Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana who I think is most likely to win the G.O.P. presidential nomination in 2012...
"Most likely", of course, in that he's candidate most like Brooks--and there's a surprise choice, huh?--in that he keeps his opposition to the religioculture-war wing of the party hidden until it's time to come out and declare how much he supports and admires it.
Is this, in fact, the secret of the Republican party's (electoral) success--that it functions as a sort of Rorschach Test for the emotionally stunted and terminally untruthful? In his Times tenure alone Brooks has gone from enthusiastic war triumphalist, to Reasonable Public Intellectual Who Needs Some Time To Think Over the Apparent Discrepancy Between Everything He's Ever Said On The Subject and Reality, to Guy Returning from His Long Ruminations as an enthusiastic war promoter. He's gone from insisting that social "conservatives" were merely the more publicly moralistic tribal faction, to wishing them into the Cornfield, and back; he's gone from proclaiming the desperate need for the Republican party to look more like David Brooks, to "welcoming" the energetic and charming, if somewhat naive and redolent of hay, Teabaggers (though he, like Brother Douthat, is careful to maintain these are outsiders who've suddenly discovered all they have in common with the Party of Henry Cabot Lodge), to, as here, pretty much discounting them as a force in primary elections. The real question here is whether situational ethics and head-spinning hypocrisy should disqualify you from being stabled with the Times' Reasonable Conservative Voices, or whether it is, in fact, the major qualification.
This has nothing whatsoever to do with our own admittedly almost non-existent estimation of either man. It's just that maybe, just once, Brooks might take a column to explain why The Major American Political Party That Spends Its Weekends Discussing Burke is the one which is simultaneously The Party Perpetually In Thrall To One Snopes-Worthy Chain Email or Another. Or maybe just how he imagines Mitch Daniels is going to get through the Republican primaries after someone asks why the only thing he ever tried to do as governor of Indiana is sell off enough resources to build our section of the NAFTA highway. (Take it from me: don't waste your breath asking where the money actually went.)
Then there's Douthat, whose recent appearance on Colbert raised the question, "Who cancelled at the last minute?", as well as suggesting that there's a Wingnut Welfare cash award somewhere for the media personality who smirks the most without cause. Today's column might've been titled, "A History of the Democratic Party, As It Was Explained To Me At Pater's Knee, over the Entire Thirty Years of Life On Earth". One imagines, supposing one is a blogger with space to fill and a large coefficient of boredom, that Douthat thinks of himself as Blake's star: desperate that should he ever have an original thought the Universe might wink itself out.