In yesterday's David Brooks column, he offered a tepid endorsement of Mitt "Thurston Howell" Romney for President. Brooks games out what the next two years will probably look like under Romney or Obama. There's really nothing insightful or interesting there, so here's his conclusion:
The bottom line is this: If Obama wins, we’ll probably get small-bore stasis; if Romney wins, we’re more likely to get bipartisan reform. Romney is more of a flexible flip-flopper than Obama. He has more influence over the most intransigent element in the Washington equation House Republicans. He’s more likely to get big stuff done.
So the lesson here is that if one party is acting like a bunch of intransigent jerks, you need to make sure they have a President who will cooperate with them. Let's put aside for a moment that Brooks sort of qualifies this by arguing that the actual policy mix we would end up with would be something close to his preferred center-rightism, which he says would be the case because Romney would have learned the lesson that moderatism wins and that the Tea Party wouldn't be willing to destroy a Republican President. Doesn't his argument boil down to weak-kneed Chamberlainesque appeasement?
Does David Brooks raise his children this way? I kind of doubt it, but if he does he is a terrible, terrible parent. What he is arguing is tantamount to feeding your kid ice cream for dinner because the screaming won't stop. The essential logic seems to have eluded him, even in the face of arriving at the conclusion that the man he described this way should be our next President:
This comment suggests a few things. First, it suggests that he really doesn’t know much about the country he inhabits. Who are these freeloaders? Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the V.A.? Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on Social Security or Medicare?It suggests that Romney doesn’t know much about the culture of America. Yes, the entitlement state has expanded, but America remains one of the hardest-working nations on earth. Americans work longer hours than just about anyone else. Americans believe in work more than almost any other people. Ninety-two percent say that hard work is the key to success, according to a 2009 Pew Research Survey.It says that Romney doesn’t know much about the political culture. Americans haven’t become childlike worshipers of big government. On the contrary, trust in government has declined. The number of people who think government spending promotes social mobility has fallen.The people who receive the disproportionate share of government spending are not big-government lovers. They are Republicans. They are senior citizens. They are white men with high school degrees. As Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution has noted, the people who have benefited from the entitlements explosion are middle-class workers, more so than the dependent poor.Romney’s comments also reveal that he has lost any sense of the social compact. In 1987, during Ronald Reagan’s second term, 62 percent of Republicans believed that the government has a responsibility to help those who can’t help themselves. Now, according to the Pew Research Center, only 40 percent of Republicans believe that.The Republican Party, and apparently Mitt Romney, too, has shifted over toward a much more hyperindividualistic and atomistic social view — from the Reaganesque language of common citizenship to the libertarian language of makers and takers. There’s no way the country will trust the Republican Party to reform the welfare state if that party doesn’t have a basic commitment to provide a safety net for those who suffer for no fault of their own.The final thing the comment suggests is that Romney knows nothing about ambition and motivation. The formula he sketches is this: People who are forced to make it on their own have drive. People who receive benefits have dependency.