David Brooks frequently annoys the hell out of me; I think it's his "I've read hard books" attitude, his frequent smugness, and, of course, his bad teeth. On the other hand, among the right wing punditry, he's maybe the least ideological and the most willing to ponder interesting things. That he's unpredictable is why I keep reading him.
"The fact is, Obama is as he always has been, a center-left pragmatic reformer. Every time he tries to articulate a grand philosophy — from his book “The Audacity of Hope” to his joint-session health care speech last September — he always describes a moderately activist government restrained by a sense of trade-offs. He always uses the same on-the-one-hand-on-the-other sentence structure. Government should address problems without interfering with the dynamism of the market."
Correctamundo. He expands:
"Take health care. He has pushed a program that expands coverage, creates exchanges and moderately tinkers with the status quo — too moderately to restrain costs. To call this an orthodox liberal plan is an absurdity. It more closely resembles the center-left deals cut by Tom Daschle and Bob Dole, or Ted Kennedy and Mitt Romney. Obama has pushed this program with a tenacity unmatched in modern political history; with more tenacity than Bill Clinton pushed his health care plan or George W. Bush pushed Social Security reform.
Take education. Obama has taken on a Democratic constituency, the teachers’ unions, with a courage not seen since George W. Bush took on the anti-immigration forces in his own party. In a remarkable speech on March 1, he went straight at the guardians of the status quo by calling for the removal of failing teachers in failing schools. Obama has been the most determined education reformer in the modern presidency."
And here's the part that makes me want to scream -- because the truth of it is so painful:
"In a sensible country, people would see Obama as a president trying to define a modern brand of moderate progressivism. In a sensible country, Obama would be able to clearly define this project without fear of offending the people he needs to get legislation passed. But we don’t live in that country. We live in a country in which many people live in information cocoons in which they only talk to members of their own party and read blogs of their own sect. They come away with perceptions fundamentally at odds with reality, fundamentally misunderstanding the man in the Oval Office."
Yet for a large part of the electorate, the dishonest and destructive force that is Fox "news" is the opinionator of record. Led by a certifiably insane person, they see evil where there is none, brook conspiracies of dire import, bathing in their own fears and -- for reasons only they could explain, were they able to marshall an iota of self-reflection -- relishing it. Begging for more. Admitting -- as one of my commenters frequently does -- they have no idea what they're talking about, they nevertheless have opinions of biblical certitude. Facing immeasurably complex problems, having a president who is neither an ideologue nor closed to thoughtful input, these people have allowed themselves to be led by the craziest -- in the case of the Fox folk -- and the most egregiously dishonest -- in the case of the Congressional Rs -- voices out there.