Friday, September 4, 2009

The Big Picture: What's wrong with the "smart" conventional wisdom of David Brooks.

The Big Picture's Mom, a staunch advocate for health care reform and Playing to Win to achieve it, asked a very good question about David Brooks' thought-provoking column in the New York Times today. His column is almost always worth reading because he gives articulate expression to the conventional wisdom, and is often a leading indicator of where that wisdom will turn next, and, most importantly, because he occupies probably the pre-eminent position in political journalism, as a conservative writing in the paper of record, which is also the official paper of the liberal intellectual elite, and because the Obama administration has demonstrated that he's their go-to columnist.I think his two columns this week represent the inherent contradictions and intellectual dishonesty, or at least laziness, of the conventional wisdom critique of President Obama.

 Here's her question:

I know that you are generally no fan of David Brooks, but his column today is remarkably right, in my opinion. He is calling for Obama to return to the real issues of health care reform, and not to wimp out. I agree with him, and fear what will happen if Obama continues on this path of appeasement to the right. He was elected to be bold and make change happen, not to continue the status quo. It may mean he isn't re-elected but it could also mean real substantive change that will be appreciated later after the dust settles and the economy re-aligns. What do you think?

Here is the Big Picture's Response:

I agree Obama can't appease the right, and I agree he needs to make bold, substantive changes, but I think that, as usual, Brooks writes well enough to cover up some very faulty reasoning and self-contradiction. Read his column from Tuesday and the one from today - they are so contradictory from each other, on Tuesday he says Obama is struggling basically because he's done too much that's bold, it's freaking people out, he needs to calm down - as if there was some centrist path he could be pursuing that would be more effective and that would have led the Right to not get hysterical, which is almost certainly wrong. Then today he says that Obama is struggling because he's wimped out and isn't making the hard choices. First of all, I think that's a ridiculous explanation for why Obama is struggling, just as ridiculous as his explanation on Tuesday - it was definitely the focus on cost controls and fear of big transformation to what people already have that caused Obama to lose the emotional side of the debate and people to lose trust in him. And second, that's basically the exact opposite of what Brooks said Tuesday. And Brooks is advocating for this bill that nobody in Congress actually supports and has no chance of happening. And while it's nice for Brooks to say we really need to be dealing with the incentives, and not just on adding people to the system, this isn't about what's nice in theory, it's about 20,000 people dying from lack of medical care, about hundreds of thousands of medical bankruptices and medical foreclosures - so if that is stopped, that's a huge accomplishment. David Brooks has a cushy life and doesn't have to concern himself with those kinds of things.

So that's what I think of David Brooks - excellent writer and a seemingly good clear thinker but that clarity is achieved by constantly contradicting himself and ignoring important things that would throw a wrench in his "it's just so obvious..." arguments.

No comments:

Post a Comment