David Brooks on Obama

Dateline: Tue 20 Sep 2011

This is what a lot of us are really thinking...it was published Monday in the New York Times.



By op-ed columnist David Brooks

"When the president said the unemployed couldn’t wait 14 more months for help and we had to do something right away, I believed him. When administration officials called around saying that the possibility of a double-dip recession was horrifyingly real and that it would be irresponsible not to come up with a package that could pass right away, I believed them.

"I liked Obama’s payroll tax cut ideas and urged Republicans to play along. But of course I’m a sap. When the president unveiled the second half of his stimulus it became clear that this package has nothing to do with helping people right away or averting a double dip. This is a campaign marker, not a jobs bill.

"It recycles ideas that couldn’t get passed even when Democrats controlled Congress. In his remarks Monday the president didn’t try to win Republicans to even some parts of his measures. He repeated the populist cries that fire up liberals but are designed to enrage moderates and conservatives.

"He claimed we can afford future Medicare costs if we raise taxes on the rich. He repeated the old half-truth about millionaires not paying as much in taxes as their secretaries. (In reality, the top 10 percent of earners pay nearly 70 percent of all income taxes, according to the I.R.S. People in the richest 1 percent pay 31 percent of their income to the federal government while the average worker pays less than 14 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office.)

"This wasn’t a speech to get something done. This was the sort of speech that sounded better when Ted Kennedy was delivering it. The result is that we will get neither short-term stimulus nor long-term debt reduction anytime soon, and I’m a sap for thinking it was possible.

"Yes, I’m a sap. I believed Obama when he said he wanted to move beyond the stale ideological debates that have paralyzed this country. I always believe that Obama is on the verge of breaking out of the conventional categories and embracing one of the many bipartisan reform packages that are floating around.

"But remember, I’m a sap. The White House has clearly decided that in a town of intransigent Republicans and mean ideologues, it has to be mean and intransigent too. The president was stung by the liberal charge that he was outmaneuvered during the debt-ceiling fight. So the White House has moved away from the Reasonable Man approach or the centrist Clinton approach.

"It has gone back, as an appreciative Ezra Klein of The Washington Post conceded, to politics as usual. The president is sounding like the Al Gore for President campaign, but without the earth tones. Tax increases for the rich! Protect entitlements! People versus the powerful! I was hoping the president would give a cynical nation something unconventional, but, as you know, I’m a sap.

"Being a sap, I still believe that the president’s soul would like to do something about the country’s structural problems. I keep thinking he’s a few weeks away from proposing serious tax reform and entitlement reform. But each time he gets close, he rips the football away. He whispered about seriously reforming Medicare but then opted for changes that are worthy but small. He talks about fundamental tax reform, but I keep forgetting that he has promised never to raise taxes on people in the bottom 98 percent of the income scale.

"That means when he talks about raising revenue, which he is right to do, he can’t really talk about anything substantive. He can’t tax gasoline. He can’t tax consumption. He can’t do a comprehensive tax reform. He has to restrict his tax policy changes to the top 2 percent, and to get any real revenue he’s got to hit them in every which way. We’re not going to simplify the tax code, but by God Obama’s going to raise taxes on rich people who give to charity! We’ve got to do something to reduce the awful philanthropy surplus plaguing this country!

"The president believes the press corps imposes a false equivalency on American politics. We assign equal blame to both parties for the dysfunctional politics when in reality the Republicans are more rigid and extreme. There’s a lot of truth to that, but at least Republicans respect Americans enough to tell us what they really think. The White House gives moderates little morsels of hope, and then rips them from our mouths. To be an Obama admirer is to toggle from being uplifted to feeling used.

"The White House has decided to wage the campaign as fighting liberals. I guess I understand the choice, but I still believe in the governing style Obama talked about in 2008. I may be the last one. I’m a sap."



hendy [Member] said:

Brooks is a bozo, but he gets a few things right. Obama is not a consummate politician, he's a lawyer from the S side of Chicago.

He got elected at a low point in history, in 2008 when banks had fibbed and corrupted both the Fed and Fannie and Freddie. We were F'd by them.

We were fighting three wars concurrently, Iraq, Afghanistan, and "terror".

We faced huge budget deficits, tax revenues went to hell in a handbasket.

Do you guys remember me writing all this three years ago at this very site?

So Obama isn't good at finessing. He's black, and therefore the crux of latent race anger. I often take a look at someone's diatribe and change Obama's race to see if the effects might be different. Often, they are.

Brookings seems like a well-intentioned guy, but like he says, he's a rube, and a tool of the Creators Syndicate machine himself. Looks nice and upright on the outside; foams on the inside, fed by The Agenda.

2011-09-20 08:10:22

ruthholl [Member] said:

But you're not disputing the disappointment factor? Right?
Look, there's infighting in the White House, Gaither clearly is clueless, Obama can't decide if he's a European Socialist or a great compromiser, and the Post Office is going broke. We got troubles. Obama is not on message.
I think that is all Brooks is saying. I personally no longer believe Obama can fix it. I love the guy, I would love to hang out with him. Like Peggy Noonan said, he's cool and he's got multi generations in the White House, he's a good man -- but I am no longer convinced he's made of the timber to tackle our woes. I am not blaming him for it all, keep in mind -- these are long-standing problems created over decades (our debt, our spending). But when you elect a guy president, goddammit, you want some solutions....
The argh is for the lack of any other vision on the horizon.

2011-09-20 08:20:41

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Obama will be fine. He inherited much malaise, and he disappoints all of us mightily on a regular basis. Why?

Because his grand 2008 rhetoric smacks right up against a Republican Congressional agenda that will not, repeat, NOT, give him a victory unless he bleeds all over the Oval carpet. And a pablum-eating middle-Dem group that wants re-elected more than they want fixes.

Look, Ruthie: we're at the tail end of a 35-year slide, that began when the country actually bought this ridiculous line: cut taxes, double Pentagon spending, cross your fingers and hope. Dial in two completely-stupid testosterone-driven wars, "off-budget", and a trade policy that seems mired in trade exhibitions rather than sound facts. In that climate, Dick Cheney is a folk hero. In any other time in our history, he'd be in prison. Beside Oliver North.

George Herbert Walker Bush may be a patrician of the first order but he had it right in 1980, when he called it Voodoo Economics. Of course, he swallowed his beliefs long enough to be a two-term placeholder and a one-term president. Power is, after all, intoxicating.

And the Politik Pendulum swings so far to the right that Rick Freaking Perry leads the Republican polls. (A man who honestly wanted Texas to withdraw from the Union!!) Trailed closely by Michelle Bachmann. And Sarah Palin in the mix if she wants to be.

"They're all a little daft 'cept for me and thee, McGhee, and I'm a little concerned about thee."

2011-09-20 08:50:03

BigPoppa [Member] said:

I too am disappointed that nothing seems to have been done in nearly three years. Unfortunately, it seems to get worse by the week as both sides dig in their heels to make an ideological statement and rile up their base.

What I find interesting is that Republicans haven't been called to the carpet nearly enough for what they promised in the 2010 elections. They too promised to fix what was broken, specifically creating more jobs and turning the economy around. Seems to be getting worse and I'm not sure it will ever get better.

The two party political system is no longer relevant. Both sides cater to the most radical parts of their base. Anyone who even whispers at an attempt to compromise gets torn apart for being weak by their constituents and has to answer to their party for going against their ideology. The weak don't get themselves re-elected and that's all politics has become, a four year mass media event for each politician to work to get another term.

Despite my disappointment, and I share that feeling with several friends who also voted for Obama, I'd have to vote for him again because the alternatives put forth by the Republicans terrify me. Most of those same friends share those fears too. Huntsman may be the best candidate of the bunch, but he's not popular with the party or the media. Ron Paul can be a little wacky, but makes a lot of sense. The rest of them come off as just plain nuts.

2011-09-20 08:54:01

Boomer Indy [unverified] said:

Why are you suprised that Obama is incapable of governing? The man is an academic, not a practical "doer." He got elected by a country beat down by wars and growing debt - and his soaring tone of hope and change got everyone caught up in a wave of optimism. In the end, it was all smoke and mirrors. We have looked behind the curtain and now realize the Great Oz is just a man. Someone unqualified to run for city council. And please don't blame this on race. Sure, people won't like him because of race. But that's a small number. He's never governed anything, never run a business, never been responsible for anything but getting elected, first to the Illinois senate, then US Senate, then President in just a few short years. He's overmatched and over his head. Time for someone with a plan and an idea to step up, I don't care from which party. His time is up.

2011-09-20 09:59:21

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

I join the club that believed in Obama but that has been disappointed with his performance as president. But probably for different reasons than some. Tops on the list for me is the mess that he came up with to solve the health care insurance crisis (yes, it is a crisis when people are dying and their families are going bankrupt because they can't afford health insurance coverage). Obama's "solution" isn't much and it doesn't take effect (for the most part) until 2014.

Secondly, because all of these years later, we still have "boots on the ground" in the Mideast, where we have no business trying to run the show.

In general, I agree with Harvard professor Cornel West (an African/America political analyst) who says that he didn't realize he was voting to elect a president who would be center-right.

However, as someone else here said, Republicans were never going to let Obama be successful. Perot may be crazy, but he was on-target with his "gridlock" indictments of our political system.

All of that said, I'll vote again for Obama because the alternative is way too frightening for me.

2011-09-20 12:17:37

hendy [Member] said:

And you guys were looking for Jesus Hussein Obama. The man had the power of superman, but didn't test that power and came in at one of those downward inflection points in US history: wars, bad economics, natural disasters, and a predecessor that didn't know from shinola and a veep that was plainly evil.

So you're disappointed. Quelle surprise! That we aren't in a *depression* with our butts handed to us in three wars is pretty major. I think Obama didn't want to fight Wall Street because a bunch of bank failures would push us into the 1930s all over again-- when we're at war, when the stock market was in a slide, when the US Federal Government's burn rate was peaking.

So you go, ah, I'm disappointed in that Obama. Fie.

I'm disappointed in the Birthers, the Flat Earthers, the Texas Board of Education's creationist mandates and rewriting of history. I'm disappointed that Cheney and Rummy aren't in a federal prison for torture and malfeasance.

I'm disappointed that the CEOs of BofA, Citi, Chase, aren't all under federal indictment with Lehman Bros, Merrill Lynch, and CountryMark along with WAMU, Wells Fargo, and a host of others. These guys deserve to be behind bars. Madoff was just one joker; these guys do it with microtrading and obscured debt instruments.

So our man Obama isn't walking on water. Yeah, pick up a stone. Throw it. Be the first. Or watch Fox News, the Fact Free Network beat on him from dawn to dawn every day. He's no saint. He ought to close Guantanamo, but then found that it's a legal quagmire, brilliant, but to close it allows sworn enemies of the state to go free and foment violence against the US.

Think back to 2008. Read the news from that era. Go on, pick up that rock.

2011-09-20 13:19:10

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

Hendy, just curious. This is not a "loaded" question:

Did you expect what we've gotten from the Obama presidency? When he was campaigning and telling us, in a kind of Messiah-like way, that he was going to change everything. Era of Jubliee. Happy days are here again, etc., etc. (By the way, it ticked me off when other primary candidates said that Obama could not live up to his rhetoric. Now....).

My younger brother is not at all disappointed in Obama. He believes that, under the circumstances of what the Bush disaster left for Obama, that's he's done pretty well.

Is this your thinking, brother Hendy?

2011-09-20 13:32:01

hendy [Member] said:

Call me an idealist; I would have liked to have seen Obama kick ass. But this is a black man, and there are white people out there that were sore enough that he won in the first place. My guess is that he treaded lightly, even though he had a huge consensus and cross-section of the US behind him, and ever-so-tired of the Bush administration's complete ineptness-- not to mention McCain's indecisions.

He could have done better, but he's human, which is more than I give for Bush-Cheney. Their lax oversight (and Congress's) of the corporate shenanigans coupled to their hawk and anti-immigrant hatred got us into this fix.

Everyone wanted Jesus, because it was just that BAD. Less than Jesus means that noisy factions slowly hack away at their sacred cows. Few people could have taken that mandate and done well; Obama could have caused huge divisions among a small but highly vocal and active part of this country's constituency. I think he held back; it was his call; I would have acted differently were I, him.

The hue and cry was strong. Almost no one could come out smelling like a rose in his spot. If there was another potential pillar of ideals, say John Kerry, he'd have had to have fought the same battles. The problem with Obama is that he listens to his critics.

2011-09-20 13:53:49

indykjsharp [unverified] said:

Is anybody disappointed about Obama's decision to halt the EPA clean air rules?

Don't we have the sixth-worst crappiest air in the U.S.? And the costs to clean it up are being foisted on consumers.

Everything sucks, but this was a moment of real dissillusion for me.

2011-09-20 18:08:06

hendy [Member] said:

Yes, disappointed. Kids with asthma, my brother in law with CF, millions of people with problems from pollution, and Indiana is one of the worst contributors.

2011-09-20 20:45:26

Gym [unverified] said:

Much appreciated for the information and share!

2011-09-20 23:32:22

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

Good point, indkjsharp.

Among my laundry list of ailments and afflictions are severe allergies, asthma and severe fibromyalgia. I am convinced these are all connected with the toxic air we breathe.

Someone I know who works in IPS tells me that kids running to the nurses' stations for their inhalers has increased very substantially over the past decade or so.

We won't even keep the air clean for children (and it doesn't help that many of those children go to school in un-air conditioned buildings).

Just watched a documentary tonight on an Alaskan village of about 500 people which is literally falling into the sea due to Global Climate Change.

I could go on and on and on about this. But I don't have money so no one who can do anything about it cares what I have to say.

The sad mythology/delusion that people like me have a real voice in what goes on in this country - or even in this state - is something I dealt with personally about 10 years ago.

But somehow it's therapeutic for me to write my opinions and thoughts for intelligent people - like Ruth and the regular posters here - to read.

2011-09-20 23:48:44

ed stanley [unverified] said:

David Brooks is right about one thing. He is a sap.

2011-09-21 03:21:21

JT [unverified] said:

Obama is what he is: A socialist. His political beliefs are no different than other elites: "Everyone must be equal, except the elite/party supporters, who are allowed to have more."

Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, etc. are all socialists/communists to an extent. All government is socialist/communist. Government goes bad when it gets too big. Obama promised much to the socialists and communists in this country. He isn't able to deliver because of how we have mixed business with socialism/communism. A country where profits are privatized but loses are now socialized.

This isn't anything new though. One example is the Hoosier Dome: Forcing others to pay for the benefit of the few. There are winners and losers in all these cases. The political insiders, "leaders", donors, etc.. usually end up the winners, the taxpayers the losers. Unless a commoner, I mean taxpayer, can find some way to capitalize on the socialist project, they are out money (ie: taxes).

This is a country based upon war, and that is why Obama couldn't do much with the wars he inherited. Imagine if a president really cuts the military where it needs to be cut. We could possibly see a huge amount of closings in national guard facilities, likely moving everything to Atterburry where there is space. How many civilian jobs would be lost? What would happen if we close Crane? We loss 3,600 jobs from the area. Raytheon closes, another 1,500 jobs. Just cutting the military could cost Indiana 5,000 jobs, if not more.

The problems with this country can't be solved without major sacrifice. We can't continue to spend hundreds of thousand of dollars in medical costs for 80 somethings to live just another six months, or a year, in a nursing home bed. We can't continue to allow publicly funded higher education act like private business: They give out private corporation wages/benefits, hike tuition rates, and then go begging for more and more tax money.

Austerity measures will come to the US in some form or another. There is too much waste at all levels of government. We need to decide if we want a huge federal government and scrape local government, or have a stronger local government (county, region, or state based) system and minimize the federal government.

I foresee things getting bad, and no one running for president can or will do what it takes to fix the mess. The idea we can print and tax our way out of this is laughable. We are broke, and we have been broke for decades. The riots in Europe will get worse. The socialists and communists here in the US think "It will be different here, it will work here." It won't work. The corporate socialists here in the US think status quo will work, things won't get bad. It won't work.

We are likely looking at major civil unrest. The only thing different from our unrest to what we are seeing in Europe: We have 300,000,000 firearms in this country. Do the math, flee the urban areas.

2011-09-21 04:47:38

hendy [Member] said:

JT, I'm stunned. I'm pretty sure your paranoia isn't something shared by most people. Indeed your definitions of communism/socialism as manifested by the last few presidents puts you in a solidly minority opinion status, as in missing the basic definitions by a country mile.

The opinions that you're stating are shared by survivalists, militia types, and others that have allowed themselves to be overcome by fear, rather than participating in strategies that feed hope. I hope you reconsider your understanding of what socialism really is, and its historical nature. Someone's been hoodwinking you.

2011-09-21 07:33:30

B2 [unverified] said:

Reading Brooks' words, I knew which way the responses would lean and was not disappointed.

You believed the Community Organizer's rhetoric -- hope and change -- and he's let you down.

But it's not his fault. He's not responsible. It's all on someone else.
The Bushies. Reagan. Racists. The GOP. The wealthy. The banks. The corporations. The wars. Terrorism. Floods. Earthquakes. Hurricanes.

It can't be on The Messiah, the Chosen One.

None of it.

2011-09-21 07:55:44

indykjsharp [unverified] said:

Emile Zola and John Steinbeck would have certainly scratched their heads over the idea that socialists are elites, as JT claims, above.

What's clear to me is we have too much propaganda and not enough reasoned reflection of history, ideas and ideals.

2011-09-21 08:26:42

Citizen X [unverified] said:

I really concur with B2's post. I have been reluctant to post anything because of the political views of most of the people posting here. Mostly because I won't change their views, they won't change mine and I am reluctant tobe attacked ad hominem.

2011-09-21 09:33:34

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

CItizen, if you don'nt say anythingk stupid, you wn't be attacked. No solid guarantee an attack even if you do post something stupid.

Calling Obama a socialist is stupid. Predictable, but stupid.

And again, I say: you can't beat someone with no one. And the Republican side is full of nobodies. Scary ones, to boot.

I like the Obama I see in the last 10 days. May his grit multiply.

And a pox on the House of Boehner. Governing by "no" isn't, well, governing.

2011-09-21 10:47:04

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

"I have been reluctant to post anything because of the political views of most of the people posting here."

Citizen X. Please post here. I want to hear all viewpoints, even though I may disagree with some. I can't guarantee you that your opinions won't be criticized (mine certainly have been upon occasion - smile), but you will add to the discussion and debate.

We have a culture now in which people can't debate and disagree without attacking one another personally.

This is neurosis and, in many cases, borderline psychosis at play.

I surely wouldn't want to live in a world where everyone was a clone of me. That's an absolute certainty.

2011-09-21 13:15:22

indykjsharp [unverified] said:

I want a world full of Whitebeards!

2011-09-21 13:55:52

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

Thank you, indykysharp.com, for the kind comment.

However, I'm not at all certain my dear wife of 32 years, who has had to put up with me every day for these decades, would necessarily agree (smile).

Blessings right back on you.

2011-09-21 14:01:52

JT [unverified] said:


I know very well what socialism is: Take from hendy and give to JT. Or if JT has more, take from JT and give to hendy.

Socialism never works with humans. Humans have too much greed, from the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich. Socialist countries end up worse than the US: Everyone is forced to live as if they all make the same income. Anyone who works hard and succeeds has more fruits of their labors taken and redistributed to others who don't have as much. The only way to get ahead is to be a political player or insider elite. Then you are OKed to have a bigger home, fancy car, etc.. As for everyone else, they should all be equal. This only means that eventually everyone will aim low in life, as there is no reward for hard work and "doing the right thing."

2011-09-21 16:05:24

hendy [Member] said:

No, your definition is wrong. Your observations of countries that use socialist policies is wrong. Your eyes are closed.

I'm not defending socialism; I'm a capitalist at heart. But in a civil society, you look after each other, and you pay the common bills. That's not socialism-- that's responsibility.

Your sense of redistribution is skewed as well. Your teachers owe you an apology; the world is different if you look at it more closely, and with less prejudice.

2011-09-21 19:47:13

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

And once again Hendy has it right.

2011-09-21 22:34:55

JT [unverified] said:

"I'm not defending socialism; I'm a capitalist at heart. But in a civil society, you look after each other, and you pay the common bills. That's not socialism-- that's responsibility."

There is nothing, nothing that commands one human to have "responsibility" over another. This is nothing more than individual greed by those who think as such. You and others demand other humans be responsible for the actions of others. You have no right to demand this from others. If you want to bailout other humans, go for it. Don't steal from some humans for the benefit of other humans who don't need it.

Like I said before. If we keep down this route, it will just be easier for everyone to aim low. Why would I raise my kids to work hard, not get knocked up, go into debt to get a college degree, study to get good grades, etc. when we are heading toward a massive confiscation society? I don't want to raise my kids to be wage slaves or suckers for some liberal ideology. Better tell them to party it up, make sure to have a kid out-of-wedlock for all the benefits that come with that, let someone else pay their rent via Section 8, get "disabled" and never have to work again, etc.. Life is always easier when some other sucker is paying the way.



2011-09-22 03:56:12

varangianguard [unverified] said:

Can't let this part of Brooks article pass..

"...but at least Republicans respect Americans enough to tell us what they really think."

Really? Politicians who tell us what they think? Before polling? That statement is one of the "big lies", in my opinion. Or, Mr. Brooks is sorely deluded.

2011-09-22 04:20:16

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

JT: I'm thankful your view is a distinct minority.

Glass negative full.

2011-09-22 07:42:41

VladtheImpaler [unverified] said:

And once again, JT has it right.

2011-09-22 18:49:14

Jason [unverified] said:

Real bummer I'm late posting, but I can't let a good political thread pass.

Obama could have done everything he's accusing the Republicans of "obstructing" right after he was elected. He passed on the opportunity, for some good reasons and probably a few bad ones. Nevertheless, he didn't let the Bush tax cuts expire and he didn't close Gitmo (among other things) when all it would have taken is a phone call and a Post-It note, and now he's blaming somebody else for not being able to follow through on the agenda.

He's certainly learned the hard way that Washington operates under a different standard than Chicago, and the growing pains have been, well, painful to watch. He's acquitted himself well on the terror issue: I would even give him higher marks than Bush, while he doesn't have to worry about the media he's shown a willingness to piss off the fringe that's taken over his party and that's always a good thing. The rendering thing is a clever way to wash his hands of what he knows needs to be done and I don't blame him for that.

Of course, as a nation, we managed to elect the one person in the whole entire country who is actually worse at spending their way out of debt than George Bush. Ultimately, as much hullaballoo as people will make out of all the other issues, THAT will be his legacy, and it's not exactly something to point to with pride.

2011-09-26 00:40:16

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