Let us give the Barack Obama administration credit. They have run a "professional, smoothly running operation" in setting David Brooks' mind right. Back in early March, Brooks demonstrated a bit of independence from the liberal party line in his role as "house conservative" for the New York Times with this outburst:
Those of us who consider ourselves moderates — moderate-conservative, in my case — are forced to confront the reality that Barack Obama is not who we thought he was. His words are responsible; his character is inspiring. But his actions betray a transformational liberalism that should put every centrist on notice. As Clive Crook, an Obama admirer, wrote in The Financial Times, the Obama budget “contains no trace of compromise. It makes no gesture, however small, however costless to its larger agenda, of a bipartisan approach to the great questions it addresses. It is a liberal’s dream of a new New Deal.”
As a result, the Obama administration dispatched four handlers to work on Brooks to get him back into line. It worked beautifully as you can see in his next column:
On Tuesday, I wrote that the Obama budget is a liberal, big government document that should make moderates nervous. The column generated a large positive response from moderate Obama supporters who are anxious about where the administration is headed. It was not so popular inside the White House. Within a day, I had conversations with four senior members of the administration and in the interest of fairness, I thought I’d share their arguments with you today.
In the first place, they do not see themselves as a group of liberal crusaders. They see themselves as pragmatists who inherited a government and an economy that have been thrown out of whack. They’re not engaged in an ideological project to overturn the Reagan Revolution, a fight that was over long ago. They’re trying to restore balance: nurture an economy so that productivity gains are shared by the middle class and correct the irresponsible habits that developed during the Bush era.
The crowning touch of the White House handlers was when they gave Brooks a toy chart of his very own to gaze at:
The White House has produced a chart showing nondefense discretionary spending as a share of G.D.P. That’s spending for education, welfare and all the stuff that Democrats love. Since 1985, this spending has hovered around 3.7 percent of G.D.P. This year, it’s about 4.6 percent. The White House claims that it is going to reduce this spending to 3.1 percent by 2019, lower than at any time in any recent Republican administration. I was invited to hang this chart on my wall and judge them by how well they meet these targets. (I have.)
The handlers performed their task so well that soon David Brooks was soon singing ballads in praise of his beloved Obama:
...The Obama approach would make it more likely that young Americans grow up in relationships with teaching adults.
...Obama’s goal is to make sure results have consequences. He praises data sets that “tell us which students had which teachers so we can assess what’s working and what’s not.” He also aims to reward states that use data to make decisions. He will build on a Bush program that gives states money for merit pay so long as they measure teachers based on real results. He will reward states that expand charter schools, which are drivers of innovation, so long as they use data to figure out which charters are working.
...Education is close to his heart. He has broken with liberal orthodoxy on school reform more than any other policy.
Perhaps the love-struck Brooks thought he hadn't done enough in praise of The One. Well, today he continued to reassure those liberals who had any lingering doubts about where Brooks stands with this paean to Obama:
The big lesson for the Obama administration is that the American people will continue to support its agenda as long as they think it is competent. It was not automatic that an administration led by a 47-year-old man with little Washington experience would run a professional, smoothly functioning operation. Yet he has. The administration has unveiled a dazzling array of proposals with a high degree of efficiency and managerial skill. This has inspired confidence in his team, if not in the government as a whole.
Barack Obama is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life.
It would be a shame to disturb young David in mid-awe over Obama with any whiff of nasty reality over out of control budgets with huge deficits, top posts, especially in the Treasury Department that still have not been filled, and the newly opened Pandora's Box of possible "torture" investigations after promising they wouldn't happen.
One wonders if the incoming Times "house conservative," Ross Douthat, will counter Brooks' state of bliss over Obama or merely echo it.