of time?

It utterly amazes me how much effort is being made to make us forget what the beginning of the Iraq war was like.

The fact that we were assured that it wouldn't become an endless quagmire? Down the memory hole.

The fact that the President told us we had to invade to stop Iraq from using weapons of mass destruction? That's gone too.

We still talk about winning or losing this war, even though we've utterly demolished Iraq's ability to even think about convening a committee to look into the possibility of researching methods to make weapons of mass destruction sometime in the next 20 years.

We have achieved what we were told was our primary objective, and we have achieved it as thoroughly as it could have been achieved.

And yet somehow that doesn't mean we've won.

Another thing, Bush says that history will judge him kindly. Uh, no it won't. Even if Iraq does turn into some democratic paradise, Bush still used bad intelligence to get us into a war he wasn't at all prepared for.

He's an asshole no matter how Iraq turns out.

But we're not supposed to remember that.

And who the fuck pays somebody to write an article about how doing something most Americans really want done is a risky partisan decision that no sane President would make?

What the hell is wrong with this country?

Mo MoDo said...

Since Dowd took the weekend off, I focused my sights on the rest of the NYT stable. My synopsis of the Brooks column was:

Dubya has so screwed up Iraq and the economy, there is no way the Democrats can fix it, so you might as well just stay the course.

D. Sidhe said...

But that isn't the "unity" of Senator Obama, not once he's President Obama; if ay, his will be the "unity" of y'all shutting the fuck up now that your chance is over.

Here's hoping. As part of the left with no candidate, I have that pessimistic dread we're gonna end up with more of the Working Together To Get Nowhere crap, but man, what I wouldn't give...

Veritas78 said...

Obama is more liberal than we think. His remarkable political sense has him on the opposite trajectory from the old political trope: he's starting at the center in the primaries, and he will run to the left in the general. I sincerely mean this, although I could be sincerely wrong.

bidziliba said...

Yeah, right, let's discuss the divide between the center and right in the GOP. Brooks may actually believe McCain's a centrist, but more likely it's just the usual plutocratic schtick. I still remember where the goalposts were before Reagan's minions fueled by huffing Jesse Helm's aftershave, ran riot, bodily ripped them out of the ground and planted them on the out of bounds marker. I've got news for Brooks, neither of the two guys left in the race, crowded as they are between the sideline and the first row of the stands, are centrists no matter which one is closer to actually standing on the field the rest of us inhabit.