Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 2, 2010

THE GOP'S ELUSIVE 'MODESTY'.... When it comes to predicting how Republican lawmakers will act next year, we talked over the weekend about two competing models.

On the one hand, we have Jacob Weisberg, who believe GOP leaders "will feint right while legislating closer to the center." Republicans will realize, Weisberg argued, "they're being handed a gift, not a mandate." These GOP officials "don't think working with Democrats is evil. On the big picture tax and budget issues, they plan compromise with President Obama."

On the other, we have Dana Milbank, who explained that the modern Republican Party "is sorely in need of grown-ups." As Milbank sees it, "[T]here is no Bob Dole in the Republican leadership today; there isn't even a Newt Gingrich. There is nobody with the clout to tell Tea Party-inspired backbenchers when it's time to put down the grenades and negotiate. Rather, there are weak leaders who, frightened by the Tea Party radicals, have become unquestioning followers of a radical approach."

In his column today, David Brooks sides with the former, insisting Republicans are feeling "modest and cautious." They're "sober," Brooks believes. They won't "overreach." The GOP's leaders are "prepared to take what they can get, even if it's not always what they would like."

The new Republicans may distrust government, but this will be a Republican class with enormous legislative experience. Tea Party hype notwithstanding, most leading G.O.P. candidates either served in state legislatures or previously in Washington. The No Compromise stalwarts like Senator Jim DeMint have a big megaphone but few actual followers within the Senate.

Over all, if it is won, a Republican House majority will be like a second marriage. Less ecstasy, more realism. The party could have used a few more years to develop plans about the big things, like tax and entitlement reform. But if a party is going to do well in an election, it should at least be a party that has developed a sense of modesty.

I honestly have no idea how Brooks has come to believe this.

To be sure, I'd love to think reasonable Republicans intend to be responsible with power, and intend to take a mature approach to good-faith negotiations. It's a pleasant fantasy.

But is there any evidence -- any at all -- to support such an assumption? Not only have GOP leaders spent the last two years acting like spoiled children, uninterested in any serious policy work, they've also sent the last two weeks boldly proclaiming their intention to refuse to compromise with anyone about anything.

Indeed, the number of Republicans talking about shutting down the government next year is already pretty large, and it's getting bigger. A growing number of Republicans are even talking about deliberately pushing the United States government to literally default on its debts early next year.

Brooks would have us believe the reckless loudmouths are just bloviating, and that the GOP leadership will be far more sensible. That would be the leadership team that features Mitch McConnell (who insisted just last week that his top priority is destroying President Obama), John Boehner (who proclaimed the other day, "This is not a time for compromise"), and Mike Pence (who insisted two weeks ago that Republicans must not even try to work with the White House).

The point of Brooks' column seems to be that voters shouldn't fear Republican excesses after the midterms. I'm quite certain that's bad advice.

Steve Benen 7:55 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (28)

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The thing that worries me is the GOP intent to deliberately crash the federal government by defaulting on our debts. Isn't that what happened to Greece? The problem with that: our economy is BIGGER than Greece's and tied more to the global economy. Wouldn't this cause a crash bigger than 1929?! And they INTENTIONALLY want to do this?!

Posted by: PaulW on November 2, 2010 at 8:07 AM | PERMALINK

It baffles me that Brooks' editors find his arguments-by-assertion to be acceptable. He obviously starts from his conclusion -- or more properly, how he wishes things to be -- then offers as evidence "the mood of the electorate" or "what the American people most want" or some other vague bullshit. His columns could easily be written by a not-terribly-complicated computer program.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on November 2, 2010 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, Bobo at his BS best.
And by that, I mean absolutely clueless.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on November 2, 2010 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

Last time I checked the Republicans had no plan to do anything that would directly benefit the middle class, only the ruling class and corporations. Will anyone notice? Not likely . The narritive as the economy crashes even worse will be "It's Obama's fault" . Just tune into your TEEVEE nooze for the details.

Posted by: John R on November 2, 2010 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

One more "the GOP, despite all evidence, is really the GOP I want it to be" column that Villagers seem to love to crank out.

It's encouraging that Milbank's eyes have been opened, but on the whole, the pundit class seems determined to sell the American people a bill of goods yet one more time. They sold us on Bush, the war in Iraq, the unimportance of torture, domestic spying, and outing CIA agents as political retaliation, and a whole bunch of other stuff.

There are a few op-ed columnists who are worth reading, but really, if every last person who regularly appears on the op-ed page of a major newspaper or on the Sunday political talk shows were to drop dead tomorrow, we as a nation would be much better off as a result.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on November 2, 2010 at 8:26 AM | PERMALINK

How apt that with ever so many of our middle class having descended into the Third World standards of Latin-American countries to the south of us, we, will, collectively "celebrate" our National Day of the Dead, perhaps, tomorrow.

Posted by: berttheclock on November 2, 2010 at 8:27 AM | PERMALINK

The problem over the next two years is that the Republicans will be working out of a different reality than those of us who live in the real world.

I have Scarborough on as background noise and he is interviewing Haley Barbour, who he describes as "one of the adults" in the Republican party. And yet Barbour started spouting pure bullsh!t.

Barbour talked about the increased spending in Obama's three budgets. But back here on Earth, Obama has only passed one federal budget -- in 2010. The 2009 federal budget was passed before Obama took office and the 2011 federal budget hasn't passed yet.

Barbout also talked about "skyrocketing" spending by the Obama administration. But again, here on Earth Obama's 2010 federal budget deficit actually declined by $122 billion from the 2009 deficit.

I don't know how anyone can expect the Republicans to be "sensible" when they are working out of an alternate universe invented by Fox "News".

Posted by: SteveT on November 2, 2010 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

"Der Spiegel" on the state of your nation:


It's in English.

Posted by: Vokoban on November 2, 2010 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

The new Republicans may distrust government, but this will be a Republican class with enormous legislative experience.

Anyone else notice the inherent contradiction in that sentence?

That Brooks performs his usual weak-sauce propagandizing isn't surprising, of course. Nor is the fact that the Post's editors permit it -- Brooks is doing the job Fred Hiatt wants him to do, after all. But it'll be truly surprising if the Post's readership actually believes Brooks instead of their own lying eyes.

Posted by: Gregory on November 2, 2010 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

It's been quite clear for some time that today's pundits are bought and paid for, and pretty much everything that they write is designed to 1) prop up Republicans and conservatives and not challenge them in any substantive way, and 2) to generally obfuscate issues that have clear answers and clear villains.

I really don't know why you bother to comment on anything that they have to say. I guess you have a mandate to do this per the function of your blog. Maybe pointing out what they say and how/why it is wrong, each and every day, day in and day out, is useful to someone.

Posted by: terraformer on November 2, 2010 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

"I honestly have no idea how Brooks has come to believe this."

I think that assuming that Mr Brooks actually "believes" these assertions is the problem. Mr Brooks is a propagandist; it's more correct to go with your later assessment that "Brooks would have us believe..."

It's all smoke and mirrors to distract the rubes, make the disillusioned Dems feel it's okay to stay home, help the low-info voters feel better about voting "R".

Posted by: zandru on November 2, 2010 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

I find David Brooks a very accurate pundit - as long as you remember that he is predictably wrong and reverse his prognostications.

Posted by: Ted K. on November 2, 2010 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

In 1405 Ming emperors sent Admiral Zheng He and a fleet of 62 ships and 28,000 men--then the largest naval expedition in history- into the South Seas and across the Indian Ocean. Trade flourished, and so did China.

Zheng He's voyages were strongly opposed by the Confucian scholar officials, and by imperial decree the great navy was decommissioned. By the end of the fifteenth century, imperial subjects were forbidden from either building oceangoing ships or leaving the country. It has taken 500 years for China to re-emerge as a world power.

Our newly elected Tea Party congress plans to “destroy the fleet”- abolish the Dept of Education, leave the United Nations, stop all foreign aid, deport all aliens, and “build the dang fence”.

Let us hope that it does not take another 500 years for the United States to recover.

Posted by: DAY on November 2, 2010 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

Dems will still - even if they lose the Senate - be able to filibuster (you know, that thing you hate, but only when it's used AGAINST you). And even if they don't have the backbone for that (I predict they will follow the Dem norm of flopping to the floor like the invertibrates they are), Obama still has the veto, which will not be overturned because they won't be able to get the 2/3 they need. So the likelihood of the GOP being able to push much of their agenda is low.

Much MORE likely is two more years of gridlock. Unless Republicans decide to -gasp - compromise. Not likely to happen either with the TPers breathing fire.

So, in 2 years, either the GOP loses big time, or they are able to successfully paint Dems as obstructionist (not beyond the realm of possibility since they have Fox and Rush, and the Dems main strategy is usually curling up into a fetal position and sucking their thumbs while crying about how unfair it all is) and take a supermajority, thus ensuring the country's spectacular collapse.

Nice future to look forward to, isn't it?

Posted by: JEA on November 2, 2010 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

WE have been handed a gift... The almost universal acknowledgement that for the last 30 years middle and lower incomes have stagnated. USE IT... Starting out of the gate, NOW! We tried making this mid-term election local and failed. Now one theme, one drum beat... republicans killed the middle class.

Republicans killed the middle class.

republicans killed the middle class.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on November 2, 2010 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

David Brooks tries to project reasonable thoughtful explanations of the Republicans and their policies. However if you read is columns carefully you realize he usually bases his arguments on false premises and then proceeds to very rationally and logically knock down the straw men he has created. Also you will find he never challenges or critcally examines his party's views. For him, in the end, it's always the Democrats who are wrong. Hardly the critical thinker he imagines himself to be.

Posted by: TomR on November 2, 2010 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

SteveT I was thinking the same thing when I saw that ignorant fat F**k . Where were you the previous 8 years? He was on Mathhews last night spouting the same shit blabbing on about balanced budgets. At least Mathews to his credit asked him three times " If you were president and with these current conditions would you have proposed a balanced budget? He softshoed around it and finally said er...um...no. They all lie . They know it, we know it , even Fox News knows it. They also know it works

Posted by: John R on November 2, 2010 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

My sense about David Brooks is that he's not stupid but that his gig as the NYT op-ed conservative necessarily pushes him into an alternative realities. Does he really believe the crap he spews? No. But what's important is that he himself embodies what he thinks the GOP ought to. He's modest, self-effacing, tweedy, and a comfortably sane face on a rather intemperate ideology. See! Republicans aren't mean and dumb! Look at David Brooks!

Posted by: walt on November 2, 2010 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

as a good footsoldier for the GOP, brooks is simply closing with whatever will best assuage the doubts of his educated audience.

Posted by: matt on November 2, 2010 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

David Brooks is delusional, he has not accepted the obvious new face and character of the Republican/Tea Party. They showed their character during the presidential election with monkey stuffed toys, screams of terrorist and birther fantasies. Remember even John McCain had some decency then when he defended Obama at his rally from the crazy old lady. Would anybody seriously suggest the he (McCain) now has any decency remaining? This new reality (lie based) has been on steroids since Pres. Obama became president. Is there a white citizen alive with internet access who had not received multiple emails from family member, dubious friends or golf groups with wild and distorted claims about Obama, the Health Care bill etc. This crap has impact,it started a near feud in my extended family when I suggested, snottily I acknowledge, the they fact check their crud on snopes.com (think that's right) before pressing the send button. The most sensible explanation for it I heard on a radio show when a frustrated sane person concluded that you can't put a round fact in a square head. I believe that racism, like the ethnic hatred in the Easter European countries after communism fell, was just under the surface in the USA and it's in full flower now but much more insidious in it's stealth. That combined with corporate power, corporate money etc. has brought us to this day when, if polls are correct, the GOP will take over the House of Representatives at the least and David
Brooks will be proven wrong again.

Posted by: Kathryn on November 2, 2010 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

Brooks and Frum are the standard bearers for the "moderate" Republicans who have enabled their party's descent into madness by convincing themselves, election after election, that they're not really as crazy as they seem and no matter how mad their party becomes, they're still better than voting for Democrats because, well, those Democrats are just so, so, Democratic. Without the votes of the Brooks and Frum Republicans, their party would collapse but, no matter how crazy and how stupid their party becomes, they reward them for it by showing up election after election and voting for them anyway.

Posted by: Another Steve on November 2, 2010 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

zandru is right: This is propaganda to help the low-information center feel okay about voting GOP today.

But I think he very thoroughly buys his own line. Brooks's goal is to make it to death without ever having to face his virtuoso erroneousness. Until the day he leaves this earth, he will keep cranking out columns pretending that the world is as he wishes it rather than how it is. It's really a pathological self-delusion. I assume he's now using Dragon since it's so hard to type with both sets of fingers in your ears and a blindfold over your eyes.

Posted by: shortstop on November 2, 2010 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

Now this entry by title is the most unnecessary column ever! The GOP does not know what modesty is, as a matter of fact, their plan is to re-hobble the country for their own benefit as usual. The only good republican is a dead one: Abe Lincoln.

Posted by: Trollop on November 2, 2010 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

1) Zandru is correct. He doesn't *believe* this, he is *writing* this.

2) Steve, I believe that the word you are looking for is "uninterested" (in any serious policy work). "Disinterested" means "impartial." You have used this word a few times, but I'm pretty sure you are not writing what you mean to write (and since you are, in general, an excellent writer, I hate to see this happen).

Posted by: Ian A on November 2, 2010 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

Well, I think Angle has legislative experience, but she's a complete nutcase. Then there's Joe Miller and Christine O'Donnell. Modest and sober, indeed.

Posted by: Bulworth on November 2, 2010 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Sharron Angle served in the Nevada state legislature where she acted like a complete wacko. Fortunately for Nevada they don't have traditions like the anonymous hold and she was not able to gum up everything.

The Tea Party will not run the government, but if some of them are elected they will have the ability to do harm, and they will continue to get media attention.

Posted by: skeptonomist on November 2, 2010 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

The triumphalism has begun even before the votes are counted.

" The GOP's leaders are "prepared to take what they can get, even if it's not always what they would like."

He can't possibly believe this. Any Republican who compromises with Obama on anything is gone in short order. Republican leadership has already said there is no room for compromise. The New York Times pays David Brooks for this nonsense?

It's payback time now. Obama better find 40 senators he can count on and buckle up his chin strap.

Posted by: Pug on November 2, 2010 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

I see gridlock as almost unavoidable, in one of two situations - either the Republican leadership actually tries to legislate like Boehner and McConnell say, refusing to compromise across the aisle, and thereby bringing government to a grinding halt, or the Tea Party faction within the Republican caucus sees that the Republican leadership is compromising and trying to work across the aisle, and brings the Republican contingent to a grinding halt with internecine warfare. Neither is a desirable outcome; either one means Washington sits there stripping its gears while the rest of us slip off into the morass.

Posted by: Harry on November 2, 2010 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK



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