Wednesday, September 10, 2003

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David Brooks starts his NYT gig

David Brooks' inaugural New York Times op-ed column confirms for me that he'll be a good fit for that page.

Brooks' essay starts off with a spot-on critique of the administration:

The Bush administration has the most infuriating way of changing its mind. The leading Bushies almost never admit serious mistakes. They never acknowledge that they are listening to their critics. They never even admit they are shifting course. They don these facial expressions suggesting calm omniscience while down below their legs are doing the fox trot in six different directions.

Sunday night's presidential speech was a perfect example. The policy ideas Bush sketched out represent such a striking series of policy shifts they amount to a virtual relaunching of the efforts to rebuild Iraq. Yet the president unveiled them as if they were stately extensions of the policies that commenced on Sept. 11, 2001.

At this point in the essay, loyal Times readers are nodding their heads, basking in the warm glow of Bushwacking.

However, by the end of the piece, Brooks is in a different place than the start would have suggested:

Still, as Bush makes these pivots, I'm reminded of the way Ronald Reagan made his amazing policy shifts at the end of the cold war, some of which outraged liberals (Reykjavik) and some of which outraged conservatives (the arms control treaties with Mikhail Gorbachev). Presidents tend to be ruthless opportunists, no matter how ideological they appear. Even as he announced his strategy on Sunday night, Bush left open the possibility that he might be compelled to shift again and send in more U.S. troops if circumstances warrant.

The essential news is that Bush will do whatever it takes to prevail, and senior members of his administration are capable of looking honestly at their mistakes. You will just never be able to get any of them to admit publicly they've ever made any.

So, even while deftly skewering the administration's PR on its policy, Brooks manages to point out Bush's virtues.

Is he right? I hope so -- even if it renders two of my previous posts --here and here -- wrong.


UPDATE: &c. has more on the Brooks essay (link via Josh Cherniss, who's more skeptical about Brooks than I)

posted by Dan on 09.10.03 at 12:30 AM


My impression is that David Brooks took a massive dose of growth hormone in anticipation of writing for The New York Times. That crack about doing the foxtrot in six directions hints that he may in time grow to be the masculine Maureen Dowd.

posted by: John Van Laer on 09.10.03 at 12:30 AM [permalink]

I'm beginning to think that Bush is some latter day Phillip II, since he is ignoring problems at home to pursue wars abroad. The defeat of the Turks at Lepanto was necessary, but it was also the height of Spanish power. The following bankruptcy caused by war led to long term decline throughout the 17th c.

It's not a perfect analogy.

posted by: snore on 09.10.03 at 12:30 AM [permalink]

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