Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Apocalypse Soon And What David Brooks Knows About Obama And The GOP

Apocalypse Soon And What David Brooks Knows About Obama And The GOP

There’s a global crisis coming.  It is of epic scale, and may threaten the very foundation of Western Civilization.  All that has been created, all that has been accomplished-art, literature, majestic architecture, the fruits of the efforts of a freedom-loving people, the spiritual elevation that comes from leading exemplary and moral lives, all is at risk, all may be swept away.  As J. Robert Oppenheimer observed after the first test of the atomic bomb, quoting the words from the Bhagavad Gita, “now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”

What is this scourge of humanity?  The story of Exodus comes to mind, a proud and cruel Pharaoh oppressing the enslaved Hebrews until an angered Almighty brings down the plagues.  Whether Exodus was literal truth or simply allegorical, none is so terrible, so awful in consequence, as the threat we face today.

I refer, of course, to the possible re-election of Barack (Hussein) Obama.

In truth, Mr. Obama’s chances are fair to middling at best.  The powerful anger of the Right, the motivated Teas, the Billion Buck March on Washington to seize control (and anything else that can’t be welded to the floor) makes Obama’s sinister quest for re-election a dim possibility. But forewarned is forearmed (literally, given the surge in guns and ammo sales) and already survivalists are building safe rooms, buying generators, and stocking up on water and dried beans.  There are also reports of local shortages of books and DVD’s featuring O’Reilly and Hannity; after Obama seizes Fox, many may be forced to be like the Marranos, the Spanish Jews who were forced to convert during the Inquisition, but continued to worship their original faith in secret.

In watching our political discourse, one sometimes feels the hidden hand of the marketplace (or perhaps Karl Rove.)  So much coordination by the GOP, their aligned special interest groups, and their media organs repeating this “imagine what he would do if he didn’t have to seek re-election!!!” trope. Wayne LaPierre of the NRA took this to an extreme when, at CPAC, he admitted that Obama had done absolutely nothing in three years to the rights of gun owners.  Ah ha!  Smoked him out!

We know the re-election of Obama could bring about Armageddon (Mitt mentioned that with regard to the Iranian situation.)  But what of the brave men willing to sacrifice themselves to spare the nation this horror? As the candidates dash from state to state, the GOP primary campaign has been interesting exercise in self-definition.  Naturally, wherever they go, they try to be natives, whether that’s wearing a work shirt and jeans, or flinging themselves on mounds of grits. But they all seem to be possessed of the uncontrollable urge not merely to say to their fans “I’m just like you and we are great!!!!” but also to tell everyone else “you stink.”  Just last week we had Santorum lecturing the Puerto Ricans on bilingualism.  Then Romney one-upped him; he showed his conservative credentials by (twice) gratuitously trashing Justice Sotomayor, the first Puerto Rican Supreme Court Justice and a source of immense bipartisan pride in the community.

This odd desire among Republicans to play schoolyard games of friend or foe oddly leads us to David Brooks, the conservative columnist for The Times. Mr. Brooks is someone who regularly indulges his yearning for change in the GOP by lecturing Mr. Obama on what he (Obama) should be doing better.  But this time, in "The Cagey Phase" Brooks has a very good point to make; to face the systemic problems the country has; we need to go big.  “Leading the country…will require a fearless champion who will fight all the interests that love the tax code the way it is. It will require a fervent crusader to rally the country behind shared sacrifice. It will take an impervious leader willing to spread spending cuts everywhere and offend everybody all at once.”

That is a fascinating comment-an implicit acknowledgement that Obama has to be that “impervious leader” who will “offend everybody all at once” because Brook’s own Republicans won’t.  The GOP’s version of “big” has emerged with greater clarity over the last few days: the plan to end Medicare advanced by four GOP Senators led by Tea Party Godfather Jim DeMint, and Paul Ryan’s gift to those not in need, tied up in a “tax reform” ribbon.  Modern Republican orthodoxy has some win big, and “offends” the rest.  And Brooks knows that’s a recipe for a spoils system, and continuing political upheaval, not one for enduring structural reform. 

Can Obama fit the bill?  I have my doubts.  He’s actually an incrementalist, “cagey” in Brook’s phrase. And there’s no trust-the GOP is already looking to renege on the budget deal (and sequesters) they struck last year.  So, it may seem pointless for Obama to bargain with them, since they have no intention of compromising and can’t be trusted to keep their word anyway even if they did. 

But I think Brooks has it right.  If, Mr. Obama, you somehow manage to get re-elected, go big, show leadership, buck the ideologues in both parties, lay out a vision and stick to it.  Clean the stables and get the job done.  You might just find a lot of people willing to be offended.