Perhaps it is time to award the New York Times house conservative, David Brooks, a kewpie doll for having at long last a very brief moment of mental clarity. Brooks, who has been making a habit lately of bashing conservative Republicans such as Sarah Palin, emerged ever so slightly from his comfortable conventional wisdom cocoon, and discovered that (gasp) "Barack Obama is not who we thought he was." If Brooks had been listening to Rush Limbaugh, whom he continues to detest, on a regular basis he would have made this "astounding discovery" long ago. Brooks begins his op-ed "discovery" by announcing his proud moderateness to the world:
You wouldn’t know it some days, but there are moderates in this country — moderate conservatives, moderate liberals, just plain moderates. We sympathize with a lot of the things that President Obama is trying to do. We like his investments in education and energy innovation. We support health care reform that expands coverage while reducing costs.
Yeah, we got it, David. You're a "moderate." You don't drive a pickup truck with a gun rack and you sip expensive wine with the glitterati instead of guzzling beer with the yahoos. Now that you've established your "civilized" moderate bonafides, you can safely continue on with your journey of "discovery."
But the Obama budget is more than just the sum of its parts. There is, entailed in it, a promiscuous unwillingness to set priorities and accept trade-offs. There is evidence of a party swept up in its own revolutionary fervor — caught up in the self-flattering belief that history has called upon it to solve all problems at once.
Gee! Great detective work there, Sherlock! You've just "discovered" what millions of the reviled dittoheads have long known.
So programs are piled on top of each other and we wind up with a gargantuan $3.6 trillion budget. We end up with deficits that, when considered realistically, are $1 trillion a year and stretch as far as the eye can see. We end up with an agenda that is unexceptional in its parts but that, when taken as a whole, represents a social-engineering experiment that is entirely new.
Brooks discovers the Obama deficits. Next he will be informing us that he has come to the amazing conclusion that water is wet.
The U.S. has never been a society riven by class resentment. Yet the Obama budget is predicated on a class divide. The president issued a read-my-lips pledge that no new burdens will fall on 95 percent of the American people. All the costs will be borne by the rich and all benefits redistributed downward.
Read my lips: Never take seriously anything written by a New York Times House conservative. Stand by now as David Brooks informs the peons of his astounding revelation:
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.”
Who's "we" kemosabe? Real, not "moderate," conservatives never thought Obama was what you thought he was. You might think this "revelation" by Brooks would be a good time for him to admit that Rush Limbaugh was right but he continues to fall back to his old habits with this attack:
Moderates now find themselves betwixt and between. On the left, there is a president who appears to be, as Crook says, “a conviction politician, a bold progressive liberal.” On the right, there are the Rush Limbaugh brigades. The only thing more scary than Obama’s experiment is the thought that it might fail and the political power will swing over to a Republican Party that is currently unfit to wield it.
A Republican Party currently unfit to wield power because of those nasty uncouth "Rush Limbaugh brigades" who are clearly unfit to hold David Brooks' champagne flute.
So having admitted that he was wrong, wrong, wrong about Obama, what does Brook suggest? Why that his fellow "moderate conservatives" set the agenda in the future despite proving themselves to be politically blind.
Those of us in the moderate tradition — the Hamiltonian tradition that believes in limited but energetic government — thus find ourselves facing a void. We moderates are going to have to assert ourselves. We’re going to have to take a centrist tendency that has been politically feckless and intellectually vapid and turn it into an influential force.
And perhaps Abraham Lincoln should have called James Buchanan out of retirement and turn the task of restoring the Union over to him? Such is the Brooksian logic: "I was wrong before but the answer is to allow me be wrong in the future."
The first task will be to block the excesses of unchecked liberalism. In the past weeks, Democrats have legislated provisions to dilute welfare reform, restrict the inflow of skilled immigrants and gut a voucher program designed for poor students. It will be up to moderates to raise the alarms against these ideological outrages.
But beyond that, moderates will have to sketch out an alternative vision. This is a vision of a nation in which we’re all in it together — in which burdens are shared broadly, rather than simply inflicted upon a small minority. This is a vision of a nation that does not try to build prosperity on a foundation of debt. This is a vision that puts competitiveness and growth first, not redistribution first.
Moderates are going to have to try to tamp down the polarizing warfare that is sure to flow from Obama’s über-partisan budget. They will have to face fiscal realities honestly and not base revenue projections on rosy scenarios of a shallow recession and robust growth next year.
Thanks for volunteering to lead the charge, General Brooks. Of course, you might have to attack yourself in light of this gem you produced less than a month ago on February 9:
Geithner’s plan is huge but also disciplined. It’s designed by someone aware of government’s limitations.
So before David Brooks and his "moderate" army lead any charges they might want to figure out which direction to attack first. They might get a clue on this by attending courses at the EIB Institute of Advanced Conservative Studies. Class times are from noon to 3 PM weekdays.