THE drool of idiots and the haughtiness of kings is in all eras the same; it's the flattery and excuses of the sycophants, the toadies, the mouthpieces, the Yes men and the ass-kissers that changes.
There's no question about the discomfort being felt by the David Brooks/Mitch Daniels wing of the Republican party now that the Republican Presidential Sweepstakes has come down to: Mitt Romney, who is, essentially, what would have resulted had they been able to replace George W. Bush's non-existent aptitude for public speaking with Ronald Reagan's highly-overrated one; Rick Santorum, the reverse; Newt Gingrich, the most accomplished of the post-Nixon race-baiters, who they're forced to pretend has turned into a lunatic since the glorious days of his glorious Republican Revolution of the Week; and Ron Paul, the Ghost of Anti-Fluoridationism Not-Quite Past. I'd like to know what the problem is. It's like they took Reagan and cut him in quarters, nurtured the Four Horsemen of his Middle-American Appeal in petri dishes, and grew themselves a primary season. So, okay, Herman Cain would make it the Five Blocks of Granite, both numerically and intellectually. I miss him, too. But you can't have everything.
And this has all come about because Sarah Palin was so toxically ignorant, and so illiterately greedy? How long has Rush Limbaugh been a major player in Republican politics again? The party took Nelson Rockefeller out and shot him before Mitch Daniels was old enough to vote. Who do they think they're fooling? You broke it, you bought it.
This has lead, in a direct line, to David Brooks using prime New York Times Opinion Mall space to begin a column thus:
The Simpson-Bowles report wasn’t just a policy document. For a few months, it expanded the national debate. Everybody seemed to realize that the country was beset by large challenges that could no longer be neglected: soaring debt, lagging growth, wage stagnation, family breakdown, political dysfunction.
Suddenly, there was a sense of urgency. There were grand plans coming from all directions.
Yeah, remember that exciting Twenty Minutes? Anyone?
Anyone remember believing that Simpson-Bowles would change anything? Or knowing anyone who believed that? Anyone think there was anything about Simpson-Bowles that couldn't be extrapolated ahead of time, just by knowing who Simpson and Bowles were? Anyone remember being surprised/dismayed/dumbfounded when Congress ignored it?
Anyone, in other words, remember Simpson-Bowles as anything other than a cloak of idiocy designed to give everyone inside the Beltway who favors Cupidity over Insanity a few weeks of cover?
It’s sad to compare that era of bigness to the medium-sized policy morsels that President Obama put in his State of the Union address. He had some big themes in the speech, but the policies were mere appetizers. The Republicans absurdly call Obama a European socialist on the stump, but the Obama we saw Tuesday night was a liberal incrementalist.
There was nothing big, like tax reform or entitlement reform. There was no comprehensive effort to restore trust in government by sweeping away the tax credits and special-interest schemes that entangle Washington.
A lifelong Republican mouthpiece, a youthful liberal transformed by beatific beam of Milton Friedman like Ben-Hur swigging from Jesus' bottomless canteen, wishes a "Democratic" President would come up with the big ideas necessary to salvage the mess he and his fellows have made of things ever since Ronald Reagan bought a microphone.
(By the way, did anyone else see Mitt this week do his "I didn't pay for this microphone, but…" schtick? The only genuine moment in primary season since the Three Babblers dropped out. About halfway through you could see that he realized he was about to 1) use humor on a Republican audience without the subject being watermelons in the White House garden, and 2) use an historical reference, even though it was one of their own, and well within the lifetimes of most of the old white people present. There was a flicker when Romney almost froze, before instincts born of seven years on the Republican stump took over and he realized that facts go right over everyone's head, regardless, and relaxed.)
Some of the ideas were lamentable. Instead of simplifying the tax code, Obama would muddy it up with more tax loopholes for corporations as long as they conformed to this or that industrial policy.
"Hiring Americans". But I agree, Dave. The tax code is no place to encourage American corporations provide American jobs. The criminal code would be much better.
It’s odd that an administration that once wanted to do everything all at once now should be so gradualist. Maybe its members were scarred by the traumas of health care and the 2010 election. Maybe they just want to win the election, so every policy has to be politically easy instead of politically challenging..
Assuming this administration once "wanted to do everything"--including the younger sisters of Republican voters, I think--is that really so odd? We'd'a been a helluva lot better off today--probably--if that actually were the case. And Obama would already have 2012 won, especially against your bunch.
Legislatively, the president has to build a center-left governing majority that can overwhelm those Republicans who will never support him. That can be done only with ground-shifting policies.
Now you tell him. Y'know, the President had a center-left governing majority. It was called "the people who elected him". And the first thing he did after he was elected--hell, the first thing he did when he secured the nomination--was to run to the other side of the aisle and ask them to friend him. These are the instincts of a man who resembles…David Brooks.
It was an historic opportunity which nearly matched FDR's, but the President wanted Tim Geithner and Larry Summers to run things, and John Boehner to approve his every move. This wasn't a miscalculation; no one with an ounce of sense would have calculated that way in 2009. It was pure Democratic "centrism", the sort of "centrism" which could travel 98% of the distance to meet David Brooks halfway, but which considers rank-and-file Democratic voters only slightly less repugnant than rank-and-file Republicans. (And which, may I say, is a compliment I gladly return, mutatis mutandis.) What was missed should not be forgotten. Nor should we have to endure some Republican "moderate" telling the rest of us about it, three years and a busted flirtation with the Teabaggers later. It was as true an example of the utter moral and intellectual failure of the American center as the Bush administration was of the Right.