Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My Education Regarding Mr. Brooks

It's 8:42 a.m, and, already, this neurotic Democrat has heartburn.
The specific source is David Brooks' column in the NY Times, which confounds me. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/19/opinion/19brooks.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin
In the column, Brooks argues that McCain essentially tried to run an upstanding, maverick, different-style campaign -- "free of circus antics" -- but he was essentially thwarted by the media and events.
McCain started out with a kibbutzing, free-wheeling style with his reporters on his campaign bus, but because "25-year-old reporters" dared to blog about "every odd comment" of a presidential candidate, he had to stop doing that. (How dare they write about the things a candidate for president says, to reporters, on his campaign bus! How dare the people who disagree with those comments voice their opinions in the public sphere!)
McCain started out with the kind of "improvised campaign events he'd used his entire career," but he was thwarted, essentially because he couldn't "penetrate through the national clutter." (IE, he chose a less genuine campaign approach -- but it's not his fault! The media wasn't writing enough about the genuine McCain! It's Obama's fault! Obama is making McCain un-spontaneous!)
McCain tried "going places other Republicans don't go," but he wasn't able to get any traction. (Should he suddenly be hailed for making a pit-stop in New Orleans, when, as Frank Rich reported Sunday, he was not at all quick to take up the cause in the aftermath of the Hurricane? Should we stop everything and laud the man who wants to make the Bush tax cuts permanent for visiting impoverished areas of the South?)
McCain "started with grand ideas about breaking the mold of modern politics," inviting Obama to tour the country with him in join town meetings, but Obama vetoed the idea. (Why should Obama leap to fulfill McCain's self-serving political vision of how the debates should be run? McCain picked the forum most appealling and beneficial to him. Is Brooks so naive as to assume that McCain proposed this format in the interest of "breaking the mold" rather than, partly or mostly, in the interest of gaining on Obama in the polls?)
Here's the key graf: "McCain and his advisers have been compelled to adjust to the hostile environment around them. They have been compelled, at least in their telling, to abandon the campaign they had hoped to run. Now they are running a much more conventional race, the kind McCain himself used to ridicule."
And whose fault is this? Obama's, of course! It's Obama's fault that McCain "now attacks Obama daily." He was getting all the press!
I used to admire and respect David Brooks, even though I didn't always agree with him. I felt he was an honest broker, who would criticize Democrats as well as Republicans who derserved it. He's lost me in this election, though, and this column is a good example of the reason why. Brooks is all about personal, individual responsibility. Yet in this column, he lets McCain off the hook, emotionally, for every last one of his transgressions -- transgressions, by the way, that undermine McCain's central claim that he is the dignified, high-minded, man of character in the race -- because, in the end, as Brooks puts it about McCain's attacks: "It is working."
"A long-shot candidacy now seems entirely plausible."
Can you get more Machiavellian than this? David Brooks -- where is your honor?
Brooks, in his closing graf, holds out hope not that McCain's vicious tone will change during the election, but that, once he's elected, he will miraculously be able to govern as if he had run the style of campaign he'd pledged to run. But, as the Atlantic Monthly's election coverage points out this month -- exactly the opposite is true. If he spends the next 3 months attacking Obama daily, tearing him apart, he might win, but there's no way he'll be able to govern. He's be scorned by the 49 percent of the electorate that didn't vote for him, and outright despised by millions -- and likely facing a Congress with even stronger Democratic majorities.
But he'll be in the White House! Oh Happy Day!
The inescapable message of Brooks' column is that, while it's sad, so sad, McCain has been forced into the gutter. If David Brooks isn't going to hold his candidate to a higher standard; if he's going to be okay with the Paris Hilton celebrity ads, and the Corsi books, and the torrent of self-righteousness that McCain is spewing (Yesterday, McCain told a group of vets at the VFW convention in Orlando: "Both candidates in this election pledge to end this war and bring our troops home. The great difference -- the great difference -- is that I intend to win it first."), then we can forget the next four years, too.
The good news is, since I began writing this post, we have moved 39 minutes closer to election day.

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