Political Animal


October 30, 2012 10:54 AM Romney By Hook or By Crook

By Ed Kilgore

Speaking of Moderate Mitt and his mendacity, a lot of folk are gazing in awe today at the latest David Brooks column, which, predictably, offers the American Beauty Rose of twisted rationales for electing Romney. Kevin Drum looks at it from the angle of rewarding conservative hostage-takers:

Shorter David Brooks: congressional Republicans are such implacable assholes that they’ll flatly refuse to support big legislation that’s good for the country as long as Barack Obama is president. But congressional Democrats are more reasonable, so if Mitt Romney wins, he’ll be able to get some big stuff passed. Therefore you should vote for Romney.
Shorter shorter David Brooks: the only way to deal with terrorists is to give them what they want.

Yep, but I think Kevin is actually under-estimating the cynicism of Brooks’ argument. For his Mitt-will-get-big-things done hypothesis, he has to make these assertions:

To get re-elected in a country with a rising minority population and a shrinking Republican coalition, Romney’s shape-shifting nature would induce him to govern as a center-right moderate. To get his tax and entitlement reforms through the Democratic Senate, Romney would have to make some serious concessions: increase taxes on the rich as part of an overall reform; abandon the most draconian spending cuts in Paul Ryan’s budget; reduce the size of his lavish tax-cut promises.
As President Romney made these concessions, conservatives would be in uproar. Talk-radio hosts would be the ones accusing him of Romneysia, forgetting all the promises he made in the primary season. There’d probably be a primary challenge from the right in 2016.
But Republicans in Congress would probably go along. They wouldn’t want to destroy a Republican president. Romney would champion enough conservative reforms to allow some Republicans to justify their votes.

Now recall, please, that Mitt Romney and virtually every Republican member of Congress have spent much of the last decade and all of the last four years administering blood oaths to each other that they will allow the economy to collapse, the business of the country to become permanently gridlocked, and presumably the very universe to crumble before they will support “increasing taxes on the rich.” As long ago as 1993, every single Republican Member of Congress voted against Clinton’s first budget almost strictly because it increased taxes on the rich. It is the “conservative principle” that dwarfs all others. And because today’s Republican pols have learned by heart the horror story of George H.W. Bush’s ignominious defeat for violating The Pledge, it is extremely unlikely any of them will hold hands and jump off a bridge in order to protect the flanks of Mitt Romney, assuming Romney himself is willing to blithely repudiate his own 10,000 blood oaths against raising taxes on the rich. And thus, even if David’s right and a significant number of Democrats can be mustered to break their own blood oaths to resist the basic thrust of the Ryan Budget, what’s the foundation of the Grand Compromise, to be built on a road of broken promises?

I’ve often observed that David Brooks’ M.O. is to approach every political question from a lofty, ostensibly non-partisan perch, wheeling in the sky above the grubby partisans before descending to earth at a point that just happens to coincide with the practical needs of the Republican Party. Right now the overriding imperative is getting Mitt Romney elected by hook or by crook. Then Republicans under the lash of their conservative movement masters will figure something out.

UPDATE: Brother Benen notes that Brooks’ argument reminds him of what Ramesh Ponnuru was saying in early September, in a column that essentially argued the choices were Romney or chaos, thanks to the intransigence of Republicans. But I’d make a distinction: Ponnuru was calling for “united Republican governance.” Brooks is pointing to an imaginary bipartisan wonderland that will somehow be produced by Republican intransigence. At least Ramesh knows his own party.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Citizen Alan on October 30, 2012 11:00 AM:

    How can this be viewed as anything other than an appeal to overt fascism?!? It is a claim that only one party can possibly be allowed to rule the nation and that the other, when in power, is fundamentally illegitimate. It is a declaration that the Republicans have the same inherent right to rule as the Baathists did. Sickening.

  • gelfling545 on October 30, 2012 11:04 AM:

    Another solution might be to re-elect the President and get rid or as many republicans as possible in the Senate & the House.

  • c u n d gulag on October 30, 2012 11:09 AM:

    I'm sure that it's a mere coincidence that the position Brooks supports at the end of his "he-said/she-said" columns, ALWAYS ends up in the same exact place as that day's Republican Party.

    Otherwise, one might wonder why the NY Times gives such valuable space to an unprincipled Conservative hack?

    Brooks is what stupid people think a moderately Conservative voice sounds like.

  • Alex on October 30, 2012 11:15 AM:

    Most of Brook's columns can be reduced to a single line:

    "As Aristotle said, vote for the Republican.

  • c4Logic on October 30, 2012 11:19 AM:

    David Brooks is a partisan hack. It's how he makes his living. Enough said. The question that amazes me is why more people are not completely pissed off that Republicans are fascists that would impose an authoritarian Oligarchy by any means they can get away with.

  • James M on October 30, 2012 11:35 AM:

    From the Kevin D quote:

    "Shorter shorter David Brooks: the only way to deal with terrorists is to give them what they want."

    Yep. This is the reason that BO must win re-election. If we gave into this argument, when could a Democrat ever be elected President? The MSM simply refuses to admit that the Republicans are responsible for the current gridlock. As much as I enjoy Morning Joe (A guilty pleasure that is much less fattening than ice cream!)I am sometimes tempted to punch my computer monitor when everyone on the show starts their "Gee...why can't everyone in D.C.just get along?" chants. As sentient beings, they should know why everyone can't get along!

    Also, even if you were completely cynical and decided that the only way to bring peace to Washington would be to hand the GOP permanent control of the government, it would be a bad idea. There are just too many critical issues: education, health care, climate change, dealing with the Muslim world, energy policy, basic macroeconomics, etc., in which they are just plain wrong. They would set the country back so far, and so greatly damage our international competitiveness, that we might never recover.

    The adults have to stay in charge and can't just hand over an unlimited supply of toys and lollipops to try to pacify and shut up the crying kids.

  • majun on October 30, 2012 11:36 AM:

    That David Brooks would get something wrong is not remarkable, or at least no more remarkable than the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. What is remarkable is that he really doesn't get the most fundamental fact of current politics. Republicans will not raise taxes, and the corollary, there will be no bipartisan deal unless the top rate goes back to Clinton era levels.

    Electing Romney will insure that there will be continuing gridlock, or a very public case of public political Seppuku as Romney is forced to bridge the partisan divide with his own blood.

  • boatboy_srq on October 30, 2012 11:37 AM:

    @c4logic: show me the percent likelihood that, sans Pearl Harbor, the US would have entered WW2 on the side of the Allies, and I'll show you why so many US citizens aren't POd by that.


    I can never tell if Brooks is just happy making money being the GOTea shill, or if he really thinks that the modern GOTea is an aberration in the history of the Greatest Political Pahty Evah.

  • tcinaz on October 30, 2012 11:41 AM:

    As with most conservative thinking, Brooks begins with a logically flawed assertion and proceeds to reason wrongly therefrom. His flawed assertion: that Romney could actually be elected. Republicans have been pushing this flawed assertion since the first debate, assuming that no one noticed Mitt's mendacity in that event, translating that glaring oversight into skewed poll results, increased contributions, and the illusion of real contest. Once the dust stirred by this illogic settled, what had always been the case remained the case: Romney is an awful candidate that even Republican die-hards cannot stomach let alone the electorate at large.

  • DRN0001 on October 30, 2012 11:57 AM:

  • schtick on October 30, 2012 12:01 PM:

    Teapubs even vote against their own bills if Obama says he likes them. I think the dems should remind people the teapubs think so little of their country and their constitutents they would do that. As in their hate of Obamacare.

  • paul on October 30, 2012 12:18 PM:

    The obvious answer is for the democrats to start developing a homicidal fringe. Which will no doubt be funded by all those liberal billionaires. Oh, wait.

  • T2 on October 30, 2012 12:19 PM:

    what I see in Brook's column is an outright admission by a well recognized Conservative Mouthpiece that the Republicans have spent the last four years purposely ruining our country. What other meaning could one take from his main point: Republicans will refuse any effort to govern in a meaningful way because they want Obama to fail.

  • emjayay on October 30, 2012 12:40 PM:

    If the federal budget is drastically reduced (except for adding 2 trillion to defense) by getting rid of wasteful and unnecessary federal aid to local first responders, eliminating FEMA, and zeroing out investment in our infastructure, tax increases on the super wealthy will not be needed. Problem solved by President Mitt Romney.

  • jjdaddyo on October 30, 2012 12:54 PM:

    David Brooks is an unspeakable hack. If I have a few extra minutes today, I'll look up his NYT op-ed from almost 10 years ago where he claims that people who call Tom DeLay "The Hammer" are sadly misguided, as he is really a fluffy bunny of a sweetheart.

  • jjdaddyo on October 30, 2012 12:58 PM:

  • Mitch on October 30, 2012 1:19 PM:


    Dems should have been reminding folks of this every single day, during every interview, on every possible occasion and in every last speech for the past four years. Now, a few days before election, it's much too late for that meme to spread.

  • Shivas on October 30, 2012 1:33 PM:

    There's a simple solution to all this, "You can't tax the rich, they're the job creators" BS. Tax the rich but give tax breaks to people who actually create jobs. Anybody got a problem with that?

  • Sam on October 30, 2012 1:57 PM:

    So, what I'm getting is that David Brooks wants people to vote for Mitt Romney on the assumption (wish? hope?) that Romney is lying about what he believes and what he will do in office.

  • Anonymous on October 30, 2012 2:26 PM:

    David Brooks is a bought-and-paid-for GOP stooge.

    David Brooks has never been anything other than a bought-and-paid-for GOP stooge.

    Sure, he has to be more polite than Rush Limbaugh, and he can't lie quite so blatantly as Fox News, so the New York Times will publish his GOP-propaganda-for-liberals.

    But he is every bit as much of a bought-and-paid-for GOP stooge as Rush or the assholes on Fox.

  • Jaime Hardisty on October 30, 2012 3:22 PM:

    Romney is a moderate liberal from Massachusetts. He's not even a conservative, which is why he had to through the R base a bone with Ryan. He could work with the legislature in Massachusetts, he could certainly work with your typically corrupt congressman.

  • A.Hick on October 30, 2012 3:48 PM:

    It looks like Willard Romney has lied his way into the White House.

    The issue is not even about Obama, whose presidency was made possible by the last worthless Republican president, it's all about robber baron Romney and the crooks in the GOP. Obama has proved, if nothing else, that he is minimally capable of preventing the country from falling apart.

    I am sort of going to enjoy watching all these ignorant hicks who voted for yet another one of "God's candidates" see their country fall apart on them over the next four years as renewed economic contraction, a new war, massive new looting of the public treasury by financial speculators all reek disaster on a nation that deserves it's fate.

    Want to watch the unemployed and outsourced burn down the cities? Vote Romney. Want to see a war with Iran? Vote Romney. Want to see new tax cuts, and a 2 trillion dollar annual deficit (blamed on every Democrat from Jimmy Carter to Obama), then vote Wall Street Willard Romney.

    Think Mitt will do for America what he did to his dog.
    visit www.muttsagainstmitt.com

    Think Mitt offers Fresh Air For America?
    visit www.muttsformitt.com

  • RonRonDoRon on October 30, 2012 3:49 PM:

    Kevin Drum: "Shorter shorter David Brooks: the only way to deal with terrorists is to give them what they want."

    Call political opponents terrorists - sure, that'll work.

  • Werewolf on October 30, 2012 3:55 PM:

    In the words of the guy who most Rethugs *claim* to be their Savior-"By their fruits you shall know them."

    @Jaime Hardesty:
    Mittens was so bipartisan that he vetoed some 800 bills in four years. 700 of those were overridden.

    Dawn take you all, and be stone to you!

  • emjayay on October 30, 2012 3:57 PM:

    Judging by the comments, out 737 of 738 NYT readers don't think electing a lying prick for president (and another one for vice president) is really all that good an idea.

  • David on October 30, 2012 4:01 PM:

    There are no more moderate Republicans. They left Congress willingly years ago or got tossed out in the primary. The right's playbook is pretty simple these days - chase a conservative fantasy out of fear of a liberal bogeyman.

    If elected, Romney will find his own versions of Monica Goodling, Alberto Gonzalez, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and John Snow. They will be just as ideologically blind and just as incompetent.

    People also tend to forget that something interesting happens when candidates become Presidents. In Mitt's case, he would, day one, become the Jon Lovitz President - pathological liar, consummate political creature. His only political path forward would be a lurch to the right as far as he could possibly go.

    David Brooks and the rest of the moderate Republicans remind me of Bernanke and Greenspan prior to the banking crash. Both made wildly inaccurate assumptions about the bankers acting in the larger interests of their corporate organizations. Turns out those bankers were looking out only for themselves, based on the belief that looking out for yourself was somehow in fact in the company's best interest.

    Romney and Ryan believe the same thing politically. And if they get their way, we're going to end up with the same results in our political system that crushed our banking system - except our banking system can't bail out our politics in the same way our political system saved our banking system.

    Worst case scenario? Perhaps. But Romney and Ryan, and the constituency behind them, represent something entirely new and entirely dangerous in American politics.

  • boatboy_srq on October 30, 2012 4:06 PM:

    @Jaime Hardisty: He worked so well with the Mass legislature - that you'll notice he wasn't invited back to do it for another four years.

  • biggerbox on October 30, 2012 4:13 PM:

    The remarkable thing about Brooks is the way he never lets the fact that he knows nothing about how our nation's political system work stop him from pontificating about it. In a more perceptive man, such ignorance would stop him from opening his yap, but Brooks turns it into a career-making asset.

    The earnest way that he boldly asserts that a Republican Congress would just go along with a moderate Mitt, and that they would bat an eye before impeaching him if he veered off the conservative path is almost charming in its naivete. Has he never met Eric Cantor and Mitch McConnell?

    The point being, even if we gave in to the terrorists, they'd shoot the hostage. Silly Brooksie.

  • Adam on October 30, 2012 4:29 PM:

    Seriously, what is it with liberals and their use of the word 'mendacity.'

    You're calling him a liar. Have the balls to use the actual word.

  • David1225 on October 30, 2012 9:02 PM:

    As a former Obama voter who has been driven to vote for a third-party candidate, I've been keeping a tally of the lies. It's a pretty dead heat between the President and the Governor.

  • vicki on October 30, 2012 9:05 PM:

    Do you ever get tired of yourself? Do you ever get tired of the "rich people tax" thing? As if that is the lynch pin of conservative economic thought? The threat to the economy is monopolies and too big to fail. Not free enterprise, not capitalism and most certainly not rich people who aren't paying enough taxes. Republicans have failed the American people not in tax policy, but in a lack of constraint on the abiity of a company to swallow up all its competitors. On the other hand, Democrats have failed the American people on pretty much everything they've attempted, education, green energy, and health care being stellar examples.

  • arm on October 30, 2012 9:05 PM:

    Ahhh Bobo, your torture of logic knows no bounds.

  • Jo LO on October 31, 2012 3:54 AM:

    thank you - I read the Brooks article and was astounded by the "logic", not to mention the title of the article, "Romney the shape-shifter may be just what the country needs" ... okay, let's admit that the republican Congress have been radical obstructionists and the Republican candidate has never found a position on a topic that he didn't like, but we should REWARD this by electing republicans. HELL NO!!! Thank you for dismantling this "argument" of Brook's. Vote OUT the tea party do-nothings!!! Obama/Biden 2012.

  • Rolly8j on January 27, 2013 12:21 PM: