David Brooks gets paid, we assume, a lot of money. He should be beyond using college-essay logic of “well, if both sides are criticizing you, you must be doing something right.” In today’s Brooks essay in the NYT we learn that because conservatives think Obama is a socialist, and liberals think he doesn’t fight nearly hard enough for his stated principles, then Obama must actually be a man of the middle.
Liberals are wrong to call him weak and indecisive. He’s just not always pursuing their aims. Conservatives are wrong to call him a big-government liberal. That’s just not a fair reading of his agenda.
Or the right is dominated by nuts who would have called Jesse Helms a socialist were he a Democrat (and still alive), and the left is legitimately upset with a president who promised many things and then fought for very few of them. A fair reading of Obama’s agenda is his own words. That’s what liberals hold Obama to, his own promises, no more and no less.
Brooks’ second logical conundrum is is failing to understand the difference criticizing Obama for not being liberal enough, and criticizing Obama for not even pushing for his own campaign promises. A rather huge difference that far too many in the media (and the administration) fail to comprehend.
Then there’s this on health care reform:
Obama has pushed this program with a tenacity unmatched in modern political history; with more tenacity than Bill Clinton pushed his health care plan or George W. Bush pushed Social Security reform.
In the past three weeks, perhaps. But where was Tenacious Advocate much of last year when he abdicated his role as health-care-reformer-in-chief and directed Max Baucus to negotiate with Republicans for months on end? The President gave a few speeches, to be sure, but tenacious advocate he was not. He wouldn’t even enunciate a plan he was for. He never fought for any votes, other than trying to kill the votes that Harry Reid was trying to round up for the public option.
If Brooks wants to claim that Obama fought tenaciously for health care reform, then let him prove it. Because it is simply not true.
In a sensible country, people would see Obama as a president trying to define a modern brand of moderate progressivism. In a sensible country, Obama would be able to clearly define this project without fear of offending the people he needs to get legislation passed. But we don’t live in that country. We live in a country in which many people live in information cocoons in which they only talk to members of their own party and read blogs of their own sect. They come away with perceptions fundamentally at odds with reality, fundamentally misunderstanding the man in the Oval Office.
Fine, don’t read the blogs. Read Obama’s own words about what he wanted out of health care reform – where’s the public option, the single most important element in creating competition, lowering costs, and increasing benefits, per Obama himself?
Where is the Fierce Advocate on gay rights, who promised to push for the repeal of DADT and DOMA, and the passage of ENDA – none of them are happening because the White House refuses to push for them (yes, the President mentioned DADT in the SOTU – that was nice, but it was, yet again, a speech – the White House needs to learn the difference between giving an occasional speech and fighting for something, they’re not the same thing).
Then there was the stimulus. The White House refused to even push for the amount of money that Democratic economists said we needed – on the order of $1.5 to $2.0 trillion. Instead they pushed for 780 billion, not nearly enough, and then gave 35% away to the GOP for near-useless tax cuts, in exchange for 3 Republican votes.
I know it’s fashionable to claim that liberals are so demanding and just won’t be happy with anything. But we are not asking the President to do anything more than what he promised. We’re asking him to fight for his agenda. He hasn’t been fighting, and he hasn’t been very committed to his own promises.