Posts Tagged ‘David Brooks’
November 25th, 2011 at 3:29 pm
How ‘Do-Something’ Pundits Endanger the Country

Matt Welch of Reason magazine has a wonderfully critical review of New York Times columnist’s Tom Friedman’s newest paean to government action, That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back.  In a wide-ranging essay that faults as well NYT columnist David Brooks and CNN contributor (and one-time Bush speechwriter) David Frum for their simplistic preference for more government power to fix all that ails America, Welch explains how the ‘do-something’ crowd endangers freedom.

First, a definition:

Do something. Is there a two-word phrase in politics more loaded with disguised ideological content? Embedded within is both an urgent call for powerful government action and an up-front declaration that the policy details don’t matter. The bigger the crisis, the more the urgency, the sparser the detail.

Try as its cheerleaders might, there is nothing essentially new about ‘do-something’-ism:

As The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent pointed out in response to Miller, “many of those calling for a third party are refusing to reckon with an inconvenient fact: One of the two partiesalready occupies the approximate ideological space that these commentators themselves are describing as the dream middle ground that allegedly can only be staked out by a third party. That party is known as the ‘Democratic Party.’ ” By dreaming up a third way to deliver ideas and rhetoric already associated with Barack Obama, the centrists are making the implicit admission that the president is ineffectual in the face of GOP intransigence.

As usual, claimants for a ‘third way’ are really just calling for a formula that results in an overall subtraction of individual freedom:

Fortunately for Brooks—and unfortunately for us—there is a distinct third way. Though vague on details, it involves increased taxes (especially on energy), short-term spending boosts, long-term entitlement cuts, and roughly the same foreign policy commitments as today. It calls for renewed citizen engagement, a return to political civility, and a rejection of coarse cynicism. Better teachers, trained workers, and cleaner air. Although advocated by pundits from all over the traditional political spectrum, the program is remarkably uniform when it comes to giving the government more power. Just don’t call it ideological.

Read the entire piece, here.

May 11th, 2010 at 9:29 pm
The Age of the Blank Slate
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Following up on Ashton’s excellent post yesterday, one of the most salient facts about President Obama’s new Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan, is her total lack of a track record. This is not to indict Ms. Kagan for her lack of judicial experience – more than a third of the justices in the Supreme Court’s history have come from outside what Patrick Leahy refers to as the “judicial monastery” (a phrase too sterling to have been coined by a U.S. Senator — at least in the era since Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s passing).

Rather the issue is — apart from Harvard Law’s ROTC scandal while she served as dean– that Kagan doesn’t seem to have an observable opinion on anything. As CNN and New Yorker legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin — a friend of Kagan’s since law school — observed upon news that she would be the nominee:

Judgment, values, and politics are what matters on the Court. And here I am somewhat at a loss. Clearly, she’s a Democrat. She was a highly regarded member of the White House staff during the Clinton years, but her own views were and are something of a mystery. She has written relatively little, and nothing of great consequence.

What Toobin regards as personal anecdotage, however, the New York Times’ always interesting (and often perplexing) David Brooks sees as pathological. As he says in the coda of today’s column:

What we have is a person whose career has dovetailed with the incentives presented by the confirmation system, a system that punishes creativity and rewards caginess. Arguments are already being made for and against her nomination, but most of this is speculation because she has been too careful to let her actual positions leak out.

There’s about to be a backlash against the Ivy League lock on the court. I have to confess my first impression of Kagan is a lot like my first impression of many Organization Kids. She seems to be smart, impressive and honest — and in her willingness to suppress so much of her mind for the sake of her career, kind of disturbing.

As Ashton mentioned yesterday, the same criticism could be equally applied to the pre-presidential Obama. But this isn’t just the provenance of the left. John Roberts presented much the same sort of blank slate prior to his elevation to the Court. And those already clamoring for a Marco Rubio presidential bid are running the same risk.

Consent of the governed is a meaningless concept when the governed aren’t told what they’re consenting to. If the Kagan nomination is a further indication that we’re living in an age of empty political vessels, the country will be worse off for it.

September 1st, 2009 at 1:24 pm
Brooks & Barack: Washington’s New Item
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Here’s the full story on this budding “bromance” from The New Republic.