Brooks wants to hate the Obama team he just doesn’t

David Brooks, right of center columnist of the NY Times, pens this description of the growing Obama administration. He wants to look away in disgust at the pedigree of the assorted insiders, but the more he looks the more he likes what he sees. 

Best passage:

Obama seems to have dispensed with the romantic and failed notion that you need inexperienced “fresh faces” to change things. After all, it was L.B.J. who passed the Civil Rights Act. Moreover, because he is so young, Obama is not bringing along an insular coterie of lifelong aides who depend upon him for their well-being.

As a result, the team he has announced so far is more impressive than any other in recent memory. One may not agree with them on everything or even most things, but a few things are indisputably true….

It’s reassuring to me that the White House will be staffed by people that are truly competent in their fields. For too long we’ve had a president insulated from the facts he didn’t want to hear, and from dissenting strategies. As much as I understand Obama supports hating the idea of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, a team of rivals is the way to go. So far so good, but soon, they’ll actually have to govern.

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Brooks Hopes its Biden

Read the endorsement here…it just so happens, so do I. I was prepping to write a Biden post. But Brooks did a much better job than I could have. Give it a read.

Reaction: David Brooks on the Education of John McCain

David Brooks writes a sad tale this morning. One of a noble man, a brave public servant who has tirelessly spent his career bucking the washington trends to pass sensible legislation and work in a bipartisan way. That same man is now a victim of the media, the GOP political machine, and his desperate need to win. 

That man, of course, is John McCain. Of course, this column is really nothing more than a long winded excuse piece for why a politician Brooks has admired so much has stooped so low in this general election. The cause, of course, is the media:

McCain started out with the same sort of kibitzing campaign style that he used to woo the press back in 2000. It didn’t work. This time there were too many cameras around and too many 25-year-old reporters and producers seizing on every odd comment to set off little blog scandals.

In other words, McCain’s rambling when watched closely sounded a little odd to a sea of bloggers covering both sides of this campaign. McCain likes to talk from the gut, and like a certain texan we all know, that can get you in trouble. 

McCain started his general-election campaign in poverty-stricken areas of the South and Midwest. He went through towns where most Republicans fear to tread and said things most wouldn’t say. It didn’t work. The poverty tour got very little coverage on the network news. McCain and his advisers realized the only way they could get TV attention was by talking about the subject that interested reporters most: Barack Obama.

Perhaps McCain’s attempts at everyman status were slightly squashed by the policy positions he has so strictly adhered to. Perhaps the idea of maintaining low taxes despite a ballooning deficit, two wars, and growing national poverty doesn’t scan particularly well with visiting the poor. Perhaps we’ve been sold “compassionate conservatism” once, and we’re not buying again. 

Brooks goes on to make good points about McCain’s offer to do joint town halls. I am still deeply dissappointed in Obama’s ultimate rejection of them. McCain might have looked better in those events, but if you’re not willing to play on the other guy’s court sometimes, you’re not much of a player. 

But then of course we fall back on the old media excuse:

The man who lampooned the Message of the Week is now relentlessly on message (as observers of his fine performance at Saddleback Church can attest). The man who hopes to inspire a new generation of Americans now attacks Obama daily. It is the only way he can get the networks to pay attention.

Perhaps McCain has only one winning message, tear Obama down. The real trouble for John McCain is that if he runs a post-partisan campaign, acting more true to his own style, then he will alienate his base. The maverick can’t stray too far off GOP message, or the base will pummel him. Rumors of his even considering a pro-choice VP created a wave of resentment. And so he is stuck fighting the GOP hardline on policy. That policy, it turns out isn’t so very popular with the American people. Unable to be the maverick and unable to be the GOP strong man, McCain is left to run an ugly, conventional campaign. 

I believe McCain is a good man with a strong record. He seems desperate to do whatever he needs to win this time. But at what cost to his character? The John McCain America knows and loves would never let anyone make these excuses for a politician, especially not for John McCain.

The NY Times Opines for Obama

David Brooks, NY Times conservative columnist pens this description of Obama as something of an unknowable. 

While Maureen Dowd draws a literary comparison for all the PUMA’s out there. 

UPDATE: Dan Schnur adds these thoughts on why perceptions never die in politics.

For better or worse, assume that the competing stick figures of Angry Old Geezer and Callow Young Egotist remain in place through the election and beyond. After all, for most Americans, Al Gore will always be boring, Ross Perot is still crazy, and Dan Quayle will forever be learning how to spell. So neither Mr. McCain nor Mr. Obama is going to shed these images anytime soon: the question is how to best deal with them.

What I find fascinating is that Obama’s policy decisions are largely unquestioned this week. The McCain ad campaign shifted the chattering class exactly where they needed it to go, talking about Obama the person, not Obama the policies. This week, rather than discuss the merits (or lack there of) of policy merit for McCain. Everyone is talking about this new “central question” is Obama ready to be president.

Reaction: David Brooks’ Essay

David Brooks of the NY Times offers his take on multi-nationalism this morning. He comments on the lack of a modern day equivalent to the Marshall Plan.

Brooks observes, correctly, that the consolidation of democratic power world-wide rested with the United States. Marshall, Achseon and President Truman were able to leverage this political and staggering economic power into a plan that bolstered the US economy for decades while at the same time rebuilding Europe after the devestation of World War II.

He then goes on to lament even though there are issues the world would like to solve, the nature of decentralized power makes it nearly impossible for any single solution broker to push an agenda forward. Even if there is vast consensus, a small minority with a heavily vested interest can close the doors on a solution. He sees dispersed power as theoretically good, but in practice, inefficient at leveraging solutions to global problems. He uses the example of the Iraq War, framing it in the classic Cheney paradigm of the UN resolutions we were enforcing. The US “put the mantle of authority on its own shoulders” and paid a dear price.

I find Brooks’ hypothesis to be deeply flawed and rooted in a US-first mentality. He offers John McCain’s League of Democracies as the best idea on the market for leveraging like-minded nations to create solutions.

Let’s start with his historical comparison. The Marshall Plan took hold principally because Europe had no other choice. With it’s agricultural and industrial engines severly damaged after the war, western Europe lacked enough economic resources to rebuild it’s wealth and even enough food to sufficiently feed it’s people. The US was the only global power big enough and interested enough to provide the kind of long term aid necessary to rebuild.

The US needed a healthy Europe. While the domestic US economy was booming and accounted for 1/2 the world’s wealth, that kind of growth would only be sustainable if emerging markets were available for export. Even if those markets had to be built with US aid, in the long term this would create a viable market for US goods reaching far into the 20th century. 

With the notable exception of Climate Change, there is not a single issue in the world today that warrants the kind of necessary response as the collapse of the European economy did in the late 40’s. The disasterous slaughter in Darfur is indeed a humanitarian crisis of epic proportion, but the Darfur economy does not have the power to destroy the global economy and therefore global urgency is not seen.

But there is something more fundamental than that. The Marshall plan was just that-a plan. Actionable, negotiable, and concrete, it had moving parts that could be coordinated. While there is high-minded discussion about genocide, no global leader has proposed an actionable plan to stop it.

Then there is China. The world hasn’t taken action in the Sudan partly because of the power of the Chinese, and their oil interest in the region. If they are able to leverage that kind of power over a specific issue, then what would their reaction be to a League of Democracies. An organization they could not join? And what of Russia? A Democracy in name only, often with vastly different global interests than out own, would they join this League?

Then of course there is this example of the Iraq War. While Brooks rails against those with “narrow interests” it was exactly these kind of narrow interests that led use to essentially go it alone in Iraq. The UN itself didn’t support our action, even if we acted in it’s name. When the world did see an intiative worth supporting, like the war in Afghanistan there was no hesitation in joining our campaign. 

The problem with the global problem solving engine right now, is that solutions are brought forth from a single nation’s point of view, or even a small group of nations’ view. The repercussions for all players are rarely sought out and seldom thought of. There was a time when the US could leverage solutions to global problems with nothing but it’s own interest at heart. These days are over. The US needs a diverse global strategy, energy independence and a reconstituted military, capable of acting unilaterally when necessary, but also as the lead in a multinational force. 

In short, we need to stop taking about solutions, and start issuing plans.