Last Friday, in his first post-election remarks on PBS and NPR, New York Times columnist David Brooks downplayed his usual bash- conservatives narrative, and actually castigated liberals for wanting to go over the looming fiscal cliff. He said that liberals are more organized, they’ve won the election, and will get most of what they yearn for if we do go over the waterfall: increased revenue, tax hikes, and cuts to defense spending.
Strangely, his liberal colleagues, Mark Shields on PBS and E.J. Dionne on NPR, seemed to agree with this claim – undercutting the notion that this "cliff" is dangerous to both parties.
Granted, on the Nov. 9 broadcast of the PBS NewsHour, Brooks did slam Tea Partiers for being an obstruction to more moderate Republicans a la Dick Lugar – but noted that Democrats may not go with Obama’s proposed plan of $1 in tax increases for every $2.50 in cuts. Mark Shields, Brooks’ liberal counterpart, pivoted trying to cast the expiration of the Bush Tax cuts as not an increase, and reiterated that it will take a bipartisan lovefest to fix our fiscal woes.
DAVID BROOKS: So, a lot of people on the left say, A., we gave at the office. We have already had some serious spending cuts last time. Now it should just be tax revenue. The president in his Des Moines Register interview said $2.50 in spending cuts...
JUDY WOODRUFF: For every...
DAVID BROOKS: ...for every dollar in tax revenue. I really do not think the Democratic Party is going to accept that ratio. They are going to want 1-1 or 1-0. And so I think a lot more Democrats are willing to walk off the cliff.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And so what does that mean?
MARK SHIELDS: I'm not sure they are. David may well be right.
I will say this. The president does have a real tactical advantage, I mean, because Republicans have all signed this pledge, and they are against it. If we just go to the 31st of December, taxes automatically increase. So then whatever he came in with a plan, Republicans could say they are voting for a tax cut...
SHIELDS: ...when he comes in and then with closing the loopholes.
Brooks was more specific on NPR radio with liberal Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne the same day saying:
DAVID BROOKS: In some ways, this is harder than what we tried, I guess, 15, 18 months ago because you've got the House Republicans who are pretty recalcitrant, but I think what you just heard from E.J., if you read my colleague Paul Krugman's column today, the left and the liberals and the unions are much more organized than they were last time. They feel they won the election. They can get what they want.
And frankly, the way the fiscal cliff is structured, if I were a Democrat, I may want to go off it because you get your tax increase, you get a bunch of revenue, you get a lot of spending cuts on the defense side. The programs you care about are actually protected, that's the way the fiscal cliff is structured. So the...
MELISSA BLOCK (host): Social Security and Medicare.
BROOKS: Right and some domestic programs. And so the Democrats have a strong incentive to want to go off.
E.J. DIONNE: The other thing is the election, which is - you know, Obama - you know, I'm skeptical of big mandates and people claiming mandates for everything they want, butif there was one thing Obama was clear about, it was raising taxes on the wealthy to help balance the budget. And he's got - for that, he clearly has popular support, and the exit polls show that. So that I don't think - and I think he is much ready - much more ready to be tough this time than he was before because a lot of things are going for him this time, including, I think he can fairly claim, the will of the people. [block]
Notice how Dionne doesn’t really refute Brooks, and grotesquely insinuates that going off the fiscal cliff is the “will of the people.” All E.J. has to say, in typical liberal fashion, is we won, you lost – and now let’s see how you maneuver through this one.
In all, it’s refreshing to see a New York Times Republican make a salient and incisive point about liberal governing strategy, as it is equally amusing to see liberal commentators exude little effort refuting the claim that they do want to go off the cliff. Who is this person, and what have they done to David Brooks? – for now.