Political Animal


November 08, 2011 3:05 PM David Brooks vs. David Brooks

By Steve Benen

It was obvious almost immediately that David Brooks’ latest column would be problematic — the conservative New York Times writer described Mitt Romney as “earnest” in the first paragraph.

Love Romney or hate him, earnestness isn’t one of his strong points.

Alas, the column only got worse, with Brooks praising Romney’s “impressive” campaign and “serious” candidacy. The columnist seemed especially pleased by the former governor’s speech on debt-reduction last week, which Brooks described as “his most important speech yet.”

It was politically astute and substantively bold, a quality you don’t automatically associate with the Romney campaign. Romney grasped the toughest issue — how to reform entitlements to avoid a fiscal catastrophe — and he sketched out a sophisticated way to address it. […]

Romney’s plan still has some holes in it (how fast would premium supports grow?), but it exemplifies the sort of big reformist vision that should be at the center of a serious Republican campaign.

It’s tough to know where to start with this, so let’s get some of the basics out of the way. First, Brooks praises Romney’s ability to eliminate the 2002 Olympics’ deficit, without explaining that Romney sought and received a congressional bailout for the games (it’s easier to eliminate a deficit when lawmakers start directing tax dollars your way). Second, Brooks overlooks relevant details of Romney’s so-called debt-reduction plan, including the fact that it’s impossible to shrink the deficit if a Romney administration follows through on its promise to increase defense spending and approve trillions in additional tax cuts.

There’s also the small matter of this “serious” candidate thinking he can improve the nation’s finances by gutting the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and eliminating Planned Parenthood — which is practically the definition of being fundamentally unserious.

But let’s put all of that aside, and instead debate this on Brooks’ turf.

The columnist is impressed with Romney’s approach to Medicare. He shouldn’t be. For all of his alleged “seriousness,” Romney falsely (and cheaply) attacked President Obama for “cutting” Medicare, endorsed raising the eligibility age (which would make matters worse), and threw his support behind Paul Ryan-style vouchers. How much would the vouchers be worth? Romney didn’t say. Would they keep up with escalating costs? Romney didn’t say.

For Brooks to consider this “sophisticated” is to strip the word of all meaning.

But what I’d really love is for David Brooks to remember previous columns written by David Brooks.

In April, for example, the columnist trashed the Ryan plan that Romney’s agenda mirrors. Three months later, Brooks said Republican debt-reduction plans that don’t focus on revenue are irresponsible, and sure enough, Romney’s speech made no effort to bring in additional revenue.

November Brooks seems awfully impressed with Romney’s conservative agenda. Would July Brooks have said the same thing?

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • pillsy on November 08, 2011 3:18 PM:

    You spent half the article castigating David Brooks for reversing himself on Medicare. Is it any wonde that the guy is head-over-heels for Romney?

  • T2 on November 08, 2011 3:23 PM:

    it may be tough for you to know where to start, Mr. Benen, but not for me. I start by recognizing the by-line as David Brooks...then I stop reading it and move to another story.

    Captcha: "outstanding drisma" an excellent description of Brooks' writing

  • neil b on November 08, 2011 3:23 PM:

    Steve, all that is beside the point. Romney's faults etc., consistency, none of that "really" matters. Romney is the preferred corporatist, establishment bobo Suit and will be thoroughly determined to push that agenda, not just partly and with some public interest mixed in as for Obama.

  • Mustang Bobby on November 08, 2011 3:41 PM:

    Well, if Mitt Romney can flip-flop all over the place, why can't David Brooks? It's catchy!

  • DAY on November 08, 2011 3:43 PM:

    Nature abhors a vacuum, and readers won't buy newspapers without words.
    Brooks ain't the only "writer" to know this.
    Like the daily horoscope, publishers need columnists to complete the kabuki.

  • Peter C on November 08, 2011 3:46 PM:

    David Brooks is a propagandist and a 1%-lick-spittle. Of course he likes Romney (the last Republican dwarf standing).

  • kevo on November 08, 2011 3:46 PM:

    Brooks latest attempt to put lipstick on a pig to make it look purrdy, pay for its singing lessons, while waiting around for it to grow wings and fly!

    Yes, Mr. Brooks praised Mitt's earnestness, largely because from where he is, Brooks yearns for a mere fraction of the earnestness of which he heaps such praise!

    Brooks is just returning the professional favor from one poseur to another - after all, how far apart are the two save one is a pseudo-journalist and the other is a faux presidential candidate! -Kevo

  • j on November 08, 2011 3:50 PM:

    Anyone seen Romney's birth certificate or his tax return?
    Anyone ask him why he wants to tax the middle class when he set up shell corporations in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda to avoid paying American taxes?

  • @the_dan on November 08, 2011 3:53 PM:

    Brooks is also engaging in a clever sleight of hand. He says that Medicare's fee-for-service model is broken, ergo we must do premium support...as if those are the only two options (to say nothing of the fact that he is using a compensation model critique to advocate not for different compensation model, but rather for a different coverage model).

  • kindness on November 08, 2011 3:57 PM:

    I was embarrassed. David Brooks gave Mittens a bj in public, then went on to tell everyone how good Mittens was.

  • nerd on November 08, 2011 4:11 PM:

    Brooks excels at seeing exactly what he wants to see, and not be bothered when reality doesn't match what he wants to see. I'm sure there's a name for that.

  • hells littlest angel on November 08, 2011 4:33 PM:

    Baghdad Bobo.

  • jjm on November 08, 2011 4:37 PM:

    Brooks is way past his shelf life.

    Time for that muddle headed guy who's only raison d'Ítre is to automatically be for anything Republican/Wall Street/and pro-the-wealthy. It leads him to tortuously and terminally silly writing.

    Time for Ambramson to give him the heave-ho. The world got along very nicely without his 'insights' (what a laugh!).

  • biggerbox on November 08, 2011 4:45 PM:

    Oh, lay off the guy. Brooks calling Mr. Flip-flopper "substantive" made me laugh out loud. We can all use a good laugh, right?

    The only problem is that David Brooks doesn't realize he's self-parody, unlike Stephen Colbert.

  • Mike on November 08, 2011 4:55 PM:

    I think that Brooks wasn't so much commenting on the quality if Romney's plans, but rather the fact that he even as put them forth at all, something which his Republican opponents haven't really done. As compared to the other candidates, Romney's plans are indeed "astute," "bold," and "sophisticated."

    This just shows how bad the Republican field is. Brooks is impressed with Romney because some crap is better than no crap at all.

  • Doug on November 08, 2011 7:24 PM:

    I expect to see many more such pieces advocating for Romney, whether by Brooks or other VSP(R).
    The Republican base HAS to be convinced that Romney is going to be the winner to prevent a brokered convention, which WILL NOT choose Romney. Republicans also love being on the winning side, so convincing enough non-Romney or wavering primary voters that he WILL be the winner is the natural first step. Everyone knows winners are "politically astute and substantively bold". That they're found "grasping at the toughest issues".
    Therefore, Brooks will write as if Mittens, so soon to be the nominee, is actually qualified for it. That the ONLY way Brooks can do so is by ignoring facts (the Olympics bail-out) and reality (increasing the deficit) doesn't, and won't, bother Brooks an iota.
    I mean, it's not as if Mittens' ideas are set in stone or anything...

  • John Weiss on November 09, 2011 12:58 AM:

    Why does anyone read the drek that Brooks writes? Not only is he usually really wrong but his opines are vapid treacle.