Wednesday, September 3, 2008

David Brooks on Palin

So, I read this David Brooks column on Palin, thinking it would ruin my morning (because David Brooks usually does), but in fact it was quite interesting.  He buys the Palin-as-McCain's-soulmate line - "she seems to get up in the morning to root out corruption" - but he thinks this is exactly the problem with the choice.  Because they're too much alike, she doesn't make up for McCain's weaknesses - not in the political campaign, but as a governing president.

Brooks argues that McCain's "maverick" qualities come from a "tendency to substitute a moral philosophy for a political one."  Basically, McCain's a crusader.  He likes "to rally the armies of decency against the armies of corruption," but he lacks an overarching governing philosophy, which is why he's always jumping ship and failing to support Republican philosophical credos, like the need for small government.  

Brooks thinks McCain's years of experience have taught him to deal with complex issues that aren't black and white battles between decency and corruption (although, interestingly, Brooks classifies Putin as one issue that can in fact be dealt with as such a black and white battle, which, imho, is exactly the attitude that got us into this mess with Georgia).  But he still thinks McCain needs someone with a well-developed governing philosophy to rein in his free-wheeling moral intuitions.  Palin certainly isn't the person for that job, and Brooks doesn't like the thought of two unmoored moral souls guiding this country through troubled waters.

This is an interesting way to think of McCain, and I'm not sure I agree with it.  Any thoughts?


gale said...

I agree that it's an interesting way to think about McCain, but the thing that always gets me about Brooks is that he operates in these neat categorizations, and while I think they contain some truth, they also boil things down a bit too much for my taste.

I'm a bit mystified by politics that are captured in such simple phrases - "he's not experienced" or "he only thinks with his gut." I don't exactly know what people mean when they say this since human beings, even simple ones, are more complex than this. I think people are repeating what they here journalists say, and then they reinforce the vague claims.

Also, I'd just like to say, if I were Bristol Palin, I'd no longer be talking to my mother whose decision to accept the nomination is putting me on the front page of the NY Times website with my BF.

gale said...

Again, I comment. I read this thing on the Shenanigans blog at this afternoon that recaps a conversation among pundits that was accidentally spoken into open mics (whoops).

Here's the conversation:
Chuck Todd: Mike Murphy, lots of free advice, we'll see if Steve Schmidt and the boys were watching. We'll find out on your blackberry. Tonight voters will get their chance to hear from Sarah Palin and she will get the chance to show voters she's the right woman for the job Up next, one man who's already convinced and he'll us why Gov. Jon Huntsman.
(cut away)

Peggy Noonan: Yeah.

Mike Murphy: You know, because I come out of the blue swing state governor world: Engler, Whitman, Tommy Thompson, Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush. I mean, these guys -- this is how you win a Texas race, just run it up. And it's not gonna work. And --

PN: It's over.

The following is an excerpt from a convo between Mike Murphy and Peggy Noonan and Chuck Todd thanks be to a live mic, as reported by Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo (here's a video):

MM: Still McCain can give a version of the Lieberman speech to do himself some good.

CT: I also think the Palin pick is insulting to Kay Bailey Hutchinson, too.

PN: Saw Kay this morning.

CT: Yeah, she's never looked comfortable about this --

MM: They're all bummed out.

CT: Yeah, I mean is she really the most qualified woman they could have turned to?

PN: The most qualified? No! I think they went for this -- excuse me-- political bullshit about narratives --

CT: Yeah they went to a narrative.

MM: I totally agree.

PN: Every time the Republicans do that, because that's not where they live and it's not what they're good at, they blow it.

MM: You know what's really the worst thing about it? The greatness of McCain is no cynicism, and this is cynical.

CT: This is cynical, and as you called it, gimmicky.

MM: Yeah.

Okay, Gale here again. Cynical is an interesting word. I saw this used somewhere else too (Jeremy, I think it was you), and I think that it captures what this selection has done. McCain (or his people) select a woman who is going to resurrect all kinds of superficial culture wars issues, allowing the GOP to rally the faithful against "the media" who are only reporting on what Republicans THEMSELVES are talking about.

Because I am skeptical of Palin's qualifications, I have been labeled an elitist and a sexist today by the GOP powers-that-be.

It is disappointing. The respect I had for McCain, back when he was an actual maverick rather than the GOP-approved maverick, is disintegrating rapidly.