Paul Krugman, "America Isn't a Corporation". January 12
FOUR Januarys ago (are you still here?) it fell to David Brooks to explain to the millions of Democrats who hang on his every moderate word why Barack Obama's Magic Speechifyin' should trump The Inevitable Hillary. Come Spring, of course, it was his duty to explain to that same rapt and reasonable audience that Obama the Inevitable was an empty phrasemaker. I mean turning out to be an empty phrasemaker, after further, and sadder, consideration.
Okay, so one for two ain't bad, except when it's the result of taking both sides of the same question.
I wonder aloud here how such men grab a razor each morning and manage to use it solely for shaving. It is, for want of a better word (I actually have some handy, but let's press on) a life of Letters, but Brooks, and the vast empty stretches which contain so many of his fellow Beltway pundits, seem content to behave like touts for fashion houses, blithely peddling whatever Look they have for sale at the moment, trusting that no one will remember back six months, when they were trashing it. One caucus, one primary, in the same order and on the same schedule they've been in since, I suppose, Hamilton foresaw them, and now Romney's not the guy who can't get more than one-quarter of the Republican vote while running against what even Republicans admit is a collection of stiffs rarely seen outside a big-city morgue, he's Just One Win Away. And pace Jon Stewart, it's not the fact that our nation's teleprompter readers are calling the race before it begins; it's the fact that they can safely assume that Two Weeks Ago will generally be regarded as lost in the mists and musts of ancient history.
So the clock strikes January, and the year is divisible by 4, and it's time for Brooks to write a something-less-than-honest appraisal of whichever race is still a race, which will give him "credibility" when he later decides, after much serious deliberation and a OUIJA board weekend with Edmund Burke, to back the Republican this time.
Only he does it the very same day Paul Krugman writes about the very same topic. Which must be a bit like bringing your dad's old Princess Leia trading card to Show and Tell, and finding out that that smart-ass Elrond brought the guy who played the gay robot.
Compare and contrast! Brooks' tack--which I'm sure is amenable to mathematical description, where the [U]ltimate goal of a Harding Republican victory divided by the square of the number of weeks before the [N]ominee is determined times the coefficient of [F]aux-Moderation Brooks is required to maintain yields either the angle of the backhanded swipe he pretends to take at the Republican he's rooting for, or the degree of condescension in his praise of whichever Democrat he thinks is most beatable--is, unsurprisingly, that it's not enough for Romney to've been a highly successful corporate hero. Though, he admits, this may seem a bit counterintuitive to the savvy reader.
In reality, Romney’s Bain success is largely irrelevant to the question of whether he could be a good president. The real question is whether he has picked up traits like emotional security, political judgment and an instrumental mind-set from his upbringing and the deeper experiences of life.
Get it, America? Sure, Mitt Romney is an alabaster and neatly-coiffed idol of American Mercantilism, those Builders of Iron Railways, Tillers of Rocky Soil, and Shredders of Paper Documents. But we demand more!
How much longer do you imagine it will be before Brooks has his answer? Whaddya guess it might be? (Bear in mind: Brooks knows the Brand better than anyone, and he's not gonna cheapen it by proclaiming that Romney has passed the trait test, tempered in the crucible of a Bruising Primary Season, no. Public fluffery is best left to the Kathleen Parkers.)
Does the man ever get tired of writing Civics lesson plans designed for a classroomful of earnest but none-too-bright scions of Financial empires?
Ah, hell, let's have some fun at recess...
Whether it is a George Washington, a Franklin or Theodore Roosevelt or a John F. Kennedy, [the emotionally secure] president enters the White House with ease and confidence, is relatively unscathed by the criticism of the crowd, is able to separate the mask he must wear for public display from the real honest self he knows himself to be.
Plodding Plutocrat, incontinent poon hound, or class traitor.
This sense of emotional security can also be found in great military leaders, like Dwight Eisenhower, and in
serenely successful movie stars, like Ronald Reagan.
Whew. For a moment there I was afraid Brooks was going to forget all the serenely successful movie stars who've led our Great Nation.
A president with political judgment has a subtle feel for the texture of his circumstance. He has a feel for where opportunities lie, what will go together and what will never go together. This implicit knowledge is developed slowly in people like Harry Truman or Lyndon Johnson who have spent decades as political insiders and who have a rich repertoire of experiences to draw on.
It also comes from voracious social contact. It comes to leaders who have a compulsive desire to be around people and who can harvest from a million social encounters a sense of what people want and can deliver.
More important than knowing is the sense of knowing. Kinda like Dave's restaurant reviews.
Third, great leaders have often experienced crushing personal setbacks. This experience, whether it’s Lincoln’s depression or F.D.R.’s polio, not only gives them a sense of sympathy for those who are suffering, but a personal contact with frailty. They are resilient when things go wrong. They know how dependent they are on others, how prone they are to overconfidence. They are both modest, because they have felt weakness, and aggressive, because they know how hard it is to change anything.
In Romney's case this would be the time he had to talk all five sons out of volunteering for Iraq?
In sum, great presidents are often aristocrats and experienced political insiders. They experience great setbacks. They feel the presence of God’s hand on their every move.
Unfortunately, we’re not allowed to talk about these things openly these days. We disdain elitism, political experience and explicit God-talk. Great failure is considered “baggage” in today’s campaign lingo.
Well, y'know, if this is such a serious loss, maybe y'all should have thought of that back when you were turning the Sacred into tawdry political applause lines.
And, fuck, Dave; out of the eight hobbled philosophers who once graced the Republican race--let me just double check the count here--yes, eight wear Christianity on their sleeves, including the two the other Christians don't think are Christian, and the so-called Randian, though he crouches his in his fealty to the desires of the imaginary Founders who direct his waking thoughts. Who stopped 'em? What stopped 'em, at least occasionally, was stupidity, incomprehensibility, hypocrisy, and/or a "subtle feel for the texture of their circumstances", including, in this instance, the fact that most Americans want nothing to do with snake handlers, miracle healers, and child seduction rings. That, plus the inability to make it rain on command. You guys fucking figure it out. It's not everyone else's responsibility to do it for you.