"Conservative" PBS/NPR analyst David Brooks was typical on the NewsHour Friday night, insisting strangely that "neither party" has a "growth agenda" and insisting that spending any second of your life talking about Sarah Palin is "temporary euthanasia."
JIM LEHRER: Yes, but, then why is she doing this bus tour?
DAVID BROOKS: She's in the media business. She's in our business, except for she has a bus.So -- and so, you know, I see no evidence she's going to run. I think every second we spend on her is a second of our lives we will never have back. So, it's sort of temporary euthanasia.
I don't know why -- I just don't think she's going to run. Rudy Giuliani may well run. He's made some serious efforts. But Sarah Palin, she's in the media business. And so she attracts a lot of attention.
Brooks, who believed Barack Obama had the deepest of brains, can't stop trashing Palin. But it's a little confusing for Brooks to insist Republicans don't have a growth agenda:
One is neither party really has an agenda, a growth agenda. And the Republicans say, if we cut spending, we cut taxes, do tax reform, that will create growth. But that's sort of macro growth. I don't think it will have any big short-term impact.
And on the president's side, you know, he says, you know, we have got these terrible economic problems. We have got middle-class stagnation. I'm going to offer you some solar panels and light-rail. There's just a disjunction between the size of the problem and the scope of the solutions.
And so, I do think there's sort of no big plans out there. And we're probably, and certainly, going to run into a very traditional campaign where Republicans are going to say, let's get government out of the way, and Democrats are going to say, let's invest in basic research and light-rail and some smart energy.
On Friday night's NPR panel on All Things Considered, anchor Robert Siegel read to Brooks and liberal columnist E.J. Dionne from a Wall Street Journal editorial that mysteriously disliked talk of bold conservative action:
SIEGEL: I want to read to you what one commentator said about the Republican field and the Republican Party today. This is a quotation. "It's impossible not to hear in the clamor for boldness, for massive cuts in entitlements, a distinctly fevered tone and one with an unmistakable ideological tinge. Not the sort of pragmatism that inspires voter confidence." That may sound like E.J., but it's actually the quite conservative Dorothy Rabinowitz of The Wall Street Journal, David. She's asking...
DIONNE: I thought she was very shrewd today. (Laughter)
SIEGEL: What does that say about the Republicans?
BROOKS: E.J.'s hacking into her word processor there. You know, the Republicans are gonna...
DIONNE: Let's not go there, David.
BROOKS: Yeah, I was tempted. (Laughter) The Republicans are going to run a completely orthodox race. It's going to be: They want big government, we want small government, end of story. And that will be a completely orthodox Republican-Democratic race. And if the unemployment rate is at nine or 8.5 percent, that's a pretty good way to run. And that's simply how they're going to run. This will not be an intellectually interesting race, because it's going to be very conventional Democrat- Republican race.
Brooks would apparently prefer another race where the Republicans pick an "unorthodox" figure like John McCain...as if that would work so well against Obama?
Actually, Siegel's choice of Rabinowitz edits makes the piece sound much more liberal than it is. Rabinowitz was suggesting that Republicans are overhyping their crisis talk to a fever pitch, but there's more to it. Here's a larger chunk:
Americans already have plenty of cause for fear. They have on one side the Obama health-care plan now nearly universally acknowledged as a disaster. A plan that entails huge cuts in health care—$500 billion cut from Medicare—that will nevertheless cause no pain, according to its architects. As the polls on ObamaCare show, this grand scheme appears mostly to have alarmed Americans.
From the Republican side comes an incessant barrage of doomsday messages and proclamations that the nation is imperiled by the greatest crisis in a generation—not, as we might have supposed, by our ongoing, desperate unemployment levels, but by spending on social programs. No sane person will deny the necessity of finding ways to cut the costs of these programs. But it's impossible not to hear in the clamor for boldness—for massive cuts in entitlements—a distinctly fevered tone, and one with an unmistakable ideological tinge. Not the sort of pragmatism that inspires voter confidence.
Thinking about all this, a physician friend recalls a lesson that experienced doctors learn: A patient comes in with symptoms—is it angina? Will it lead to a heart attack? Patients whose doctors show deliberation and care in the choice of their treatment, he observes, tend to have increased faith both in the treatment and the doctor. That is a point of some relevance to politicians.
She's a bit pragmatic in insisting that seniors don't really care about future generations when they've been paying into Social Security their whole lives. She concluded "The Republican who wins will have to know, and show that he knows, that most Americans aren't sitting around worried to death about big government—they're worried about jobs and what they have in savings."
But she also insisted "The candidate would do well to give time and all due detail—the material is rich—on the activities of the Justice Department under President Obama, the most ideologically driven one in U.S. history. He would make the connection between the nature of this Justice Department and the president's view of the American nation."