It has been only ten days since the New York Times house conservative, David Brooks, suddenly discovered that "Barack Obama is not who we thought he was." As a result, the White House sent out a special team of four high level officials to get Brooks' "mind right." They sure did a terrific job because Brooks, after declaring himself ready to lead a "moderate" army to oppose Obama, performed a sudden U-Turn. The earlier urge to challenge the Obama administration was replaced by strange new respect, especially since David was given his very own talisman chart by his overseers which predicts events long after the President is gone from office:
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.)
So either the four overseers of the White House were masters of manipulation or they had extremely pliable material to work with in the form of the "moderate" mind of David Brooks. I suspect the latter. And now we see the final stage in the "re-education" of David Brooks. Outright declarations of love for The One. If you think this is an exaggeration on the part of your humble correspondent, I invite you to read this Brooks love ballad in the form of a column in which David gushes over his new beloved:
In his education speech this week, Barack Obama retold a by-now familiar story. When he was a boy, his mother would wake him up at 4:30 to tutor him for a few hours before he went off to school. When young Barry complained about getting up so early, his mother responded: “This is no picnic for me either, Buster.”
That experience was the perfect preparation for reforming American education because it underlines the two traits necessary for academic success: relationships and rigor. The young Obama had a loving relationship with an adult passionate about his future. He also had at least one teacher, his mom, disinclined to put up with any crap.
You can almost hear the violins playing softly in the background. Stand by now for a big flow of syrupy love:
The reform vision Obama sketched out in his speech flows from that experience. The Obama approach would make it more likely that young Americans grow up in relationships with teaching adults. It would expand nurse visits to disorganized homes. It would improve early education. It would extend the school year. Most important, it would increase merit pay for good teachers (the ones who develop emotional bonds with students) and dismiss bad teachers (the ones who treat students like cattle to be processed).
...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.
The administration also will give money to states like Massachusetts that have rigorous proficiency standards. The goal is to replace the race to the bottom with a race to the top, as states are compelled to raise their standards if they hope to get federal money.
Despite his declarations of outright love for Obama, there is one minor caveat by Brooks:
In short, Obama hopes to change incentives so districts do the effective and hard things instead of the easy and mediocre things. The question is whether he has the courage to follow through. Many doubt he does. They point to the way the president has already caved in on the D.C. vouchers case.
They say that love conquers all and in this case it seems to have overcome any slight doubt that Brooks might have about the Loved One:
Obama has, in fact, been shamefully quiet about this. But in the next weeks he’ll at least try to protect the kids now in the program. And more broadly, there’s reason for hope. Education is close to his heart. He has broken with liberal orthodoxy on school reform more than any other policy. He’s naturally inclined to be data driven. There’s reason to think that this week’s impressive speech will be followed by real and potentially historic action.
House conservative David Brooks. A general leading his army of moderates to declare a love fest for Beloved Barack Obama as long as he gets proper attention from the White House overseers who give him nice ego enhancing tummy rubs.