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Posted at 10:20 AM ET, 02/18/2011

Obama disappoints on the budget

By Jennifer Rubin

David Brooks is not pleased with the president. Barack Obama was the candidate -- so philosophical, reasoned and tidy -- for whom he cheered strenuously and for whose presidency Brooks has often served as a mouthpiece (thanks to excessive attention heaped upon him by the White House), putting the president's decisions in the best possible light. But Obama has never lived up to the promise Brooks saw in him. Obama's "historic achievement" -- ObamaCare --was not something Brooks could stomach.

And it is the same story on the president's budget proposal. Brooks writes:

Two explanations are commonly offered to explain why the White House decided to kick the can down the road. Some analysts say the Democrats are trying for a repeat of 1995: Do nothing on the deficit; goad the Republicans into announcing entitlement cutbacks and then savage them on the campaign trail for cutting off granny.

I don't believe this is in the president's head. It would be morally reprehensible to bankrupt the nation for the sake of a campaign theme. Obama is not that sort of person.

Yes, that would be like making up tales about the Chamber of Commerce's "foreign money" buying an election, or assuring the country that extending coverage to tens of millions of Americans would save money, or telling a bald-faced lie that expenditures would no longer exceed revenue at some point under a budget that doesn't count borrowing to pay the debt as adding to the debt. What sort of person would practice that kind of old school politics?

Brooks doesn't like to think Obama is up to no good, so he prefers this explanation:

Be patient, the president argued at his press conference this week. If I lead from the front my proposal will get stymied in the partisan circus. Better to lead from the back and have negotiations in private with Republican leaders. Then when the time is ripe, we'll cut a deal outside the glare of the scream machine.

The president and his aides may really believe in this strategy, but it is wrong. This is not like fixing Social Security in the early 1980s. The current debt problem is of an entirely different scale. It requires a rewrite of the social contract, a new way to think about how the government pays for social insurance.

That explanation is based on the premise that the "president has enormous faith in getting smart people around the table and initiating technocratic reform." Unfortunately, to the extent that is true, Obama tends to come up with reforms, like ObamaCare, that are so flawed that not even Brooks can support them.

But Brooks is still optimistic. "While Obama asked for patience yet again, Eric Cantor announced that Republicans will put entitlements on the table. It may be politically risky, but it looks more like leadership to me."

Well, maybe fluency in the philosophy of Reinhold Niebuhr isn't a skill relevant to the presidency. When the chips are down -- a terrorist bombing, foreign revolutions or a fiscal crisis -- sound judgment, decisiveness and moral clarity are what count. We should keep that in mind in 2012.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 18, 2011; 10:20 AM ET
Categories:  President Obama  
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Comments

Again, the hypocrisy of the neocons/non-cons. They rightly rail against ObamaCare, and they support foreign welfare for IsraeliCare. Every man, woman and child has universal health care in Israel thanks to the opportunity costs of foreign welfare. I'm sure we'll be paying for IraqiCare pretty soon as well.

Neocon philosophy = Socialism abroad using REAL Americans' tax dollars, conservatism at home. What else can you expect from upper west siders such as Brooks and Rubin?

Posted by: mfray | February 18, 2011 11:14 AM | Report abuse

"David Brooks is not pleased with the president." If Brooks is not pleased with President Obama, the President must be doing something right. Who made Brooks the arbiter of Obama's Presidency? David Brooks is just a columnist who, as far as I can tell, has never been right on any issue he has written about.

Posted by: posterchild90 | February 18, 2011 11:17 AM | Report abuse

As if collectively living a scene from Alice in Wonderland, Times readers witnessed David Brooks extolling the virtues of the New Deal, and challenging Barack Obama, his intellectual & political wunderkind to finally morph into the prepackaged media image that was marketed to the American people.

For those of you keeping score at home, David Brooks was once a tongue-in-cheek, intellectual conservative pundit who pooh-poohed progressive politics on TV news panels portraying him as the right wing pundit. Now after breathlessly and mindlessly defending, praising and hyping President Obama, reality replaces smoke and mirrors, pulls back the curtain and shows all of us that the Wizard of Hope and Change is just a programmed machine, incapable of doing any of the things his myth proclaims.

I met the 2011 Barack Obama...in 2004. Working as a DNC volunteer before I started law school, the same aloof, disinterested, insincere blindly ambitious Obama that Brooks must come to terms with now, strode by me with the same disdain and disregard WH advisor Valerie Jarrett showed a decorated military officer she asked for a refill of her wine glass.

In that moment, I knew the tomorrow Obama promises in his lofty, made for TV rhetoric would never come. Why it took this long for the Ivied elite like Mr. Brooks to get the message is beyond my pay grade.

Welcome to the real world Mr. Brooks. Come in, the water is fine.

Donald Edmond, Esq.
Washington, DC
http://www.twitter.com/edmondesq

Posted by: DCBarrister | February 18, 2011 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Brooks lost his credibility when he was smitten with the crease in Obama's pants. From the New Republic:

That first encounter is still vivid in Brooks’s mind. “I remember distinctly an image of--we were sitting on his couches, and I was looking at his pant leg and his perfectly creased pant,” Brooks says, “and I’m thinking, a) he’s going to be president and b) he’ll be a very good president.”

Now Brooks has perfectly described what Obama is up to -- laying a political trap like Clinton did in 1995 -- but then he flinches from the disgusting truth. Such a nice man, he reasons, is incapable of such crass and irresponsible calculation when the nation he leads is facing bankruptcy in just a few years. Sure, David, sure.

Brooks is still looking through the eyes of love, but part of his brain is catching on.

Posted by: eoniii | February 18, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

mfray, Based on your many rants about dreaded "neocons/non-cons," it seems as though you are an isolationist. Is this a correct assessment?

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | February 18, 2011 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Once Again,all debates about deficits,our economic condition,GDP,Inflation,Unemployment,ETc ETC are IRRELEVANT
until we have a currency that we can accurately measure in terms of value in objective terms over time. Until we can do that,we can cut a Trillion $s from the Budget,and we won't know actually how much we cut,because the value of our money is based on the percieved value of foreign currencies. What is so difficult about that fact,I can't comprehend.
Our currency has lost 50% of its value since 1971(FACT),so in terms of the year 2051,how much do we have to cut today to equal a Trillion $s worth of cuts. NO ONE KNOWS OR CAN KNOW,that's the problem.

Posted by: rcaruth | February 18, 2011 12:54 PM | Report abuse

mfray, Based on your many rants about dreaded "neocons/non-cons," it seems as though you are an isolationist. Is this a correct assessment?
Posted by: RitchieEmmons

RE,what is it that gives us the "Right" to interfere with the internal working of other nations,Is It Exceptionalism?

Posted by: rcaruth | February 18, 2011 1:43 PM | Report abuse

"mfray, Based on your many rants about dreaded "neocons/non-cons," it seems as though you are an isolationist. Is this a correct assessment?"

Ritchie, I'm not an "isolationist", just as I'm sure you're not a "Wilsonian Interventionist", or a "Spread Democracy Sharanskyist".

I'm just an American who's trying to point out what I consider to be the hypocrisy in neoconservative policies and how these policies are at odds with conservatism. I feel they are more aligned with liberals redistributing our tax wealth.

Posted by: mfray | February 18, 2011 2:31 PM | Report abuse

“When the chips are down -- a terrorist bombing, foreign revolutions or a fiscal crisis -- sound judgment, decisiveness and moral clarity are what count. We should keep that in mind in 2012.”

I would agree with that, though I wonder how many at this board would not [still!] prefer [alleged] intellectual “creds” and identify politics. But the next problem is that each of us gets to define what constitutes ”sound judgment ,” based on our respective prejudices. So the matter is still not simple.

Posted by: nvjma | February 18, 2011 7:39 PM | Report abuse

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